Georgetown and Fudan Students Search for Consensus on Global Governance
Growing trends of nationalism combined with strained resources and supply-chain issues from the COVID-19 pandemic have shaken trust between countries and hindered global cooperation. International institutions continue to grapple with our common issues in a constantly shifting political landscape. The traditional systems of global governance are being challenged and their effectiveness questioned.
Against this backdrop, the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues conducted a successful third season of the U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue online. A group of 12 Georgetown undergraduate and graduate students joined a cohort from Fudan University for a series of dialogues during the month of April 2022. The students connected via Zoom to share short presentations and engage in small group discussions around the topics of global governance, people-to-people exchange, and the role of China and the United States in international institutions.
The students spent their first session discussing the broader issues facing international institutions, and how they are tackling the challenges of the day. Both sides acknowledged that change and improvement was necessary while accepting that their ideas of how to change effectively may be different, or even at odds.
“After engaging with the Fudan students about a number of pressing topics, I came to appreciate the vast differences between American and Chinese political thought, as well as the urgent necessity of attempting to bridge the divide as much as possible,” Phineas Donahue (SFS’23) said. “In particular, I noticed great disagreement over the proper place of rights and principles in international affairs. In my opinion, this was both the biggest area of ideological divergence as well the most important to manage properly.”
During the second session students looked at the historical successes of people-to-people exchange and discussed how opportunities to share culture can help build relationships and mitigate rivalry. For Sarah Hsieh (G’23), the session reinforced the value of personal interaction.
“The U.S.-China relationship is more than just textbooks, PowerPoints, or news and articles; it is the interaction of personal stories and experiences in each other's cultures. This exchange drew us together and allowed us to express our views on various global issues, from economics to humanitarian causes, to media influence and our understanding of democracy.”
The discussion also prompted students to ponder what the future of globalization will look like, and if there is room on the world stage for a variety of cultures and diverse voices. According to Hsieh,
Ultimately, we realized that mutual dialogue and appreciation of each civilization's cultural characteristics are essential.
Confronting Global Challenges
The final session was spent comparing and contrasting the different approaches that China and the United States take when confronting global challenges. They identified areas of confrontation and cooperation, and students shared their interpretations of policy on both sides. Ultimately, the students agreed that more exchange is needed across all levels of society, not just the elite or government level, in order to build better mutual understanding and find real solutions.
“In a time of heightened tensions when media often simplifies countries to be moralistic caricatures of national interests, it is important to have these close dialogues,” Aislin Salassi (G’24) shared. “They must be an ongoing process if they are to work, continuing even when compromises seemingly cannot be reached. Otherwise, we may forget that the other party in a negotiation, competition, or cooperative effort is human in nature.”
Looking to the Future
The U.S.-China relationship is facing three major challenges: power shifts, geopolitical rivalry, and urgent crises in global governance, among others. The hopeful efforts of the younger generation to build connections now can have a positive impact on decisions made in the future. Through the U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue the initiative continues to provide opportunities for students to meet, exchange ideas, and build relationships they can carry on with them beyond graduation.
Read the student reflections to learn more about the spring 2022 dialogue, and find more information about the previous successful sessions held in fall 2021 and spring 2021.