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[Lanting Forum] “Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation and Managing Differences: Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track”

February 22 , 2021 08:00 AM by iGCU

In the morning of February 22, 2021, the Lanting Forum on “Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation and Managing Differences: Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track” was jointly held by the China Public Diplomacy Association, Peking University and Renmin University of China. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the opening ceremony and delivered a keynote speech. Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Kevin Rudd, President and CEO of Asia Society and former Prime Minister of Australia, Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc. and former CEO of American International Group, and Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, attended and addressed the opening ceremony. President Hao Ping and Vice President Wang Bo of Peking University were also in attendance at the Lanting Forum, and Hao Ping made a speech as the representative of the co-organizers. The opening ceremony was moderated by Wu Hailong, President of China Public Diplomacy Association. More than 50 Chinese and foreign officials, politicians, scholars, as well as representatives from health, culture, sports and other sectors, including Wang Jisi, Boya Chair Professor, President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies and Professor of the School of International Studies at Peking University, and Yuan Ming, Dean of Yenching Academy and Professor of the School of International Studies, participated in this forum online or offline.

Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding (iGCU) of Peking University is one of the major co-organizers of the Lanting Forum and is in charge of preparing for the forum and inviting Chinese and foreign guests. This year is the third time that iGCU participates in organizing the high-level meeting jointly hosted by Peking University and China Public Diplomacy Association. Wang Dong, Vice President of the Office for Humanities and Social Sciences, Full Professor of the School of International Studies and Executive Director of iGCU at Peking University moderated Session III: Resuming People-to-People Exchange. The forum is the most important international forum on China-U.S. Relations since the beginning of 2021 and a major achievement of Peking University in think tank building. The forum is influential both socially and internationally and is highly recognized by the central government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the Lanting Forum

Wang Yi said that in face of the unprecedented common challenges of the global pandemic, economic recession and climate change, humanity must stand up to them with courage, solidarity and responsibility. As two major countries, China and the United States should first take care of their own stuff and at the same time work together for the common good of humankind. This is the expectation of the international community and the due responsibility of major countries. On the Lunar New Year’s eve, President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden had their first telephone call. Both sides agreed that the two countries should enhance mutual understanding, avoid misperception and miscalculation, treat each other with candor and sincerity and not seek conflict or confrontation, and unclog communication channels and facilitate exchange and cooperation. This very important phone call has oriented China-U.S. relations that had been struggling to ascertain its bearings at a crossroads. It has also sent out encouraging news for the two countries and the whole world.

Wang Yi said that to right the wrongs and bring the relationship back to the right track, the walls of misperceptions must be torn down first to clear the way for knowing, observing, and understanding China as it is, and that China is a country that always upholds and promotes people’s democracy, always values and safeguards world peace, always advocates and pursues win-win cooperation, and always practices and upholds multilateralism.

Wang Yi said that China now is in an epoch-making year. China will celebrate the centenary of the CPC. The American people have come to know about the CPC for at least 85 years since Edgar Snow visited Yan’an in 1936. From the revolution years to reform and opening-up, from completing the building of a moderately prosperous society to fully building a modern socialist country, the CPC is always committed to the eternal great cause of the Chinese nation. It is showing even stronger vigor and vitality at its 100th anniversary. China knows that the new U.S. administration is reviewing and assessing its foreign policy and hopes that U.S. policy makers will keep pace with the time, see clearly the trend of the world, abandon biases, give up unwarranted suspicions, and move to bring the China policy back to reason to ensure a healthy and steady development of China-U.S. relations.

Wang Yi put forward the following four recommendations of how to bring China-U.S. relations back to the right track. First, it is important to respect each other and not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs. Second, it is important to step up dialogue and properly manage the differences. Third, it is important to move in the same direction to restart mutually beneficial cooperation. Fourth, it is important to clear the path for the resumption of bilateral exchanges in all areas. Wang Yi hoped that the two sides could work together to steer the giant ship of China-U.S. relations back to the course of sound development toward a bright future with boundless prospects.

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Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Henry Paulson delivers a speech

Henry Paulson said in his speech that United States and China continue to have the most important bilateral relationship in the world.

Henry Paulson is pleased that Joe Biden is U.S. President now, which will result in more predictable policies and less inflammatory rhetoric. He said that both sides urgently need a new framework to reflect the major changes in China, the U.S. and the world. The United States and China are going to be locked into strategic competition for a long time. So it is in each of both interests that competition would be as healthy as possible without unnecessary confrontation.

The U.S. and China must decide how and where to compete and how to avoid conflict. Henry Paulson suggested that both sides focus on some of the easier issues to develop momentum and trust, which we can build on moving forward. He was also hopeful that the two countries can reestablish a Strategic Economic Dialogue to address major long-term macroeconomic challenges, while making progress on the more immediate issues. Both sides should strengthen coordination and work hard to cooperate on stopping the pandemic, addressing climate change and promoting economic growth, and build mutual trust.

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Kevin Rudd, President and CEO of Asia Society and former Prime Minister of Australia, makes his speech 

Kevin Rudd believed that in this decade, China-U.S. strategic competition is inevitable, although a war between the two countries can be avoided. He proposed the concept of “managed strategic competition,” and his understanding is that “under a set of mutually agreed rules, may the better one prevail in a competition”.

According to Kevin Rudd, the U.S. and China would first need to jointly establish certain hard limits on each country’s security policies and conduct. For example, the “One China” policy as articulated in the Joint Communiques, is critical. Second, if both sides could agree on a series of such stipulations, each would then have to accept that the other will still try to maximize its advantages while stopping short of breaching the strategic limits of the relationship. Washington and Beijing would continue their competition for strategic and economic influence and keep seeking reciprocal access to each other’s markets. Finally, even amid escalating competition, the two countries will have to find room for continued strategic cooperation on critical global challenges in a number of defined areas. The situation now is far less severe than that of the Cold War, but global challenges are increasingly pressing.

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Hao Ping, President of Peking University, addresses the occasion

President Hao viewed that, at the current stage of critical importance for China-U.S. relations, the universities must play a more active role in the building of healthy and stable bilateral relations.

First, higher education institutions in the two countries should develop new modes of cooperation and deepen their mutual bonds established over the years. Under the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the new round of scientific and technological revolution, Chinese and American higher education institutions should proactively leverage new technologies and expand new mechanisms to build on past achievements and strive for new progress in terms of the friendship, and thus consolidate the social foundation for friendly exchanges between China and the United States.

Second, President Hao expressed the wish that the Chinese and American universities, with the blessing of mankind in mind, strengthen joint efforts to solve major problems. When tackling global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, major diseases and the spread of virus, President Hao looked forward to the concerted efforts of Chinese and American universities in research cooperation and collaborative innovation, so as to ensure the sound and steady development of the bilateral ties and make a brighter world.

Third, he encouraged the universities in both countries, while looking into the future and planning for the long term, utilize new technologies and create new platforms as a means to cultivate deep friendship and facilitate sincere exchanges between the two nation’s younger generations. This is expected to form a consensus on peace, development, equality and sharing, thus shaping a stronger bond among the young people of both sides and promoting the harmonious development of bilateral relations.

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Maurice R. Greenberg, Chairman of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc. and Former CEO of American International Group, addresses the forum

Mr. Greenberg remarked that, in today’s world, China-U.S. relations are the world’s most important bilateral ties. The best way to tackle existing problems is through cooperation. It is hoped that the two countries continue to seek mutual benefits based on national interests. He also noted that, in the pursuit of mutual benefits, China and the U.S. should look at not only their own national interests, but also many others which fall into the scope of their own.

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Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the United States, makes his remarks at the Lanting Forum

Cui Tiankai remarked that, at this critical juncture, it is high time for China and the U.S. recalibrate the direction of bilateral relations, so that it will be better prepared for a new start. First, China and the U.S. need to have an accurate understanding of each other’s strategic intentions. When the problem is with the mindset, the cure cannot be sought elsewhere. Some people in the U.S. may need to get rid of their paranoia about China and walk out of darkness to greet the sun.

Second, China and the U.S. need to have a real knowledge and respect of each other’s history, culture and development path. It is hoped that America will have a correct mindset, live up to the principle that all countries “are created equal”, and learn to peacefully coexist with those who have a different history, culture, development path and system.

Third, China and the U.S. need to have candid communication and clearly define their policy boundaries, so as to effectively manage differences and focus on cooperation. Any problem can be put on the table. The nature of the problems must be unequivocally identified, policy boundaries distinctly marked, and the red line clearly set. On matters concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, China will never back down, and the red line must be followed. On the basis of respecting each other’s core interests, it is necessary to constructively and properly manage the issues where differences cannot be resolved for the moment, so as to avoid confrontation. The two sides need to have in-depth and candid dialogue in various fields, and strengthen coordination and cooperation in addressing global challenges as well as regional and international hotspots.

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Wang Jisi, Senior Advisor of iGCU at Peking University, President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, Professor of the School of International Studies delivers a speech at the forum

In his speech, Professor Wang Jisi noted that, at the current stage, China and the U.S. should grasp opportunities to resume dialogue mechanisms and learn about each other’s way of thinking. The Chinese people are used to set up principles before addressing specific problems, whereas the American people tend to address problems before looking to improve the relationship.

Many Chinese and American scholars have been calling for the two sides to understand each other’s mindsets, so that they may take the chance to resume communications and reduce distrust. Looking into the future, he encouraged China and the U.S. to take actions to resolve differences and avoid confrontation that results from this lack of understanding.

Professor Wang also revisited the report “Addressing U.S.-China Strategic Distrust” he wrote with the U.S. scholar Kenneth G. Lieberthal in 2012, and expressed the regret that, 9 years later in 2021, the “strategic distrust” between the two countries has only run deeper. He believed that, the greatest challenge today is to prevent political distrust from causing social, economic, and technological decoupling, as well as some direct confrontation between the two nations.

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Yuan Ming, Member of the Academic Committee of iGCU at Peking University, Dean of the Yenching Academy, Professor of the School of International Studies, delivers a speech at the Lanting Forum

Professor Yuan Ming pointed out that, the year 2014 witnessed the establishment and first enrollment of the Yenching Academy at Peking University, which was much supported by partner higher education institutions worldwide. Young students coming from some prominent American universities display their vigor and vitality in the Academy, and a world- and future-oriented collective cognition is taking its shape in this new cross-cultural environment. The youth is the future. The value of people-to-people exchanges between China and the U.S. will in no way be confined to the two countries only.

This powerful torrent set in since 1980s has come to this era when people-to-people exchanges have greatly increased, and more importantly, the Internet has introduced indefinite boundaries for mutual understandings among mankind. The future visions, language competence, communication skills, and global concerns of the younger generation today is far beyond our imagination.

As the COVID-19 pandemic still rages worldwide, the youngsters at the Yenching Academy initiated the “Yenching Global Symposium 2021” with the theme “Shared Renewal: Recoupling East with West”. The “color of future” is so bright that it reminds us that mutual support is the key to leaving positive experiences in the history of humanity.

The three breakout sessions focused on the topics of “rebuilding political trust”, “restoring balance to economic and trade ties”, and “resuming people-to-people exchanges” respectively. Representatives had in-depth discussions over the drafting of the three lists of cooperation, dialogue, and difference management.

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Breakout Session  I: Rebuilding Political Trus

Breakout Session I centered on “Rebuilding Political Trust”. Representatives remarked that, as the world’s most important bilateral ties, the China-U.S relations have come to a critical point where actions must be taken to bring the relations back onto the right track.

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Breakout Session II: Restoring Balance to Economic and Trade Ties

Breakout Session II organized in-depth discussions into “Restoring Balance to Economic and Trade Ties”. The representatives unanimously viewed that, the nature of the China-U.S. trade and economic ties lies in mutual benefits and win-win results. The restoration of economic and trade ties holds the key.

Breakout Session III: Resuming People-to-People Exchange

iGCU held the “Breakout Session III: Resuming People-to-People Exchange”. Wang Dong, Professor of the School of International Studies and Executive Director of iGCU at Peking University moderated this session. The following speakers engaged in exchanges and discussion on the spot or via a vedio link: Liu Limin, President of China Education Association for International Exchange, former Vice Minister of Education of China and Senior Advisor of iGCU, Julia Chang Bloch, President of the U.S.-China Education Trust and the first Asian-American ambassador, Li Junru, former Vice President of the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC and Senior Advisor of iGCU, Brendan S. Mulvane, Director of the China Aerospace Studies Institute at U.S. National Defense University, Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy, Professor of the School of International Studies and Member of the Academic Committee of iGCU at Peking University, Thomas Friedman, Columnist for the New Yorker Times, Yao Ming, President of Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Li Cheng, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, Lang Ping, Head Coach of the Chinese Women’s National Volleyball Team and Vice President of the Chinese Volleyball Association (CVA), Graham Allison, the first Dean and Professor of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Zhang Wenhong, Director of the Infectious Diseases Department at Huashan Hospital affiliated to Fudan University and Head of the Shanghai COVID-19 medical team, Liu Yawei, Director of the China Program at the Carter Center, and Diao Daming, Associate Professor of the School of International Relations at Renmin University of China. They were of the same view that, disrupting China-U.S. people-to-people exchanges makes the situation worse for all parties involved; such exchanges are even more important in harder times.

Background

“Lanting Forum”, initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, is a platform for communication and exchanges between government, the business community, academia, media and the public. It aims at creating a new channel to facilitate discussions on China’s foreign policies and issues of common interest by relevant parties. The Forum is named after Lanting (the Blue Hall) of the Ministry where it is regularly held.

This forum is the third high-level meeting jointly held by the Peking University and China Public Diplomacy Association with the participation of iGCU. In each of the following three forums, iGCU is one of the major sponsors: the China-U.S. Think Tanks and Media Online Forum themed on “Mutual Respect, Mutual Trust and Cooperation – The Right Way Forward for China-U.S. Relations” held on July 9, 2020, the 18th Lanting Forum with the theme of “International Order and Global Governance in the Post COVID-19 Era”held on September 28, 2020, and the year’s Lanting Forum focusing on “Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation and Managing Differences: Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track.”

Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding (iGCU, formerly Institute for China-US People-to-People Exchange) of Peking University is a new-type think tank with Chinese characteristics approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of China and operated by Peking University. Integrating teaching, scientific research, policy consultation and talent training as a whole, iGCU is the only comprehensive think tank for people-to-people exchanges in Peking University established by the MOE at present, serving the “Ten Mechanisms” of people-to-people exchanges, leading domestic researches on people-to-people exchanges, coordinating and promoting the cause of China’s people-to-people exchanges with other nations in the world. In January 2020, upon approval of the MOE, the “Institute for China-US People-to-People Exchange” was renamed as the “Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding”. In December 2020, the iGCU was enlisted into the 2020 Chinese Think Tank Index (CTTI), and in January 2021, it ranked 76th among Top Think Tanks in China, India, Japan, and the Republic of Korea 2020, also the 17th Chinese think tank on the list.