Safeguarding Reciprocal Sino-US Relations: Harvard Heavyweights at CCG
Graham Allison, former Dean of the Kennedy School and current Director of the
Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary and President of Harvard University
The Center for China and Globalization (CCG) hosted the 2019 Harvard Alumni China Public Policy Forum at its Beijing headquarters on March 22, 2019, to address concerns about the most globally-significant bilateral relationship. Such as, how can China and the US avoid the Thucydides trap? How can the two effectively participate in the multilateral trading system? What areas of cooperation and friction require special attention?
Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary and President of Harvard University, and Graham Allison, former Dean of the Kennedy School and current Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, delivered speeches on changing global dynamics and held in-depth discussions with incumbent and former government officials, business leaders and academics on the multilateral trading system, trade disputes and the future of Sino-US relations.
With the rise of China as a new world power, how to deal with its relations with the US, the ruling power, has fast become a serious global problem. As the individual who coined the "Thucydides trap", professor Graham Allison spoke on the dangers of the "trap" and shared his views on ways to help to reduce the risk of a clash between China and the US.
He began by highlighting the arenas where China has already come to surpass the United States, how Chinese motivation for its rapid development reflects a somewhat "Make China Great Again" mentality held by the nation’s leaders and people. Yet, with the rise of the trade disputes and prevailing international dynamics, Sino-US relations have disintegrated, with bilateral competition exacerbating this globally significant relationship.
Therefore, professor Allison made two suggestions. First, both China and the US must recognize the Thucydides Trap and realize that the current impasse and potential for deteriorating relations arises from systemic circumstances, rather than a result of the will or intention of either side. Both sides should take preventative measures to mitigate conflict and keep communication channels clear.
Secondly, China and the US could work out a "rivalry partnership pattern" to pursue common ground while reserving differences, competing but not seeking to severe ties or bring about conflict.
Professor Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury Secretary and former President of Harvard, also shared his views on four key areas of Sino-US ties. He began by noting about the significance of the rise of China and making a comparison between China-US relationship now and the UK-Germany rivalry a century ago.
Following this, the former Harvard President emphasized the need for honesty between friends, especially when the truth is difficult to speak. Mirroring the view of professor Graham Allison, professor Summers noted that a tide had turned in US politics over the last 30 months, with both Republicans and Democrats in the US largely in favor of Trump’s strict and hawkish China policy.
Thirdly, professor Summers criticized the some false perceptions of China, by stressing that US economic failures are due to US economic decisions not China. On the issues of IP and technology transfer, he pointed to the vast openness of information-sharing and telecommunications today, and that it is difficult to imagine that if US were to purse an economic and technological separation from China that this would in any way serve US economic interests. Finally, he put forward that China too must carefully consider its goals and how they are presented. He also suggested China be clear in its integration into the international institutions and its adherence to international norms and rules.
In addition, he noted that some practices by China, once acceptable for a developing nation, may no longer be acceptable, such as widespread cheap credit as financial policy and excessive expansion of SOEs.
Predicting the collapse of NATO and the Pacific Alliance due to a lack of interest and support from the current US government, professor Summers suggested it would be in China’s interest to readjust its policy towards these areas.
The former US Treasury Secretary finished by putting forward that only through respecting one another and learning to coexist can the US and China maintain friendly relations.
|He Yafei, CCG Co-Chairman and Former Vice-Minister|
of Foreign Affairs
|Chen Jian, CCG Advisor and former Vice-Minister|
|Qiu Baoxing, CCG Advisor and former Vice-Minister |
of Housing and Urban-Rural Development
|Fu Chengyu, CCG Advisor and former Chairman|
and Party Secretary of Sinopec
|Wang Guangfa, CCG Senior Vice-President and|
CEO of Fazheng Group
|Pan Qingzhong, Deputy Dean of Schwarzman |
College of Tsinghua University
|Mabel Miao, CCG Secretary General and |
Harvard visiting scholar
|Zhang Mei, Secretary-General of the Harvard |
Alumni China Public Policy Forum
Following the key note speeches, the event saw a roundtable discussion on key issues between a wide range of leading figures in Chinese public policy, including He Yafei, CCG Co-Chairman and Former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs; Chen Jian, CCG Advisor and former Vice-Minister of Commerce; Qiu Baoxing, CCG Advisor and former Vice-Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development; Fu Chengyu, CCG Advisor and former Chairman and Party Secretary of Sinopec; Wang Guangfa, CCG Senior Vice-President and CEO of Fazheng Group; Mabel Miao, CCG Secretary General and Harvard visiting scholar; and Pan Qingzhong, Deputy Dean of Schwarzman College of Tsinghua University. The event, hosted by CCG and presided over Wang Huiyao, CCG President, was chaired by Zhang Mei, Secretary-General of the Harvard Alumni China Public Policy Forum and Guo Yingjian, Dean of the School of Foreign Languages, Renmin University of China and senior researcher at Harvard University.
Roundtable participants and media representatives asked questions and launched discussions with the two professors on the multilateral trading system, Sino-US cooperation, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), foreign policy and the future of Sino-US relations.
Responding to a question on China’s potential accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), professor Allison thought it would be an interesting and smart move for China to pursue this and that it could conducive to improving Sino-US trade relations.
To further build Sino-US cooperation professor Allison suggested joint military exercises and cooperation on climate change as clear stepping stones to easing potential conflict. He also elaborated on President Xi’s suggestion of building a new form of great power relations, commending Xi’s approach of proposing guidelines for this new system but noting regret that the US declined in moving forward on this, at it has great potential for improving mutual understanding and cooperation.
In response to a question on US engagement with BRI, professor Summers pointed out that how China deals with Venezuela’s outstanding debt payments will be an important test case for China’s intentions with the BRI.
CCG President Wang Huiyao noted that 2018 saw the rise of unilateralism trigger a free trade crisis, having a severe impact around the globe at a multitude of levels. As events evolve, people around the world look for ways to understand these crises and put forward solutions and this event helps to provide a platform to further contextualize and hold discussion on these crucial issues, Dr Wang concluded.