Against the backdrop of a trade war initiated by the United States against China, US Vice-President Mike Pence delivered a speech, accusing China of misleading US citizens to interfere in domestic politics and influence mid-term elections and the 2020 general election. They base the analysis on their assumption of China’s “malicious motives” and “fraudulent tricks”, selectively choose some so-called facts and data to support their argument. These fallacies, which stand in sharp contrast to facts, bring about confusion and distortion to the normal development of China-US relations and will erode the very foundation of bilateral ties. This in some sense is more detrimental to China-US relations than the trade war.
Amity between the people holds the key to sound relations between the states. When the small ball spun the big globe in 1971, ping-pong diplomacy ushered in a great new chapter in the nongovernmental exchanges between China and the US. In spite of the twists and turns in China-US relations in the over 40 years since then, nongovernmental interactions have always been progressing and have delivered historic achievements in economic, trade, cultural, people-people, education, science and technology exchanges and cooperation. This not only helps the bilateral ties overcome obstacles and sail along the right track, but also promotes the two governments to engage in close collaboration to tackle the international financial crisis, climate change and other global challenges. History has fully shown that win-win China-US nongovernmental exchanges are a choice made by the two peoples on their own initiative, and are a historical trend that could not be resisted.
Visionary and dedicated people in the two countries have given huge support to the nongovernmental exchanges. Since establishment in March 2009, the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), a high-end think tank dedicated to international economic exchanges and research, with the leadership of chairman Zeng Peiyan, has been committed to reciprocal and win-win economic and trade relations between China and the US, as well as other major countries. The CCIEE has been engaged in close exchanges and cooperation with nongovernmental organizations and think tanks and have conducted multiple forms of events with enriched contents, including the First Global Think Tank Summit in July 2009, the China-US CEO and Former Senior Officials’ Dialogue established in April 2011, sustainable urbanization cooperation with the Paulson Institute initiated in March 2012, research collaboration and regular academic exchange with famous American think tanks such as the Brookings Institution and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. With the two sides from China and the US engaging in frank communication and dialogue, they have pursued common ground while putting aside differences, offered suggestions to China-US economic and trade relations’ progress, and built up mutual trust, clarified doubts and promoted cooperation. Amidst twists and turns in bilateral ties, many nongovernmental exchange mechanisms like the China-US CEO and Former Senior Officials’ Dialogue managed to go ahead, which won wide acclaim from various communities. Many public figures including former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former United Nations’ secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon all expressed high praise to CCIEE for its efforts and achievements of pooling global wisdom.
Both China and US leaders highly value and accept the Track Two economic and trade dialogues. Leaders of the two countries have extended huge support to these dialogues. China’s President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang both held meetings respectively with US representatives attending these dialogues. The two leaders spoke highly of these mechanisms and hoped to build them into exchange and cooperation mechanisms with extensive influence. Former US vice-president Joe Biden and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell have also met with Chinese representatives, expressed positive views on China-US economic and trade relations, and interacted with Chinese representatives.
People attending the Track Two economic and trade dialogues have always aired their views freely, engaged in two-way interaction and fully expressed their concerns. Representatives, with a constructive mentality, exchange with each other as equals in relaxed atmosphere, conduct frank and in-depth discussions, and propose targeted perspectives and suggestions. Neither side of the conversations tries to avoid contradictions. Instead, they discuss the issues facing China-US trade and investment cooperation in every round of talk, and fully voice their concerns over trade, investment, innovation and other relevant topics.
For example, the Chinese side expressed concerns over US restrictions on high-tech exports to China and the security scrutiny on China’s companies’ investment in the US. At the same time, the US side appealed to China to further open up its financial sector, enhance market transparency, and strengthen IP protection and internet safety management. To address concerns of both US and Chinese businesses, the two sides held several specific sessions on China-US companies’ investment and cooperation and digital economy. Former US secretary of commerce Carlos Gutierrez said on several occasions that ” as an important window for both China and the US, the Track Two economic and trade dialogue mechanism has ushered in a new chapter in bilateral ties, and has also deepened my understanding of China”. President William Burns of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said that he greatly admired the critical role that CCIEE has played in promoting think tank exchanges. These facts are poles apart from some so-called allegations of China oppressing American voices.
Track Two economic and trade dialogues have become a beneficial supplement to official relations between the two countries. Both Chinese and US hosts choose periods before or after important diplomatic events or other critical timing for their sessions. In fact, the Track Two economic and trade dialogues itself was originated in the international financial crisis. After the crisis stroke in 2008, the US Chamber of Commerce approached to CCIEE with the proposal of a joint dialogue, which then was officially inaugurated in 2011 after full preparation. Upon initiative of the US Chamber of Commerce, the dialogue was formalized into a mechanism and 10 rounds have been held till now and has contributed to China-US economic and trade relations. The third round was held in 2012 when global economy was confronted with enormous difficulties and challenges. The fourth round in 2013 convened on the eve of the first meeting between the new leadership of both countries. The seventh round in 2015 was conducted before Xi’s first visit to the US as Chinese president. The ninth session in 2017 was held during a critical moment when both sides were taking active measures to materialize the achievements of the head of state’s Mar-a-Lago meeting and starting the 100-Day Plan.
These dialogues have focused on important topics such as the economic landscape in both countries and the whole world, current development in China-US economic and trade relations, industrial development, tech innovation, trade and investment, IP protection, ecological conservation, the increasingly important role of RMB in global economy and the Belt and Road Initiative. After frank and open discussions, the two sides submitted policy recommendations to their own governments and published joint declarations. In spite of repeated consultation before the meetings and in-depth discussion during the sessions, it is not possible for the two sides to reach consensus on each and every issue. Therefore, the policy recommendations and joint declarations contain both consensus and reservations, serving as reference for governments and related communities in China and the US.
Both sides have benefited a lot from the unique communication channel of Track Two economic and trade dialogues. Representatives come from various backgrounds, including former political figures, business leaders, experts, scholars, and delegates from both SOEs and private companies.
During every session, hosts would invite people from government departments to give briefings on economic landscape and hot issues of common interest. The topics are both farsighted and specific, always generating concrete suggestions to existing problems, reducing doubts and confusion and preventing miscalculation. Upon appeal from both Chinese and US delegates, 10-year US business visa to Chinese citizens finally became a reality, hugely facilitating Chinese entrepreneurs in their business activities in the US. Upon appeal of the US business community, the Chinese side conveyed their counterpart’s concern about IP protection, cross-border data exchanges and other issues to the Chinese government, which then received great attention from the government. Companies have also found numerous business opportunities on this platform of face-face interaction. President Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce maintains that the dialogue mechanism is critically important, that a coordination mechanism for the two business communities should be set up to enable regular communication between business leaders to discuss solutions. In fact, business communities may prove more effective than governments in discussing problems.
Track Two economic and trade dialogues have contributed suggestions and solutions to economic and trade cooperation. Representatives attending the sessions all believe that economic and trade relations have served as the ballast and propeller of the overall relationship, that we should keep the overall picture in mind, enhance strategic mutual trust and expand trade and investment when dealing with China-US relations, and that the two sides should find their own beauty, and that of others, share the beauty and achieve unity in bilateral ties. At the third round meeting of Track Two economic and trade dialogues, Maurice Greenberg, chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr, proposed a potential US-China free trade agreement. In this regard, CCIEE and the Peterson Institute for International Economics started feasibility research for the FTA. Director C. Fred Bergsten holds the view that if a FTA is reached, bilateral trade will increase by $500 billion. Then the two sides conducted in-depth discussions on the possibility of FTA negotiations and how the two governments shall deal with the relationship between TPP and RCEP. The two sides suggest that the two governments should start negotiations for Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). Upon completion of BIT, trade could be included to form a Bilateral Investment and Trade Treaty (BITT) as a transition to China-US free trade area. The two sides also believe that as TPP and RECP are complimentary and compatible, it is probable to build a bridge between the two in order to promote positive China- US interactions in constructing Asia-Pacific free trade area.
Track Two economic and trade dialogues conduct problems-oriented specific research and exchanges. Giving full play to its own strength, CCIEE has worked closely with Peterson Institute for International Economics and other American think tanks within the Track Two framework, conducted joint research on two-way infrastructure investment, published research results in both China and the US, and attracted wide attention. The Brookings Institute joined hands with CCIEE in collaborative research on trade, cyber security and climate change. John Thornton, chair of the board of trustees of Brookings, says tackling global challenges requires cross-cultural and cross-regional cooperation, during which think tanks could play a unique part. The Paulson Institute, which was set up by former US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, has engaged in collaboration with CCIEE in demonstration zones for sustainable urbanization, green finance, ecological conservation and sustainable development. Paulson maintains several times that “I appreciate the cooperation with CCIEE very much and I’m also glad to see the achievements we made in promoting China’s efforts to meet targets for climate change and urbanization, and I hope to continue with this close and efficient cooperation”.
China-US relationship faces severe challenges due to the trade disputes evoked by the US side this year. Against this backdrop, CCIEE and US Chamber of Commerce both believe that a new round of Track Two Dialogue should be added this year to enhance communication and interaction. This year, the two sides have maintained closer exchanges and paid more mutual visits. Upon invitation, Zhang Xiaoqiang, executive vice-chairman of CCIEE delivered a speech on China-US relationship, opening up and utilization of foreign capital to US entrepreneurs in China at the annual meeting of American Chamber of Commerce in China. His speech has boosted US entrepreneurs understanding of and confidence in China’s relevant policies. Vice-chairman Wei Jianguo published an article to guide related communities in China and the US to get a full picture of the reciprocal and win-win nature of China-US economic and trade ties. CCIEE organized delegations to the US to communicate with US think tanks and get to know their concerns and thoughts. Meanwhile, many US former political figures, entrepreneurs, experts, scholars, congressmen and their assistants have come to CCIEE for exchanges of ideas, including President Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce, Executive Vice President Myron Brilliant, US mainstream media delegations and large companies’ associations. At the 10th China-US CEO and Former Senior Officials’ Dialogue last May, Donohue observed that the trade war brought about losses to both countries and peoples, and that the Chamber of Commerce stood clearly against the trade war initiated by the US.
Facts have fully shown that China-US exchanges and cooperation derives from common needs, and that its motives are noble and meanings far-reaching. It’s not easy to achieve what we have got today in nongovernmental exchanges. Visionary people from both countries have racked their brains and paid relentless efforts. These valuable achievements are worth our cherishing. As Kissinger, who has driven the development of China-US relations, said, we’re now entering a new era with unprecedented complexity where we need to find a general plan to deal with common challenges and prevent risks together, the world needs China-US cooperation. Although ascending powers and old ones are always racing against each other, I believe that the US and China have the capability to develop cooperative relationship and partnership”. Sound and sustained China-US relationship is in line with the common interests of China, the US and the whole world. Track Two exchanges will continue injecting huge positive energy in bilateral ties.