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Town hall discusses China-U.S. relations

The 12th annual CHINA Town Hall was streamed at the Brandeis International Lounge on Tuesday, Oct. 9. CHINA Town Hall is a platform that allows people in the United States to have a conversation about the relationship between China and the U.S. with experts on the topic.

The event featured a discussion on American and Chinese relations with Professor Peter Petri of the Brandeis International Business School, and a webcast with Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, as well as student respondents.

The webcast with Rice was done in a Q&A style, with Rice being interviewed by National Committee President Stephen Orlins. Rice began the evening by recounting her experiences in China.

She described the country as “a power that has risen very quickly…[and] lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and is a force on the world stage.” Although Rice acknowledged that there has been a lot of tension between China and the United States recently, she focused on the positive aspects.

“China is a major factor in the international economy; no one can really imagine international growth that is sustained without Chinese economy,” said Rice. She continued by pointing out other areas in which the United States and China cooperate, in addition to the world economy, such as relations with North Korea.

Rice said that in a way China and the U.S. are “strategic competitors.” However that does not mean that “it has to be conflictual” and that it is important to “take the venom out of the word competitors.”

The event was introduced by Petri, who described Rice and gave background on the current situation. Rice is currently a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a professor of Political Science at Stanford University.

“She [Rice] is a very, very impressive figure and I am a big admirer of her,” said Petri. “She is very special, she’s thoughtful, pragmatic, smart, tough…Rice served at a very difficult time in American history, this was the period of 9/11, followed by the war in Afghanistan, followed by the war in Iraq.”

From 1989 to 1991, Rice served on President George W. Bush’s National Security Council as director and senior director of Soviet and East European Affairs. From 2001 to 2005, Rice served as the National Security Advisor, and as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States from 2005 to 2009. “She was probably the single steady moderating voice in our cabinet,” concluded Petri.

Petri continued by giving a summary of the current relationship between the two nations: “The United States-China relationship has essentially reached new lows.” He particularly highlighted the economic issues between the two nations: “We have seen a kind of robot-like escalation of tariffs…there have been now four rounds of high tariffs by the United States followed by retaliation from China.”

Not only do the tariffs harm both sides, but “they essentially go against virtue of all of the principals of the WTO, the World Trade Organization,” according to Petri. Although the situation is tense, Petri believes that “the good news is that both sides are interested in talking.”

Following the broadcast with Rice three student respondents shared their ideas with the audience. Minnie Norgaisse ’19 is majoring in East Asian Studies and spent eight months in China and Taiwan studying Mandarin.

Zikun Wang ’19, an economics and international and global studies major, is from Beijing and is currently working on a senior thesis on China. Yaya Zhang, MBA ’20, who is from Shenzhen, China, and worked as an I-20 specialist at Northeastern University.

The event concluded with a Q&A with Petri and Professor Elanah Uretsky, a visiting assistant professor in the department of anthropology with expertise in medical anthropology with a specific focus in China. The twelfth annual CHINA Town Hall at Brandeis was sponsored by the Brandeis International Business School, the Asia Pacific Center for Economics and Business and The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

The National Committee on United States-China Relations aims to promote understanding and cooperation between the United States and China.

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