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Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track
Feb 24, 2021

Peking University, February 24, 2021: The Lanting Forum was held on February 22 with the theme “Promoting Dialogue and Cooperation and Managing Differences: Bringing China-U.S. Relations Back to the Right Track”. The Forum, co-organized by China Public Diplomacy Association, Peking University and Renmin University of China, was attended either online or offline by high-ranking officials, renowned scholars, and eminent figures across various fields.

Insights from Heavyweights

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made his remarks at the opening ceremony, saying that China and the United States, as two major countries, should work together for the common good of humankind since this is the expectation of the international community and the due responsibility of major countries. Speaking on clearing the path for the resumption of bilateral exchanges in all areas, Wang noted that the number of Chinese visitors to the United States, either for exchange programs or study, had plummeted in recent years. As such, he hopes that the U.S. will act as early as possible to encourage and support the resumption of normal exchange programs between universities, research institutes and of students. Meanwhile, he hopes that the Lanting Forum will be a platform for candid discussions and consensus building as well as a source of visions, insights and wisdom for a better China-U.S. relationship.

Wang Yi

Henry Paulson, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, admitted that over the course of his career in dealing with China he has never seen this relationship more fraught. But Paulson is pleased that Joe Biden is U.S. President now, which will result in more predictable policies and less inflammatory rhetoric. Competition, however, remains inevitable. Paulson said it is in each of our interests that competition be as healthy as possible and without unnecessary confrontation. He also added that we should focus on some of the easier issues to develop momentum and trust, for instance halting the proliferation of visa restrictions on student and scholarly exchanges that can promote innovation in the public interest.

Henry Paulson

Peking University President Hao Ping was also in attendance at the Lanting Forum. President Hao called for increased cooperation between higher education institutions in China and America, saying that universities must play a more active role in the building of healthy and stable China-U.S. relations. President Hao expressed his hope that higher education institutions in the two countries should develop new modes of cooperation and deepen their mutual bonds established over the years. Facing an urgent need to enhance international cooperation when tackling global challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, major diseases and the spread of virus, President Hao looks forward to the future concerted efforts of Chinese and American universities in research and innovation. He also pointed out that universities in both countries should utilize new technology and platforms as a means to cultivate deep friendships and facilitate sincere exchanges between the two nation’s younger generation.

Hao Ping

China’s Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai said history has proved that a sound and stable China-U.S. relationship serves the common interests of the two peoples and the entire international community. He added that the two nations need to have an accurate understanding of each other’s strategic intentions and a real knowledge and respect of each other’s history, culture and development path. In order to effectively manage differences and focus on cooperation, Cui pointed out that both countries also need to have candid communication and clearly define their policy boundaries.

Cui Tiankai

Meanwhile, the distinguished guests who attended the opening ceremony and delivered speeches also included Kevin Rudd, President and CEO of Asia Society and former Prime Minister of Australia, Maurice R. Greenberg, former Chairman and CEO of American International Group and Chairman of the Starr Companies, and former Vice Foreign Minister of China Fu Ying, among others.

Following the opening ceremony, the Lanting Forum was split into three breakout sessions that centered around the topics of rebuilding political trust, restoring balance to economic and trade ties, and resuming people-to-people exchanges respectively. Representatives from China and the U.S. offered their perspectives and had in-depth discussions. The speakers included Professor Wang Jisi, President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, and Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of Yenching Academy of Peking University. Professor Wang Dong, Executive Director of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding at Peking University, moderated the third breakout sessions.

Professor Wang Jisi stressed that mutual understanding is the key to combatting political distrust between China and the U.S. He sees this effort as crucial to the prevention of social, economic, and technological decoupling, as well as a way to avoid direct confrontation between the two nations. Noting that China seeks to establish its principles before tackling specific problems whereas the U.S. tends to address problems before looking to improve the relationship, he called for action to solve such differences and avoid confrontation that results from this lack of understanding.

Wang Jisi

Professor Yuan Ming focused on the value of people-to-people exchanges between China and the U.S. as demonstrated through the past 40 years of the shared history. She said the breadth and depth of the active engagement between China and the U.S. have exceeded that of any other period in history, and she believes mutual support is the key to leaving positive experiences in the history of humanity. Lauding the future visions, language competence, communication skills, and global concerns the younger generation possess, Professor Yuan stressed that the future rests with these young people and revealed that the youngsters at Yenching Academy had initiated the Yenching Global Symposium 2021 with the theme “Shared Renewal: Recoupling East with West.

Yuan Ming

The 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 foreign policies and issues of common interest by relevant parties. It is named after Lanting (the Blue Hall) of the Ministry, where the event has been regularly held.

Advancing People-to-People Exchanges: PKU on the Move

Last year, the Institute for Global Cooperation and Understanding at Peking University worked with China Public Diplomacy Association and other institutions to organize the 18th Lanting Forum featuring on the international order and global governance in the post-COVID-19 era. Moreover, Peking University has long dedicated itself to advancing people-to-people exchanges between China and the U.S. It has renewed agreements on exchange programs with 12 U.S. universities, and entered into a partnership with the University of Chicago to host a series of 25 online lectures. The Turing Class, which invites Turing Award winner Professor John Hopcroft and other top-notch academics from China and the U.S. to give lectures, has been well-received among students. These fruitful and significant exchanges herald new opportunities for cooperation between universities in China and the U.S.

Photo credit to: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Embassy of China in the U.S., China Public Diplomacy Association

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Embassy of China in the U.S., China Public Diplomacy Association, PKU Office of International Relations
Written by:
Huang Weijian, Li Wanqi
Edited by:
Jacob Tomkins