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For decades, the U.S. government and U.S. companies have complained about theft of U.S. intellectual property by Chinese companies.
Addressing stolen trademarks, patents, and copyrights, from pirated music to illegally copied American clothing brands, has been a constant since China joined the global trading system in the early 1990s. As a young lawyer, fresh out of graduate school, Yang Guohua joined the Chinese Ministry of Commerce in Beijing at that time and spent decades negotiating and explaining Chinese intellectual property rights (IPR) protections with American counterparts. Yang details how the Chinese government dealt with U.S. pressure to do more to protect American inventions and innovators, and he also discusses his own journey to become the first IPR attaché at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, to address these longstanding concerns.
James Green: Welcome to the U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast from Georgetown University. This podcast series explores diplomacy and dialogue between China and the United States during the four decades since normalization of relations in 1979. We'll hear from former ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, and White House advisors -- who will share how they shaped the course of the most complex relationship in international diplomacy today.
James Green: I'm your host, James Green.
James Green: Today on the podcast, we talk with Yang Guohua.
James Green: At the heart of the Trump Administration's trade case against China in 2018 -- which led to escalating tariffs in the billions -- were allegations of forced technology transfer and theft of intellectual property. Almost since trade between the United States and China really took off in the early 1990s, the issue of how to protect American trademarks, copyrights, and patents has been a core area of dispute. Here's United States Trade Representative Mickey Kantor in Beijing in April 1995 discussing a just-concluded deal to protect American IP to pave the way for China's entry into the World Trade Organization.
Mickey Kantor: In the new agreement on intellectual property, China has accepted the obligations and responsibilities of a great trading nation. We are hopeful that China will decide to embrace WTO issues with the same seriousness of purpose that led to progress on intellectual property.
James Green: Yang Guohua served in the Chinese Ministry of Commerce for nearly two decades as a trade lawyer on the other side of the negotiation table from Ambassador Kantor and his numerous successors thru the years. Yang has been part of the development of China's growing body of law protecting intellectual property and eventually served at the Chinese Embassy in Washington as its first IP attache. He has a unique vantage point on U.S. pressure over the years and legal changes in China over the decades that protect inventors, artists, and companies.
James Green: But we begin our conversation with Yang Guohua's unusual decision to study the law in the 1980s, when very few Chinese citizens had the experience to fully digest the concept of protections and enshrined in law.
James Green: Yang Guohua, thank you so much for taking time. So nice to see you in your office here at Tsinghua university. Before getting into your time at the ministry of commerce, I wonder if you could just talk about your personal experience in studying the law and where you grew up and how you started studying the law.
Yang Guohua: I, I graduated from, Peking university. I got my PhD degree back to the 1990... let me think about it, 1996. That is 24 years ago. That is graduated from Peking university law school. Yeah.
James Green: Wow. And was the law something you wanted to do or was it something your family thought you should do? How did you pick that area of study?
Yang Guohua: Yeah, yes, I grew up in the Northern part of Jiangsu and law is, of course my, my parents really wanted me to study law and I didn't study law when I was in my, colle, in my college, I studied English and I became an English teacher. So after a few years and I then I went to Wuhan university to read my master's degree, and later I went to Peking university to make my PhD degree. And I realized that English and law are two wings for a bird like me, right, to fly. As English because you need to be very intertional, international and the law is a kind of major, how to a profession, professional area, you need to work. So, so that's, that's -- my parents liked that, I really enjoy that. Yeah.
James Green: And so just in terms of thinking about the law and how different it is from maybe, Marxist theory or other elements of Chinese political society, was it difficult to start to study something that was kind of different from, maybe the way China was run in the '50s and '60?
Yang Guohua: Uh-huh. Yeah, I, when I, when I was trying to study law back to the 1980s, my colleagues, my friends always asked me the one question, is, is that kind of suffrage? Do you suffer from studying law? Because when you look at the reality, do I have a rule of law? But you are studying lawyer, you have idea, ideal understanding of the law. So I, my understanding was that, you know, you know, we do not have that reality of rule of law, that's why we wanna study the law. That's, that's my understanding. Still at this moment. Look at, look around it's not a world, or society of rule of law.
James Green: So, how did you go from Peking university to join the ministry of commerce in 1996?
Yang Guohua: I was very lucky. I, and the luck always comes with me. I applied for the, the MOFTEC, ministry of foreign trade and economic cooperation (MOFTEC) and I was admitted. Because one of the reasons was that not so many PhD students at that time, one or two from a Peking University Law School. So that's why I was enrolled. In that year, MOFCOM admitted the 100, new, new employees, 100. Only four are PhD students. So that's, that's very rare. That's why I, I think I was admitted there.
James Green: I see. So at that time, when you joined Treaty and Law, was this is the part of MOFCOM that deals with legal matters and treaties?
Yang Guohua: Yes, yeah.
James Green: Was it a big department, were there are a lot of other lawyers there?
Yang Guohua: Very sma... one of the smallest, departments in over 20 or 30 departments in the MOFCOM, MOFTEC or MOFCOM. About 30 people, about 30 people. So, but this is another luck for me, second luck for me. First luck I was admitted by the, in the ministry, second is to be, to work in a really professional department, although it's a small one without much power, But, it's a very specialized professional one that, that department determined my later on professional, professional life, even now. Right?
James Green: So when you first started, what was your job in Treaty and Law at MOFCOM?
Yang Guohua: I was, there was a division called the foreign trade division, foreign trade law division. 1996 was the end of the first US-China negotiations in IP, IP negotiations. The US side was Charlene Barshefsky, Barshefsky-
James Green: And was she the deputy US chair at the time or was she the chair?
Yang Guohua: ... Yeah, she was deputy, she was deputy, yeah. And Mickey Kantor, am I right?
James Green: Yes.
Yang Guohua: We was, you know, there was a threat of a retaliation between two sides. And Chinese side there was Madame Wu Yi and other side Mickey Kantor, yeah. And they threatened to impose the retaliation on the disputes on the, the so-called the enforcement of the IP rights. So I joined MOFCOM at that time.
James Green: Wow. And what was the dispute over on IP? Was it that it was not being enforced, copyrights were not being enforced or trademarks? What was the main?
Yang Guohua: A copyright is the most important discs, curb pirated discs underground, factories that produce the pirated discs. Another reason I was admitted, I was invited to join the work before, I took on the full time job, was that I, I wrote my doctoral thesis, on Section 301 of the United States trade law. So this is the same section of 301 of the you US trade act right now between US and China. So I wrote my doctoral thesis. So at that time, MOFCOM said, okay, you, you have some knowledge on this issue, so come work.
James Green: You're a very modest, do you think anyone else in MOFCOM knew what section 301 of the trade act of 1974 was?
Yang Guohua: I don't think so, I don't think so. Back to 2018, I mean, a year before last, when section 301 showed up again, appeared again, people were at a loss and they were, they searched everything, they found 20 years ago somebody wrote a book.
James Green: Some guy named Yang Guohua wrote a book.
Yang Guohua: Yeah. Even, even two year, two years ago people do not under... don't know what, what is the section 301. And the one reason, one reason is that, is that section 301 is a very specialized law. Another reason is that, is that it's, it's not used that much in the past 20 years.
James Green: Right. And on the, you mentioned Wu Yi who -- incredibly formidable Chinese leader -- who went on to be vice premier, do you think she took or the Chinese side took something broader about, hey, we can deal with Charlene Barshefsky and the US and we've developed this way of negotiating and sure it was on IP, which we don't need to address, but more broadly, this is this, this will help us figure out how to push through the accession protocol and all the, the details of that?
Yang Guohua: Wu Yi and later on other, leaders from the state council or the ministers from the, from the ministry of commerce, they, they seems to me have a kind of a consensus on the IP issue, which is that: we need to make reform, we need to make progress. We have lot of problems for like the, underground factories, that's a problem. Pirated CDs, pirated movies, a problem, online piracy is a problem. You cannot ignore that. You cannot deny this kind of serious issues. So this is the consensus and... but the problem with the negotiations was that for some times, the, sometimes the, the, the, the demands or requests or demands from the US side are too much.
James Green: What's an example?
Yang Guohua: Example was that, in the JCCT or WTO accession, all that kind of it, they wanted China to do something, to do many things at one time. For example, in 1986 negotiations between US and China on IP, US side said that in the next three months, six months you need to do the, the listed 10 things to take enforcement to achieve-
James Green: Close these factories, prosecute these individuals, put them in jail. That sort of thing?
Yang Guohua: Yeah. Although the Chinese side realized that we need to make improvements, but, when we tried to do everything, Chinese authority is the central government authority and the local government authorities need to think about the, the realities, the reactions, even on the social stability. Even on the, on the, economic, development. a perfect example was the [inaudible] the, you know, back to the 2000, early 2000. There were kind of, fake mobile phones, right? In Shenzhen. I was told that 200 million people are involved in this industry. So yes, it's, it's wrong for them to do that, but could we do that in next, in half a year? That's a problem. This is a, this is why we disputed, we're not disputed the facts about the necessity of doing this, but how to do that.
James Green: The policy pollution solution.
Yang Guohua: Yeah, yeah.
James Green: I wonder if on the Chinese side, since you were trained in law and the best, one of the best universities in China and most other Chinese officials don't have a legal background. And I should say by contrast, I'd say about half of the people at USTR are lawyers. Not, not all, but half or a little bit more and I think our governance system is one that attracts a lot of lawyers. Traditionally, a lot of our modern presidents are lawyers and other officials are lawyers. And on the Chinese side there's almost no lawyers. I remember when we started the BIT negotiations, Li Chenggang said to me, he said, "Oh, I'm the first lawyer that's led and negotiation." How was it just kind of internally, was it, was it difficult to explain legal concepts or the idea of what the law should be? Or was that really, a practical issue that you were working at it and talking about the law in a general sense wasn't, wasn't a problem?
Yang Guohua: Yeah. We were, we were really amazed at the reality in the United States that United States is ruled by lawyers, right? And is not in China, not in other countries, even in Europe and not in Japan. Right? Or the model is that you have the government, government that work. But, here when we work with different agencies, lawyers, most of the time are their advisors, they are only counsels rather than the leading negotiators as Li Chenggang said, correctly that, he was maybe the first lawyer and he is still the first lawyer in a, as a lead, as a minister level official in MOFCOM.
James Green: He's the first one.
Yang Guohua: He's the first one. He's assistant, assistant minister. Right?
James Green: Right.
Yang Guohua: He's the first one. So, but, but while we, while we work at the working level with the different departments, I think, I, I failed to see many, many, many examples of the different way our approach on this, legal background, law or not law. But maybe one example was that, as lawyers we always try to find the reasons, try to find the reasons.
James Green: Use logic to find the reasons.
Yang Guohua: Use logic with evidence rather than political slogans, right? Rather than, some, something too broad, right? So this is a way of thinking, legal reasoning or something like that.
James Green: What do you think, and I, I've, I've only spent many years studying Chinese and not so well, but much of Chinese language it seems to me is very imprecise and English as you know, has a Latin background and, and German and a bunch of other influences, some Greek, and it can be very detailed and specific.
James Green: How do you see the Chinese language? Is that, as being kind of less precise sometimes? Is that an accurate way to think about it or do you think maybe that was true one time, but now there's enough Chinese words for things that it doesn't really influence thinking?
Yang Guohua: The linguistic, linguistic problem for Chinese is a, is a long time a debate. Back to 100 years ago, I was told. I read a book, over 100 years ago there are some, scholars proposed to change, to abandon the characters, hanzi to use the pronunciations, use letters. One of the reasons was that as you said, less precision of the expression. Maybe, for Chinese language there is a benefit to describe some feeling, feeling, feeling the very like poem. Poem is always vague and-
James Green: And very good to have Chinese characters for those.
Yang Guohua: ... Yeah, with that and you see, you see the shape, that is a good one. But for the precise thinking, legal reasoning, I think I have to admit that there is a problem.
James Green: I want to get to your time in Washington as the, as the, at the Chinese embassy, could you just talk a little bit about how you ended up going to the Chinese embassy in Washington and then when you got there, what your job was?
Yang Guohua: That was back to the 2005 and one day after the conclusion ceremony of the, one of the JCCT meeting.
James Green: The joint commission on commerce and trade.
Yang Guohua: Joint commission on commerce and trade between US and China, which is a long time mechanism for both sides to have dialogues, end of 2005 after conclusion of that meeting, JCCT meeting. I was told that the US side requested China to send somebody to the United States to help US small and medium sized companies on the IP issues protection in China. So this is the long sentence, right? So to, to, to make it any shot, to send somebody to the United States to help us companies. So that, then later on, a few months later, that was me and later, and still later I met the two people who proposed from the US side on this issue. That was a Charles Freeman, which you interviewed and Deborah Lehr who worked at the USTR that same time. They proposed to the Chinese side and the Chinese side said, "Oh, this is a good idea. Why don't we do that"? So that's, that's it.
James Green: And so did you get a call from the minister one day or from the assistant minister or the vice minister?
Yang Guohua: Vice minister, vice minister, yeah.
James Green: He said, Yang Guohua, we have a great opportunity for you?
Yang Guohua: Yeah, yeah. They have a selection process and they think about there's somebody who can who can be a... this is this the first one and the IP issue is a long time issue between US China for the past decade at that time.
James Green: Right.
Yang Guohua: So we need to find somebody, a suitable person. so then I was so fortunate and lucky to be, to be selected at the end of that. Yeah.
James Green: And so then you got to the US in... 2006, is that right?
Yang Guohua: Yeah. January the 4th, 2006. Exact time.
James Green: Wow. And so your job was to interact with small and medium companies in the US as well as the rest of the Chinese embassy.
Yang Guohua: Yes, yes.
James Green: Describe how that was different or similar to your work at MOFCOM in the ministry of Treaty and Law.
Yang Guohua: Very different. I wrote a book, I published another book. As I showed you, I published just two books when I was in United States. One is about my stories in life, politics, religion-- this is the product of my culture shock. Another is my, more or less professional on IP protection. As my job, I had so many meetings, I was, fully available to anybody. I, I, I picked up call, on a regular time. I met people from, Wisconsin with, many other areas. And I, at the same time I communicated with my colleagues back at home, in MOFCOM, in trademarks office, patent office, copyright office, tried to solve problems. I have some successful stories you would want to hear.
James Green: I definitely do. Before getting to the professional part, I just wonder at a personal level, what was it like you, you grew up in China, you went to college in, at Wuhan and here in Beijing, and then to move to the United States. What were your impressions like. I mean, you went at some point in the late '90s and then you went to live there. What was it like to live there versus here in China?
Yang Guohua: It is so different. As, as I said, I, I published a book called the new arabian nights -- 100, 1001 night, I almost spend 1001 nights in the United States. And this is culture shock, so different, as I said, just know I went to the United States, as a, as IP attache IP ombudsman. I, I visited the United States many times and I was still shocked. They are so different. In my book I try to recognize, try to record my life. So look at the society, even the holidays, the politics, president election, religion, all these kind of things shocked me. So this is so different. I have so many stories on that.
James Green: You were working in the central government and in Washington, how did you find working with provincial or municipal governments on these issues? Were you seen as some annoying Beijing bureaucrat, like know what to do or was there a genuine appreciation of, oh, this is the kind of international standard for what intellectual property right protection should be?
Yang Guohua: Well, one thing, one thing was the fake mobile phones, back to the early 2000, year 2000. And you know, as I said, it'll become an industry for the fake mobile phones in the Shenzhen area. around 200,000 people were involved in the industry, so that's a problem not only for the local industry, central company, central government, but it is also a problem for central government.
James Green: To have so much fake production go on.
Yang Guohua: Production and 200 million, 200,000 people involved, got involved in the industry. How could you solve the problem gradually, all of a sudden in a few months? So that's I, frankly speaking I have a, sometimes I have a, something, I have sympathy for the local government. They need the boom of need the development, economic development. At the same time, protection IP is a, is a, is a necessity mostly from the central government. So I have sympathy for the, right, although I know that it's fake, it's not always wrong, fake fake goods are dangerous. But sometime we have reality to fake to face with. That's it.
James Green: I've heard some people argue on the Chinese side that there is not a historical appreciation for private property rights and that IP is a kind of private property right. How do you think about the broader issue of what a private right is and certainly in, in US law, it's been there for -- since the beginning of, of our system, a little bit different in Chinese law. How do you think about kind of IP as a private right and something to be protected?
Yang Guohua: I think this is a misconception, mistake for understanding, for saying that China has a tradition, has a culture. Let's talk about culture, history, property protection, is, I think it's, it's also a very long history, long tradition. I don't think IP protection would be a problem to be, IP could be a problem. You recognized as a property.
Yang Guohua: Only one of our problem was the enforcement. Why it was enforced very strictly, very, hard. I think the, this kind of idea, could it be established very quickly. And, one of the examples was that in recent years we see that IP protection become a kind of incentive from the Chinese company rather than from the US companies. Right? So this is also very common.
James Green: Can you talk a little bit about that, that is I think filing for patents in China is now through the roof. And most of the filers are Chinese companies filing.
Yang Guohua: Yeah, yeah. Every company I met with here China has a kind of very, very strict sense of a patent protection and trademark registration. And they always say, okay, this is a kind of a right, benefit, right? We need to register, we need to spend the money for the maintenance of the trademark right right and also we need to spend money to apply for the patent to protect our invention. This is a, this is a, there is no dispute. The problem was that it was, it was a, it was a pirated, it was a, a stolen, the patent was stolen. How about the enforcement? If the enforcement is efficient and think I think that, that the holy moment, would it be increased, yeah, that's.
James Green: I wanna come -- so you were in the US for three years?
Yang Guohua: Yeah, three years.
James Green: And then you came back to MOFCOM and did you go directly to be the deputy director general of the treaty and law office?
Yang Guohua: Yes.
James Green: So in that job, the director general is the head of the treaty of law office and then there are two or three deputies director general?
Yang Guohua: Yes, two at that time.
James Green: And you were one of those two. What was your job as the deputy director of the office?
Yang Guohua: Yeah, I was, I, you know, deputy director general, sometimes, always have, have that responsibility of overseeing two or three divisions. One division I oversaw was, overseeing was, IP division, which was headed by Chen Fuli who succeeded to be later on. Right? And, another WTO department. So I was working on the WTO settlement.
James Green: And so that's for when there were cases between China and other WTO members-
Yang Guohua: Including the United States.
James Green: ... that would end up in treaty and law in that department?
Yang Guohua: In that, in that division.
James Green: The division.
Yang Guohua: Division of WTO law. So after three years in the US Chinese embassy in the United States, I came back as a little bit higher leader as the IP dialogue. So I, I was, leading, I was, as a, how do say a coordinator from the, for the Chinese side on the IP dialogue between US and China. You know, at the time there were two dialogues, one year. one is at the deputy director general, which was my level, second is minister, vice minister level. So we had a two,
James Green: So in your, that was on the IP front, on the WTO litigation front, this was a period late, end of the Bush administration, beginning of the Obama administration-
Yang Guohua: Exactly.
James Green: ... in which, I'd say for the first five years of China's entry into the WTO, maybe there was one or two cases, not, not many. And then a couple of more at the end of the Bush administration. When you were in that job, how did you all react or, or deal with WTO litigation? When you found out either through Geneva at the WTO or through Washington or through here in Beijing, that the US was going to bring a case against China?
Yang Guohua: Frankly speaking, our first case was a case, the united force against the United States. united force against the United States. United force of eight members of the WTO including EU on the US steel safeguard. That goes back to two, early 2002. So when-
James Green: This is the beginning of the Bush administration in which steel safeguards were put in?
Yang Guohua: ... Yes, steel safeguard. When China joined the WTO, China filed the case, first case against the United States. China was so lucky at the time. Right? This is a very moment this is very important for China. You know, you know, China enjoyed the benefit of a complainant rather than a respondent. Right? And, but later on, frankly speaking, we were nervous at the very beginning that, we were, we were, we were filed against, in the ... we were there were so many cases against China in WTO. But later on we realize from the cases that this is a really rational, better way to solve the US China relationship.
Yang Guohua: I have very... I have quite a few examples you wanted to hear and later on, we, I myself agreed with Tim Stratford, who is a lawyer right now in Beijing, that, that, this is a better way to solve the US China trade disputes. I mean, WTO is a better way. So later on we all agreed. So the first stage, the first case, let's forget about the US steel safeguard we were lucky. But the, at the first stage we were nervous. China IP case was example. You know, US and China was having negotiations on IP issues and at the same time US brought a case against China in the WTO.
James Green: And so on the Chinese side, did you all feel that that was unfair?
Yang Guohua: It's unfair. It's - Madame Wu Yi said at that time she was a state counselor. Said that she was very unhappy. She said that there were negotiations, we have negotiations, why you file a case? So then you have a case we don't negotiate. So this is a, this is - we were nervous. But later on, we didn't see any problems for that. We were quite used to that. And, a perfect example was in Obama administration that is called the US tires on the transitional safeguard.
James Green: 421 tires case?
Yang Guohua: Yes. That, that is a very politically sensitive case. That was the first case using the transitional, transitional safeguard measures in China accession protocol. And China, even Chinese president of Hu Jintao told the Obama in a meeting saying that, don't use the, the, the clause unfair, but Obama later on used that. So just think about, without WTO, how could we solve the problems? Then the retaliation counter measures, so we would be having that. But, the moment US take the safeguard measures in Chinese tires, China filed the case to the WTO. And, both sides, I mean, US and Chinese president, ministers, just forget about the dispute, they say, let's wait and see. And two or three years later, the case was settled, decided, and people still forget about that - deliberately. It's not as sensitive anymore. So that's-
James Green: It was a way to, it was a way to, just to follow up on what you were saying, it was a way to take out an irritant and put it in a somewhat neutral place to arbitrate on the merits and take it out of political conflict.
Yang Guohua: Yeah. Let's, let's -- you are correct -- let's assume that, early 2018 where US used the section 301 to say China has following of three or four issues and they will file a case in WTO, I don't think that would lead the section 301, US case would lead to the trade war. It may not, it may not be that with the WTO..
James Green: I just wanna take, speaking now, not about WTO litigation about your time at treaty and law. If you could just talk a little bit about for the joint commission on commerce and trade and these very large ministerial meetings, what it was like on the Chinese side to organize or to kind of be part of it. On the US side, we had hundreds of officials and would tried to tee up the issues that we thought we'd make progress on. Could you just describe on the Chinese side what it was like to organize and to work in the bureaucracy?
Yang Guohua: JCCT and S&ED strategic economic and and dialogue. to me are the same, they are the higher level of vice minister from Chinese, vice premier level from Chinese side. I was a reformer, although I was not at that level, high level. I, I, let me take a IP as example. I was a reformer. I always realized that, that IP protection, enforcement is a problem in China. That it would hinder Chinese development, later on development, right? Because it's discouraged innovation, innovation.
Yang Guohua: So this, so, but when I tried to, negotiate, I tried to work with my colleagues from other agencies, I would not give the names, but they would always say, we will protect our national interest. I said, what is our national interest? Is innovation and the further development is our national interest? So we'll have debates then come back to JCCT and S&ED is a perfect opportunity from the outside of China to say to give a very good a pressure, give a very good positive pressure for Chinese reformers rather than hard liners. Why? Because at the high level when the US side from the other side of the table saying that the China need to do this to do that and from of the Chinese side, the vice premier, they also need the outcomes, the positive outcomes from the JCCT meeting. The number one issue they would find to have the outcome is IP.
Yang Guohua: The reason was that this is something we really wanted to do and could not do without, by ourselves. This is why, JCCT and S&ED almost the number one outcome is IP. And is-
James Green: In terms of numbers of outcomes?
Yang Guohua: ... Yeah, numbers of outcomes. This is number one a lot progress and so to come back to your question, I think this is a very good one. And let, let me compare with the, the recent -- Nowadays pressure and that unilateral action tariff tariffs against China on IP issue. That's a, that's a, less - that's not a positive of pressure. That would be a good pressure, that's a good, that would be a good, that would be a good initiative for the Chinese hardliners to take counter measures to say, no, we will not do that because US is not, is not friendly. They are not, they have bad faith. This is why I said the JCCT and SED very productive and a really positive rather than the tariffs.
James Green: I wanna talk about - you mentioned that you'd left the government about five years ago and I think you've had an incredible career and it's an interesting transition to academia. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like to come to Tsinghua to teach and how it was different from your time in government?
Yang Guohua: Once again, I was so lucky. As I said, I was admitted to the ministry of commerce three years ago. I was lucky, I was lucky to join department treaty law to do some professional work as a lawyer, IP on the WTO law. Then my third luck is the transition from, ministry of commerce to a presti- prestigious university like Tsinghua university law school. And I can teach my students on WTO cases, WTO law, at the same time a US-China relationship. So I have two courses, one is for the undergraduate students that is WTO cases, to teach them legal reasoning? That was from my experience in MOFCOM WTO litigations. Another is IP and also the US-China relationship. Based on my experience in the United States, working with the United States, I realized that, that this, once again, this is very great luck.
Yang Guohua: I wanted to be a university professor. This is my dream. This was my dream 20 years ago actually. when I joined MOFCOM, I tried to see my diary at that time. I had two choices at a time. One is to one university, but maybe not that as good as a Tsinghua university. Another is go to MOFCOM, but I, I, I was, I went to MOFCOM, but so 20 years ago, almost 20 years later, I, I joined this. This is my, my dream. I achieved my dream.
James Green: So for students who are thinking about joining the ministry of commerce or a foreign affairs or other parts of the Chinese government, do you have advice for them for what they should or shouldn't do?
Yang Guohua: Yeah. I was told that, that the public servants gongwuyuan examination is still very popular for my, for students. Even here in Tsinghua and beida I always, when they come approach me and ask my advice, I always discourage them. I said, don't go to the government offices. They say, oh you were a very good example, I wanted to be you 20 years later. I said, I was - I'm not a very good example because I was, I come along, the 20 years of the way because I have a three lucks, too many lucks. I was helped by so many people, so I never, so please do not treat me as a good example. Which means that the, you may not, you may not be as lucky as I am, in my 20 years.
Yang Guohua: So, but this is a joke, but I, what I wanted to tell them, tell them was that, you know, it's pretty hard. You know, it's, you need to work hard and that you need to be, need to be very professional as a lawyer, right? So you need to communicate, right? You need to write books like what I did. And so later on you could, could get a lot of professional experience. So, so that, that, that's, that's something important. Work hard, something.
James Green: Yeah. One of the things that strikes me is having dealt with Chinese officials over the years is the expectation of your leaders for the amount of work you have to do is oftentimes quite unreasonable by American standards. And that you all have to work extremely late and be, kind of, on call at any moment. in our civil service system, there's a, a number of the civil servants who just seem after five o'clock they go home and that's it. They don't have to worry about it. But for the people that I've dealt with in MOFCOM and the foreign ministry they, they're always on. They're always at the call of senior leaders. And that's incredibly demanding for your personal time and for your personal life. That level of commitment, particularly if you're working on something important like dealing with the United States, that, that requires a lot of commitment.
Yang Guohua: Okay.
James Green: First Yang, before we end, I wonder, you've spent a such a long career in government and now, back in academia. is there any lessons that you take away for how either the Chinese side should deal with the US or how the two sides should deal together?
Yang Guohua: If I could, I, I would say that, from the Chinese side, we need to understand the United States more. As I said, I, before I went to the United States as IP attache, I had been working with the United States side for 10 years, from 1996 to 2005, but I was still shocked when I worked there for three years. I'm still shocked, kept being shocked, you know, when I watch CNN, you see the news from US side, which means that you need to understand how the United States is working. Why are they - how did they grow up? My conclusion was that United States is so different from China, for anybody to grow up, for the political environment, for the government function, for the lawyers' work, they are so different. Without the recognition of the, your, your counterparts, you cannot work well with anybody.
Yang Guohua: So this is a, a lesson, advice to my Chinese side, Chinese colleagues for the, for - I don't know whether we have a, I have advice for the US side, right now the Trump administration to me is very, it's very unique, very special, too different from the previous Obama-Bush administration and even at the working level officials, I think they are also different because of their lead, leaders at different. So I think they - if I could say, their approach right now, on China, treat China as a rival and also use tariffs as a tools to achieve something is wrong to me. JCCT dialogue, they are productive. This is a fact. And they are still, they're still to be encouraged. And one more thing, if I could say, to the US of colleagues was that, to integrate China into a world economy, like integrate China in the WTO is more important and fundamental and far reaching than the shortsighted so-called benefits. That's my advice.
James Green: Yang Guohua, thank you so much for taking time and for all of your hard work on the Chinese side, I'm glad you get to enjoy your, your time out of government thinking and writing books. We, we look forward to seeing the next thing that you write. Thank you for joining us today.
Yang Guohua: Thank you very much. Thank you.
James Green: Yang Guohua -- speaking with me from Beijing. You’ve been listening to the U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast from Georgetown University. I’m your host, James Green.