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WSU hosts discussion on US-China relationship

Welcome Center held video conference with US ambassador to China, others

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Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:52 am, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

Wayne State took part in an international discussion on the evening of Oct. 18 during an examination of the relationship between the United States and China.

The Welcome Center auditorium hosted "China Town Hall Meeting: Local Connections, National Reflections," a video-conferenced meeting with U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman Jr., shared by 52 other locations, including one representing the US expatriate community in Beijing.

This is the first time it was broadcast from the Chinese capitol; in the past it had been from Washington, DC.

Guests of the event included Congressman John Conyers, whose question on the nature of Chinese aid in Africa was one that made it through to the Ambassador, who answered by praising Chinese efforts to help the developing world.

At the opening of the meeting, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Science Robert Thomas spoke a few words of admiration in Chinese and described efforts through TechTown's Confucius Institute to encourage Chinese language learning throughout the education system.

Dellashon Di Cresce, project director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Detroit Council for World Affairs, estimates attendees for past China town halls at about 50 people, which she says is somewhat disappointing on a campus of thousands, but she notes, "I am glad that this international discussion will counteract narrow-mindedness."

Preceding the Ambassador's teleconference was a presentation on Chinese naval strength by Dr. Lyle Goldstein, director of the Naval War College's China Maritime Studies Institute, a body of 12 scholars who frequently visit China and make estimates about its naval strategy.

Goldstein said his institute had amassed considerable materials from the Chinese-language media, including surprisingly frank Internet articles, and was looking for help poring through it all. The overwhelming message of this well-illustrated lecture was one of positive cooperation between rational states: Chinese and Taiwanese forces cooperating in joint training (a decade-ago discussion about the two countries was dominated by fears of war), PRC co-patrolling with US forces in post-earthquake Haiti and that country's policy discussions identifying global stability, not raw power, as the best guarantor of prosperity.

"China has traditionally been a land power," but with the enormity of Chinese shipping – the fourth largest in the world – China has a ship in every port and, increasingly, non-military port installations in many countries, Goldstein said.

Goldstein said media tend to discuss China in dire terms for sensationalism; stunning photographs of China's soft power outreach in the Third World and joint military training "tend not to make headlines."

Asked about whether either political party was better at dealing with China, he joked, "I have to be careful," and went on to say that both started out somewhat overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue but eventually settled into making intelligent compromises.

Also attending was Charles Holmes, Asia/Pacific Business Development Manager for Oakland County – that is, he courts Chinese (among other) investments in Michigan. The reverse of his business card is printed in Chinese hanzi characters.

He said Chinese firms were already working in Michigan, and he hoped to encourage more to come.

WSU history professor Alex Day attended with a few students and noted the complexity of the US-China relationship. He said that rather than focusing on a finite set of manufacturing jobs that have become China's, he says, we should appreciate the long struggle ahead of that country to develop its own capacity for consumption.

"It took the United States a long time before we could live off the consumption of our own products and not rely on exporting everything," Day said. "It will take China a long time for prosperity to reach every element of their society. The rural Chinese still make a third of what urban dwellers make."

In that second stage of intermediate development lies the opportunity for Americans to find work advising the Chinese, he said.

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