The future of China and the U.S. relies on you

Date: 12/3/2009

Students’ Face to Face Communication with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs and U.S. Ambassador to China

On the morning of October 22nd, Zhao Guocheng, Deputy Director of Hanban, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman met with the fifty-two student representatives of the 4th China – U.S. Relations Conference at the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel.
The meeting was hosted by Deputy Director Zhao Guochen to give the students an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas on important issues surrounding the relationship between China and the U.S.. The fifty-two students represented eight U.S. and Chinese universities, and the event was organized and cosponsored by Hanban. Texas A&M University and Ocean University of China were in charge of the organization and implementation of this program.
The China-U.S. Relations Conference was co-organized by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Texas A&M University, George-Bush Presidential Library Foundation, George-Bush School of Government and Public Service, and has gained attention and support from the governments and various sectors of society of both countries.
During the meeting between the students and Minister Yang Jiechi, the Minister talked about the differences in the natural environments of the two countries and reviewed the 30 year history since the reestablishment of diplomatic ties. The Minister emphasized that in the 21st century the two sides should cooperate with each other on issues like energy, food safety, climate change and economic crisis, emphasizing the idea that to save the world is to save ourselves.
Minister Yang compared US-China relations to a big family: “Though differences are hard to avoid, a family is a family…But we still need to enhance our friendship. It is all right to have problems. The key is to solve them.”
Minister Yang then put forward three points in his hope for the students.
“The first point,” he said, “is to learn a foreign language. Learning foreign languages, like English, Japanese and Russian, is popular in China, which is more common than that in the United States. In the U.S., people are more and more interested in learning foreign languages, particularly Chinese. American students represented by you all emphasize learning Chinese language.”
“The second is to make friends, at least a foreign friend, which enables you to get a more balanced view of the world. Shakespeare said that life is a stage. In different stages of life, we need to look back to the past and appreciate the efforts that others have made. Foreign students are our friends.”
He goes on to state that, “The third is to know a foreign country. For instance, you can invite students from different universities for exchange programs. The deep friendship and broad understanding between China and the United States depend on you. The future relies on you.”
In answering a question raised by a Chinese student delegate in the ensuing question and answer session, Minister Yang used the word ‘promising’ to describe the future trend of US-China relations. He said, “We should not only notice the gap in terms of material life but also differences in terms of cultural backgrounds. The Chinese and American people are open, sincere and honest, cherishing hopes for the future. That is why we should work hard to create a bright future for the humankind by building up a sound bilateral relationship.”
As to how to define and handle the conflicts which exists within US-China relations, Minister Yang said “we should view from the present and the future, not just lingering on the past.” As to the economic crisis, Minister Yang believed “America is sure to survive it and the economy is sure to be rejuvenated. And understanding the bilateral ties meets the interest of both sides.”
In closing Minister Yang accepted presents from the Chinese and American student delegates and took photos with teachers and students from both sides. In an interview, the students kept in mind the three hopes that Minister Yang had put forward. Participants were all deeply impressed by Minister Yang’s integration of Chinese and Western cultures as well as his insights into how to live in harmony.

The U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman had a friendly talk with the fifty student representatives to the China-U.S. Conference on various key issues regarding the politics and economics of the relationship between China and the U.S.
Ambassador Huntsman shared his understanding of traditional Chinese cultures with American students, “Your leaning of China is very important, especially the knowledge you get at the Confucius Institute.” He spoke highly of the importance of the ideas and philosophy of Confucius, saying “Confucianism has played an increasingly significant role in public service and education.” He hoped that American students would dedicate time to understanding Confucianism.
The Ambassador then briefly explained the developments of the past 30 years since the reestablishment of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. He said, “In the past, many issues could be solved by the two countries. In the current situation, issues are more complicated and cooperation and efforts of the International Community are needed.”
Ambassador Huntsman also shared his opinions on issues such as China-U.S. relation, Taiwan, and human rights with the students. Talking about the differences between the two cultures, he said, “Americans worship individualism while Chinese believe in Confucianism. Therefore we encounter cultural barriers in concrete problems.” He also explained that, “Confucius is from Shandong and his thoughts form an important legacy today with respect to fair and honest behavior and public service. In the last few decades, these have been the standards of public service. People emphasize compassionate service based on moral grounds.”
Taking the recent case of US tariffs on Chinese tire as an example to illustrate the conflicts of interests between the two countries, Ambassador Huntsman said that though economic cooperation has been strengthened conflicts still remain. Ambassador Huntsman then cited the example of the trade between Canada and the United States to explain that free trade between two countries can bring more benefits. “Canada is our neighbor, but we still have conflicts in lumber trade which leads to great concerns. But, aside from that exception, other aspects of the relationship are healthy. Another example is the trade subsidies between America and the European Union, but despite the concern total trade volume is still increasing.”
On the topic of human rights, Ambassador Huntsman said that there is no single criterion on the issue of human rights. Individualism and Confucianism are two models; the best way to reduce misunderstanding is to increase mutual respect.
In an interview after the meeting, one of the students from Ocean University of China said he was deeply impressed by Ambassador Huntsman’s profound understanding of China-US relations. Another student delegate said, “Ambassador Huntsman is a Chinese expert. He is well-versed on the cultural differences between the two countries and understands that the disparity is not a barrier but motives in developing China-US relations.”

Contact: James M. Mendiola Jr.
Program Coordinator, Institute for Pacific Asia
Texas A&M University
Coke 204 | 3371 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-3371 | USA
Tel. +1 979.845.3099 | Fax. +1 979.845.6228
Email | Web

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