Ajay Nathan | October 3, 2023
Open Communication: The Key to Collaboration
In this semester’s U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue, students from Georgetown University and Peking University were able to engage in constructive discussions on how the United States and China could work together, particularly regarding development aid and climate change, in today’s international arena. All of the participants I was able to interact with over the course of the dialogue brought insightful perspectives to the conversation that tied in personal experiences as international or American students as well as academic knowledge from our backgrounds in international relations. Across my small groups, I would state that the one word that best describes the conversations we had was honest. Without being honest, it would have been impossible for any disagreements to be taken in good faith.
In my experience with the U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue, I found that we all easily found common ground on the fact that the United States and China must commit to collaborating on pressing issues like climate change despite the current climate of great power competition. My second group, in particular, shared a deep faith in international organizations as a realm in which collaboration between the two countries would lead to more benefits than it would costs. While I believe that our objectives were lofty, our intentions were good—all we wanted to do was determine the best course of action to solve the most pressing issues of our day.
However, when critically reflecting on this experience, I find myself wondering if our dialogue truly functioned as a microcosm of how the Americans and the Chinese generally perceive each other. And I don’t know whether I can say that’s the case. It is, fundamentally, in the nature of the 20 of us gathered in our student-to-student dialogue to trust in the capabilities of international institutions and aim for a future in which collaboration on technological development, emission reduction, or joint infrastructure projects is possible. This is because we are all international relations students with a theoretical background that grounds us in a shared belief in the rule-based world order. Most, if not all of us, possess some sort of multicultural background that affirms to us the importance of open cross-border and cross-cultural communication as a means towards progress. Yet this does not reflect the world we live in. Increasingly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is being defined as a threat to American national security, with cooperation on the aforementioned shared challenges becoming a lesser priority. Law after law has affirmed this. What’s more, the actions of certain politicians have destabilized American trust in the power of international organizations like the United Nations, which are the ideal fora for cooperation between the United States and China to occur.
Thus, I firmly believe that for real collaboration to take place between the two countries, open communication is a necessity. Not just between students of international relations or practitioners, but everyday farmers, businesspeople, teachers, and parents. In this way, the future envisioned by our dialogue may one day be reached.
Aditi Sridhar (SFS'24) is studying in the Walsh School of Foreign Service, majoring in international politics with a minor in French and a potential South Asian Studies certificate.
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