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Young viewed as force to reset relations

By MINLU ZHANG in Boston | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-04-19 07:48

File photo shows the national flags of China (R) and the United States as well as the flag of Washington DC on the Constitution Avenue in Washington, capital of the United States. [Photo/Xinhua]

Sino-US ties can sidestep pitfalls if next generation acts, experts say

Experts from China and the United States on Saturday said the younger generations of both countries should build consensus, break down misunderstandings and prejudices through people-to-people exchanges and dialogue, and contribute to the future cooperation and development of the two countries.

The Harvard College China Forum, founded 25 years ago by Harvard students, convened a meeting of scholars and leaders on the Harvard campus on Friday and Saturday to discuss China's development and future.

Former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers described the relationship between China and the US as "brothers in the family". And as "brothers in the family of man, we are not without envy, jealousy, sibling rivalry, mutual suspicion, and a tendency to squabble and to quarrel", he said at the opening of the forum.

He added: "The question for your generation… is, are we going to find enough common ground that each of our great societies can continue to define its greatness in ways that are mutually positive?

"Or are we at a time when interdependence makes rupture much more costly? When technology has increased destructive power, when communications technology has the capacity both to convey what is best in humanity and to elevate what is the basis in humanity? Are we going to descend into conflict and savagery?"

Summers said there is no "other question that approaches that question" in its importance.

"I don't think there's any other question that is comparably significant for our leaders, or for all of you who will be so centrally involved in shaping the world as in when my generation leaves the scene," said Summers, an economist who turns 68 this year.

Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University, brought messages from former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger to the audience at the forum.

The cooperation and dialogue between China and the US are "the key issue of this phase of history", Allison quoted Kissinger as saying.

If China and the US each see the other as an essential "evil adversary", or see a high likelihood of "catastrophic consequences …whatever one concludes about the strategic analysis, what's needed is a reinvigorated dialogue", Allison said of the message that Kissinger gave him in a phone conversation before the forum.

Benefits of collaboration

Chas Freeman, the chief US interpreter during president Richard Nixon's 1972 visit to China, said both countries have benefited enormously from the collaboration over the past four decades.

Stephan Orlins, the president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, shared similar views. He reviewed the process of normalization of US-China relations and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and pointed out that relations between the countries were even worse 50 years ago but the leaders of both sides "showed incredible leadership and foresight".

"What they figured out is to reestablish people to people relations, and they did it to kick it off with the ping-pong team," Orlins said of the impact of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in the early 1970s.

Dwight Perkins, the Harold Hitchings Burbank research professor of political economy at Harvard University, also called for a way to move out of the current situation and settle on a basis for "continuing our trade relationships, continuing our economics and ultimately contributing areas way beyond economics".

"Let's hope that the current generation doesn't have to take over and over to prove and prove things. It needs to happen much sooner than that," Perkins said.

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