Diplomats, writer and scholars probed the complexities of modern Sino-American relations at the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics Forum last night.
The five panelists agreed that the issues of the economic future of capitalist Hong Kong and the question of Taiwanese sovereignty will substantially help determine the future of relations between the United States and China.
Zhao Jingleca, a former Nieman Fellow from the People's Republic of China, predicted that the systems of communism and capitalism will increasingly allow each other to coexist. For example, Zhao said, the Chinese government is planning to establish new capitalist cities favoring foreign investors.
Meanwhile, despite the tensions resulting from the United States establishment of relations with China, Taiwan remains an important customer and supplier, said Leonard Unger '39, former Ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan) and currently a professor of diplomacy at Tuft University's Fletcher School of Diplomacy.
Though the panelists did not agree on just now much China will some to accept Western values as it reacts against the upheaval of its Cultural Revolution of the 1970's, Herbert Levin '52 said that there did seem to be common ground for cooperation. "We seem to be reaching the point where we can manage the differences," Levin said.
James C. Thomson, former curator of the Nieman Foundation and a research associate at Harvard's Fairbank Center of East Asian Studies agreed that despite differences in government, the United States has an "inexplicable affinity with the Chinese," stressing the historic origins of the today's guardedly friendly relations between China and the U.S. today.
"We are both pragmatic, and we both have a sense of humor, and that's not something to be said very lightly," said Zhao. "Nevertheless, socialist China and capitalist America make strange badfellows."
Jan Wong, a correspondent for The Boston Globe and a former Peking bureau side for The New York Times, said the hopes to see American coverage of China move from the "Oh my God, I'm in China!" kind of reporting to more serious attempts to examine Chinese culture and politics.
The Institute of Politics' Student Advisory Committee co-sponsored the event, one of several panels being presented this semester. "Because China is so big, we can't ignore it," said Derek A. West '87, head of the committee. "For the first time in history they're really t a very very strong point."