When Climate Politics Create Cultural Divides
Advait Arun | January 18, 2022
Responding To: Georgetown Students Share Thoughts on Exchange with Peking University
What was the most important event in U.S.-China relations that happened in 2021? Many people would say the Biden-Xi summit in November. However, to me, the most significant event to my understanding of U.S.-China relations was the U.S.-China Student-to-Student Dialogue. In fact, our first discussion took place a week before the Biden-Xi Summit, allowing us to consider major ongoing topics in the bilateral relationship.
This year’s dialogue focused on global governance, a timely topic given the many challenges that the world faces at the moment. At the same time, it is a broad and complex theme, not to mention its actual practice in the real world. During the first session, students from Georgetown and Peking University were split into small discussion groups where we shared our own definition of global governance. We also talked about means to strengthen global governance such as the need to reinforce the rule of law, particularly that of the United Nations, and the ability for every country in the world to participate in this process. At the same time, while we acknowledged the importance of having leadership in combating global issues, and in this context of U.S. and China, we believed strongly in the role of international organizations and agreements. In later sessions, we narrowed down the discussion to what global governance should look like in dealing with specific issues, especially climate change. We came to the conclusion that greater understanding and acknowledgement of the unique circumstances that each country faces are more important than criticisms that are purely sensational. Although there were differences in our definition of concepts such as human rights, the dialogue allowed us to truly sit down and listen to why that was the case. Overall, I found there to be more similarities in our thought than differences as everyone genuinely sought to reconcile the gaps in our understanding in order to find ways to make our world a better place.
Other than the academic and political-rigorous discussions, other valuable aspects of the dialogue were the cultural exchange and the personal connections made. According to research done by Weiyi Shi, a professor at University of California, San Diego, interpersonal contacts have a strong “moderating effect” in times when anti-foreign sentiments are on the rise. The dialogue, then, provided us with the perfect venue to calm down and listen to what our counterparts have in mind, reflect on our own conceptions, and formulate new ones while making great friends. My favorite memory of the dialogue was when we shared what life was like at Georgetown and Peking University and made promises to visit each other when the pandemic ends.
Over the past few years, with tensions rising among the two countries on issues such as trade and COVID, and the harsh language employed by certain politicians, I once felt hopeless about U.S.-China relations. As a Chinese student studying in the U.S., this situation was especially frustrating. However, by talking with students from PKU as well as my American classmates through the dialogue, I felt more hopeful about the future of U.S.-China relations. Most importantly, I feel motivated to utilize my unique background and experiences to become a connecting bridge in the future development of U.S.-China relations.
Yichu Huang (SFS’23) is a junior from Beijing in the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service majoring in international economics with a minor in mathematics.
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