Sino-US think tank dialogue helps chart a smooth path for bilateral relations

By Wei Jianguo Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/19 21:08:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

The High-level Dialogue on US-China Economic Relations was convened on Wednesday in New York with over 30 scholars from leading think tanks in the two countries. The one-day event is the first of its kind since a landmark meeting in early April between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. I have attended numerous dialogues, but this one left a lasting impression on me.

The successful dialogue changed the way of previous China-US think tank dialogues as follows:

First, the participants are high-ranking and influential. Many high-caliber scholars and experts from top-notch think tanks in China and the US attended the dialogue, apart from prominent attendees such as Tung Chee-hwa, vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Zhao Qizheng, former minister of China's State Council Information Office, Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and former US ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy.

Second, the dialogue fell at an opportune time, two months after the Mar-a-Lago presidential meeting and one month after the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, and before Trump's official visit to China later this year.

Third, the dialogue discussed hot-button topics and focused on the industrial and commercial sectors in both countries. For example, what is the future of Beijing-Washington business ties? Will cooperation or competition become the general trend in the bilateral economic and trade relations? Will a trade war break out between China and the US? How to expand trade cooperation in areas beyond US beef exports to China? Will an annual plan come after the 100-Day Plan which was reached between the two countries to improve trade ties? As for the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative, how much investment is involved in the B&R, who are the investors, will the return cover the investment and what are the major geopolitical factors that affect the initiative?

Both sides in previous dialogues often criticized each other and asked for mutual understanding. But this time, the two delegations calmed themselves down to address common problems.

In addition, closed-door dialogues prevailed in the past. However, in a change from previous dialogues, ahead of the talks Chinese participants visited Iowa, saw the flourishing crops of soybean and corn, and communicated with local farmers.

A young American farmer said that a trade war is not expected and stable China-US ties will ensure more American agricultural products go to China. This indicates economic and trade cooperation acts as the "ballast stone" and "propeller" for the development of bilateral relations.

A year ago, entrepreneurs, media outlets and business elites in China and the US were struggling through a sea of anxiety and bewilderment. But this year witnessed bilateral economic and trade relations moving toward a more stable direction.

Seeking to remedy this instability is the most important work for think tanks. Both sides begin to take the other into account as they strive for solutions. In the future, the think tanks will play an increasingly important role in bilateral relations.

The initial achievements of the 100-Day Plan have bolstered Sino-US business ties. American beef will return to the Chinese market after 14 years. Chinese entrepreneurs now hope to import more US high technologies. So far as we know, the US is also conducting relevant research in this regard and a trade war between China and the US is not likely to happen.

But think tanks from both sides should better communicate and work together to provide sound policy advice for both governments. The US delegation expressed its concerns about the large-scale B&R initiative, but Chinese participants refuted the baseless perception of the initiative as a modern-day version of the Marshall Plan. The dialogue serves as a new starting point for further communications of think tanks in China and the US. As former acting deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler said, the dialogue, rather than shaping the world, will surprise the globe.

The author is executive deputy director of China Center for International Economic Exchanges.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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