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October 3, 2023

Responding To: Georgetown Students Share Thoughts on Spring 2023 Student Dialogue Experience with Peking University

A Dynamic Dialogue: How the U.S. and China Can Engage Around Their Differing Development Policies

Austin Huang

Being able to participate in this year’s U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue between Georgetown University and Peking University and to discuss topics centered around global development and its intersection with U.S.-China relations was an honor. Not only was it meaningful to hear perspectives from students in China about these extremely important issues, but getting to participate in dynamic discussions between both Georgetown and Peking University students and see how our different insights and perspectives could be used to approach these issues in new ways was an incredible opportunity. Especially given the contrasting ways in which global development is often viewed in both countries, and how sensitive and hot-button of a topic it is, it was important to engage in dialectic dialogue to build and enhance my own understanding of how the United States and China can continue to interact and engage with each other around development. U.S.-China relations will continue to be a prescient and defining aspect of global politics, and understanding how this relationship will impact the future of global development is a vital topic to address and understand in the coming years.

Our first discussion centered around the United Nation’s 2022 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a list of 17 goals outlined in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to identify how the world could address the most pressing global development challenges. A common theme from all of the different smaller breakout groups was that while we hoped that the United States and China could work together on these issues to help bridge the gap between the Global North and Global South while helping to alleviate global poverty, there were some fundamental issues that could impede cooperation in this area. Balancing the needs of local communities, discerning how much burden should be placed on developed and industrialized countries, and how to diffuse the tensions of U.S.-China competition when it came to providing development aid were all important issues that we broached, and hearing the perspectives of students studying in China painted an entirely new picture for me.

Our second and third discussions featured the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and China’s Global Development Initiative (GDI). This was where I felt that the dialogue really began to take shape, as we became more comfortable talking with each other and sharing our own perspectives as well as the domestic attitudes of our countries towards global development. Getting to compare the American and Chinese approaches and discuss them at length with our Chinese counterparts gave me a lot more insight into how differently development policy is viewed by academics and institutional bodies in China as compared to the United States, and the underlying reasons and motivations for why it has manifested itself so differently in the two countries.

Overall, the discussion was an excellent opportunity for me to meet incredibly smart and talented fellow students, hear what young Chinese students think about global development, and consider how the United States and China could use this issue as an opportunity for cooperation and improved relations. I am extremely grateful for the Georgetown University Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues and all the students at Peking University for making this possible, and I hope to continue engaging in discourse to help improve understanding and communication on important issues like this.

Austin Huang (SFS'26) is studying in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, majoring in international politics with minors in economics and Asian studies.

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