Chinese and American university students met in late October 2016 at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to inaugurate the first student fellows program sponsored by the new Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues.
From October 28 to November 2, just prior to the U.S. presidential election, the fellows, four students from Chinese universities and five from U.S. universities, held a candid and substantive five-day dialogue on the topic of “Challenges of Globalization.” Georgetown Vice President for Global Engagement Dr. Thomas Banchoff greeted the students on behalf of the university. Georgetown faculty, including Director of Asian Studies Dr. Victor Cha, Professor of International Business Diplomacy Dr. John Kline, and Associate Professor of Government Dr. Hans Noel addressed the group on a range of relevant topics from East Asian regional dynamics to the U.S. presidential campaign. Students at Georgetown with deep interests in U.S.-China relations joined the fellows for both their academic discussions and Washington sightseeing. The fellows were also briefed by senior U.S. and Chinese diplomats during meetings at the White House and the Chinese embassy.
The fellows returned to three overarching themes throughout the five days of interaction. A first was the very different framing of the globalization debate in China and the United States. The topic is more salient in the U.S. context, where the benefits and harms of globalization figured prominently in the 2016 election. Chinese students were more certain than the Americans of the benefits of globalization, not only in terms of raising living standards but also in providing greater opportunities for travel and study abroad.
Through their conversations and interaction with faculty, the fellows also gained a deeper understanding of how globalization has blurred national identities. They came to the conclusion that, while still patriotic, they had a wider global outlook and identity than that of prior, less traveled generations in China and the United States. The emerging shape of the global economy has reinforced this trend, as products and brands once believed to be "all-American" or "all-Chinese" are often controlled by multinational owners and may be manufactured abroad. The group also enjoyed relating their exposure to similar popular culture items such as K-pop music, another effect of globalization.
A third overarching theme that emerged in the discussions was the nature of the values shared by U.S. and Chinese citizens in this globalized century, and whether those shared values could promote greater U.S.-Chinese cooperation to the benefit of the global community. Some of the areas they identified as showing the greatest promise for cooperation because of shared values were environmental protection, counterterrorism, global health and pandemics, promoting economic advancement for the world's poor, and the upholding of human dignity. Not surprisingly, there were contrasting perspectives on the meaning of human rights and the morality of intervention in the internal affairs of other nations.
The richness of the fellows’ discussions was captured by videos, to be made available shortly, that crystallize areas of agreement and disagreement around these and other critical topics. The fellows are continuing their dialogue online through a blog and will reconvene for another round of discussion in Beijing in May 2017.