Emory University and the Carter Center hosted a U.S.-China forum to discuss the future of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and China on Nov. 11-12.

The forum was the first of the Carter Center’s efforts to improve U.S.-China relations, according to the Carter Center website.

The event consisted of a series of panels about topics such as the power relationship between the U.S. and China, their roles in the developing world and the history and future of U.S.-China relations. Participants included leaders and scholars in international affairs in the U.S. and China.

The forum kicked off this past Monday at the Carter Center and featured opening remarks from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and a panel about the past and future of the U.S.-China relationship led by Carter’s former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. The forum continued Tuesday in Emory’s Winship Ballroom and featured a welcoming address from University President James W. Wagner.

Throughout the forum, scholars and experts discussed various aspects of the U.S.-China relationship. They talked about how mutual misconceptions of each other could lead to risky decision-making on behalf of both countries. In a panel titled “The Future of the Future: Building Communication and Cooperation Among Emerging Leaders,” they emphasized the importance of developing a relationship between college students and young adults in the U.S. and China. The panel said that each side should make efforts to understand the other side’s political system and historical perspective.

Philip Wainwright, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Halle Institute for Global Learning, said the forum built on the University’s growing interest in China. Wainwright said the developing Contemporary China Studies program is an example of Emory’s engagement in issues about China.

“There’s been increasing interest in strengthening Emory’s capacities in China,” Wainwright said. “The key has been how to strengthen our connection to China more generally, to respond to the growing needs and the growing importance of China.”

In addition to China’s increasing importance, Wainwright also said the forum allowed the Carter Center and Emory to “contribute to the overall health of U.S.-China relations each in their own way.”
“Part of Emory’s engagement in this is looking to benefit from the expertise of the people engaged in the Carter Center and framing some of those particular areas of focus where Emory might be able to benefit the U.S.-China relationship,” Wainwright said.

Yawei Liu, director of the Carter Center’s China Program, also discussed both the Carter Center’s and Emory’s increased interest in China. He said collaboration between the Carter Center and Emory allow for efficient use of resources, such as faculty and staff connections. In addition, Liu said this collaboration would make Emory the center for China research and studies in the Southeast.

“The conversation has started,” Liu said. “The more challenging thing is how we move forward from here.”

Liu said that the forum was a launch pad for the China Program’s new effort to improve U.S.-China relations. According to the Carter Center website, this effort is focused on reducing misconceptions, promoting greater U.S.-China cooperation in the developing world and to motivate younger generations of Chinese and American citizens to work together on improving the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

During his presidency, Carter notably normalized relations with China, granting formal diplomatic recognition to the country’s communist regime on Jan. 1, 1979. Since then, the relationship has faced challenges such as mutual mistrust on political, economic and security matters, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

Yuan Peng, director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations for the Institute of American Studies, led a panel on Tuesday titled “What is New in the New Great Power Relationship.” He discussed challenges that both the U.S. and China faced from each other and proposed that the two countries establish a joint-power relationship, which entails no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

“I am confident that if we both agree to establish the new model, we can move ahead,” Peng said during the panel.

– By Harmeet Kaur

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