October 30, 2012 - 3:53am
BY ROBERT ARENELLA
Though most voters will not be thinking about the state of Sino-American relations as they cast their ballots on Election Day, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke believes it may be one of the most important issues at hand.
At an event on foreign relations between the U.S. and China, attended by students and faculty and broadcasted to over 60 locations across the country, Locke and a slew of other scholars and politicians discussed the fluctuating relationship.
Opening speaker Richard Solomon, a former University professor and former assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs under President George H. W. Bush, said despite the fact that relations with the People’s Republic of China were only renewed under former President Richard Nixon, the two states are more interdependent than ever.
Stephen Orlins, the president of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, called it “the defining relationship of the 21st century” and Locke explained that American exports to China are six times higher than they were in 2000.
“Our exports have been growing greatly,” Locke said.
However, both Locke and Solomon asserted that this relationship is not perfect. Issues such as intellectual property theft, currency manipulation and the exclusion of American firms have added to persisting economic tensions and led to the appreciation of Chinese currency.
Locke added China’s membership in the World Trade Organization has helped, and the Obama administration has brought more cases against China at the WTO in the past four years than the Bush administration did in eight, in an attempt to “level the playing field.”
While both Locke and Solomon expressed little concern over possible military conflicts between the two nations, they said the implications Chinese policies could have over the East Asian region are discerning.
Locke said conflicts with neighboring countries to China could limit “freedom of navigation” and the “free flow of commerce,” and would impact the U.S. economy.
Locke also discussed how much of the tension spurs from a lack of transparency within the People’s Liberation Army in regards to the military’s “capabilities, their intentions and their plans,” serving as an obstacle to China’s diplomatic efforts with the U.S.
The panel discussed how diplomacy between the two countries transcends politics, as civilians have continued to be introduced personally to each other through efforts stemming from the early 1970s, like the “ping pong diplomacy” initiative that united citizens through ping pong tournaments.
According to Locke, 150,000 Chinese students are currently studying at American universities, while only 15,000 to 17,000 Americans are studying in China.
Linguistics Prof. San Duanmu, the interim director of the Center for Chinese Studies and organizer of the event, said in an interview after the event that the discrepancy is largely because the Chinese education system favors engineering programs, and the language barrier is often insurmountable by American students.