April 2, 2018
In mid-March the US-China Education Trust (USCET) welcomed more than 50 friends and supporters to an Appreciation Luncheon and panel discussion to highlight USCET’s 20 years of work in promoting US-China relations through education and exchange.
The program included special remarks from the Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Secretary of Transportation and a long-time friend of USCET. During her remarks, Secretary Chao congratulated the organization on reaching the important milestone and its accomplishments over the last two decades of work.
“Since its founding twenty years ago, USCET has become the premier sponsor for programs in China on American studies, media studies, and for advancing the rule of law and democracy,” Secretary Chao said.
The Appreciation Luncheon was held at the Wardman Tower, which also included a panel discussion on A 20-Year Retrospective of US-China Relations. The panel featured USCET Advisory Council members, including Ambassador Nicholas Platt, Professor David Lampton, the Honorable Kurt Campbell, and Ambassador Thomas Pickering as moderator.
Much of the discussion centered around US-China relations during the past two decades, its present status, and what the future might hold for the most important bilateral relationship in the world. One of the emerging themes was the uncertainty and changing nature of the relationship due to a variety of factors including the domestic politics of both countries. Lampton remarked that domestic policy was currently driving things more in this relationship than it was during the Cold War.
During his opening remarks, Campbell suggested that US-China relations is in a period of strategic reappraisal and is at a stage where it must look carefully at the foundational aspects of the relationship moving forward. But he noted that the most important and central question is what’s going to happen to the United States as it relates to Asia and the US-China relationship.
“My sense is that it will still be possible to have a workable, durable relationship that has a mix of cooperation and competition,” he said. “But at the core of that has to be a stable US identity about what we represent and what we stand for and where we’re going to draw our lines.”
Lampton echoed a similar sentiment saying that if the US is going to be influential it must be competitive, it must be based on national capabilities, and it must be based on good governance.
“We were most effective on China when we were governing ourselves well at all levels,” Lampton said. “When we think about the relationship we must think about ourselves and maintaining capability.”
Lampton notes that engagement between the two countries for the next generation is going to be far more conflictual and there will be a lot less talk about friendship first and competition second. It is more likely to be competition first and friendship second. Exactly how it turns out in the decades to come is hard to predict, however as Platt believes the US relationship with China will be okay in the long-term.
“If we are flexible and we are willing to stay engaged,” he said. “We are going to be fine.”
The three panelists encouraged organizations like USCET to continue working on exchange and education initiatives because small things matter, especially during times of change.
“Exchanges that allow Chinese to come study in the United States and what I think is even more important is Americans studying in China,” Campbell said. “Nothing could be more important.”
Lampton added, “People count in this relationship and organizations count,” he said.
“We all have to stay involved.”
Following the very lively and informative discussion, Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch concluded by thanking everyone for their attendance and continued support in USCET’s work. She noted a special thanks to Ullico for sponsoring the event, Secretary Chao for her kind remarks, and the Advisory Council members for their participation and attendance.