As the relationship between China and the U.S. evolves, how the two will work together on a global scale is becoming increasingly important.
“As we look to the future, the key question is ‘Can the U.S. and China work together to solve the world’s important challenges despite different economic systems and divergent views on such matters as democracy, religious freedom, civil liberties and the rule of law?’” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said during an event about the U.S.-China relationship Monday. “In my view, this is certainly possible, so long as we recognize our disagreements and core differences with maturity, confront our challenges directly, and have leaders on both sides that are committed to this relationship.”
The seventh annual China Town Hall, during which Ohio State and 65 other venues hosted local speakers Monday in a two-hour event, featured a webcast discussion on the subject of U.S.-China relations between Albright in Washington, D.C., and Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
“U.S.-China relations are the defining relationship of the 21st century, and getting that relationship right is the key to peace and stability throughout the world,” Orlins said.
On OSU’s campus, a few dozen students and others gathered at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies to watch the discussion and hear from former American diplomat Lloyd Neighbors, who spoke about his time in China before fielding questions from the audience.
Compared to the fear some Americans have of China’s swift economic rise, Neighbors spoke of the relationship in a much more lighthearted tone, keeping the audience engaged with quips and recollections about the challenges of diplomacy between the two world powers.
Neighbors recounted his four-decade tenure in China that left him with a catalogue of behind-the-scenes stories about U.S.-China affairs, like former U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s propensity for rambling on with personal anecdotes while ambassadors tried to brief him about the country.
Despite concern from the public, Neighbors told The Lantern before the event that China’s rise is unlikely to create major economic problems for the U.S.
“It’s possible, but trade partners always have all sorts of conflicts and disagreements. There could be some disagreements, but I don’t see it as a profoundly negative influence. I see it as a positive one, binding us to one another,” he said.
Instead, the biggest challenges for the two nations’ relationships lies in how they handle disputes regarding other countries.
Like Neighbors, Albright said the relationship between the U.S. and China is generally positive, and the major concerns stressing the relationship are China’s economic imbalance, its tightening of free expression and its controversy over currency exchanges.
Albright said the world needs China to step up on the world stage. Although the U.S. is the “indispensable nation,” Albright said the issues of terrorism and nuclear proliferation require input from all major powers.
Max Mauerman, a third-year in political science and economics, said he came to the event after getting involved in international affairs through the OSU Collegiate Council on World Affairs.
“The Albright thing was interesting, but I feel like it was nothing I hadn’t heard before. I thought the question and answer with Mr. Neighbors was actually more interesting though, and to get the chance to talk to someone in person about that,” Mauerman said.
Jeff Chan, assistant director of OSU’s Institute for Chinese Studies, told The Lantern there were no costs to OSU for the event, aside from snacks provided to attendees.
Chan said he hopes Neighbors’ presentation gave the audience a credible perspective on topics concerning China.
“Not everyone can ask Madeleine Albright questions, but at least there’s a local speaker who can hopefully illuminate issues that they have concerning China,” Chan said.