Sino-US ties in spotlight at Harvard forum

Founded in 1997, the forum is North America's leading and longest-running conference on China organized by students.


Chinese and US flags flutter outside the building of an American company in Beijing, Jan 21, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

April 19, 2022

BOSTON – In-depth, candid and open exchanges and dialogue imperative, experts say

Leaders in politics, business, academia and entertainment gathered at Harvard University over the weekend for an annual conference to discuss international affairs and the future of China’s development.

The 25th Harvard College China Forum, under the theme “Extraordinary times”, was held at Harvard from Friday to Saturday. Founded in 1997, the forum is North America’s leading and longest-running conference on China organized by students.

“With more than 1,000 Chinese students on the campus, Chinese student is the largest group of international students at Harvard,” China’s Ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, said during a video speech at the opening ceremony. “It is a vivid microcosm of people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the US.

“However, the current China-US relationship is facing a severe and complicated situation. The dark clouds of misunderstanding and misjudgment are gathering, and the ice of the so-called new Cold War is congealing.”

More extensive, in-depth, candid and open exchanges and dialogue are needed, he said.

“It is necessary to use the power of facts and truth to break the so-called common sense that has been solidified by misunderstanding and prejudice, to break the solidified political correctness, and break the current situation that does not serve the interests of the two countries, which is also a situation that runs counter to the will of the two countries.”

Qin said he hoped the forum would be able to set off brainstorming, make plans and “help blow away the dark clouds of misunderstandings and misjudgments, and… that every forum participant can become an ‘icebreaker’.”

Huang Ping, China’s consul general in New York, said: “Although there is competition between China and the US, the scope of cooperation is far greater than that of competition, and in many aspects it is cooperation that makes China and the US achieve a leap in their respective international competitiveness. There is a proverb saying ‘Do not learn from spiders who make their own webs, but learn from bees who make honey together’.”

Even if there is competition at times, “the competition should be like the track and field games, where we improve together by catching up with each other, rather than playing the ‘squid game’ which is full of mutual suspicion and deception and life-or-death struggles”, Huang said.

“Whether in the long history or in current challenging moment, Chinese and American people have been keeping writing glorious stories of friendship through joint efforts. We should comply with public opinion and pave the way for more exchanges and cooperation between the two peoples.”

Economic transformation

Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers recognized the great progress that China’s economy has made over the past 40 years.

“Think about what has happened in China since 1979. Living standards have more than doubled in a decade and then more than doubled in a decade again, and then more than doubled in a decade again, and then continue to increase very rapidly.

“It is not unreasonable to suggest that living standards in the last 40 years in China have increased 15 fold, 20 fold or more, not a factor of 1.5, but a factor of 15. That is perhaps the greatest economic transformation in the history of our planet.”

This kind of rapid growth “has been not an isolated event, but it has been the center of what I would suggest will be the major story of our times, when histories are written in 2200 or 2300-the rise of Asia, and the shift of economic power from the West to the East,” Summers said.

“To be sure, we are brothers in the family of man, sharing a common planet that will determine our safety, facing common threats, often threats from microbes and viruses, with a common stake in basic order and security that enable our people to prosper and to flourish.”

Harvard College China Forum convened a remote conference in 2020 with more than 8 million views. The forum held a first-ever conference in Beijing last year and returned to Harvard this year.

Former US assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs Chas Freeman and President of the National Committee on US-China Relations Stephen Orlins also attended the forum over the weekend.

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