China and the United States are the two strongest and largest economies in the world. Many have negative opinions about China and its rise to prominence on the world stage. Pell Center Executive Director Dr. Jim Ludes hosted distinguished panelists Dorinda Elliott of the China Institute, Ambassador Nicholas Platt, president of the Asia Society, Dr. Gary Jefferson of Brandeis University, and Dr. Lewis Rutherford, venture capital investor in Asian markets, for “China Rising,” a panel discussion on the future of U.S.-China relations.
Dorinda Elliott began the discussion by noting China’s lack of strong policies regarding domestic and international relations which may clash with that of the United States, especially with their its rejection of democracy under a communist regime. She noted recent research that has shown that the Chinese people are satisfied with their government. With income levels in China increasing each year, the Chinese people are optimistic about their future and do not believe their way of life needs to be altered. Elliott warned that “we in the United States are in danger of falling behind and not even realizing it as China races into the future.”
Ambassador Platt, who accompanied President Nixon on his historic trip to Bejiing in 1972, agreed America needs to play close attention to China in order to not fall behind economically and socially. He says competition and cooperation have been at the forefront of American and Chinese relations, but both countries have started to compete more, rather than cooperate. New policies are needed to strengthen the relationship between both powers to ensure peace, not conflict. Platt said he hopes President-elect Biden will not ignore the importance of good relations between the U.S. and China and will look to help them coexist as the world’s biggest economies.
Dr. Rutherford, a seasoned venture capitalist in Asian markets and a China expert, added his remarks about his experiences as an investor. He said the “members of the panel and others have much respect for the Chinese people.” He said he hopes that other world powers will not misinterpret China as a real threat and recognize the positive opportunities of working with it.
Looking at the future of China and the United States, Dr. Jefferson highlighted China’s quiet rise as America was preoccupied with various global challenges in recent history including its involvement Middle East conflicts, its domestic political challenges, and the ever-changing international political order. He said China sought to create order and prosperity after centuries of social, economic, and political chaos within, while America did not support its growth. To ensure productive relations with China, Jefferson said America must revitalize itself as the center of global innovation. He added this would allow many Chinese citizens to view America as a model country which may will help repair their damaged relationship. However, if America is in turmoil, the Chinese-American relationship will be too.
After a brief question and answer session, a central theme of this lecture emerged: China is content with where they are and will continue to rise because of their strong government. America, the strongest economy and political power in the world, is losing its reputation as a partner for future innovation in the eyes of China. If the United States aspires to keep up with China, it must be willing to collaborate with it.