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US experts call on US-China sub-national cooperation to continue

Author  :  Wang Youran     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-08-16

Panelists at the public event “US-China relations: The view from cities and states” hosted in late July by the Brookings Institution, a US think tank based in Washington D.C. Photo: Wang Youran/CSST

WASHINGTON D.C.—A panel of experts as well as former and current US government officials convened to discuss the future of China-US relations from the perspective of sub-national cooperation at a public event hosted by the Brookings Institution in late July.

Kate Brown, governor of Oregon, said that foreign investment is very important to Oregon’s economic growth. Oregon is a state heavily dependent on trade. It’s one of the top 10 US states in terms of trade dependency and one of the four states that have China as their largest trading partner.

Agriculture is a huge driver of Oregon’s economy, and the trade conflict between the US and China has hurt Oregon’s agricultural exports, Brown noted. For instance, certain perishable agricultural products have rotted and cannot be sold due to a prolonged inspection period, causing great losses to farmers and exporters. Oregon’s frozen potato industry lost over 20 million dollars last year due to the increase in tariffs.

According to Robert L. Holden, former governor of Missouri, the US-China trade tensions have heavily hit agriculture and manufacturing in Missouri and other Midwestern states. Farm producers in the Midwest are very worried that they will permanently lose their foreign markets if trade relations between the US and its trading partners, including China, fall apart. Tariff conflicts are extremely detrimental to agriculture. Farmers’ livelihoods are closely tied to the production and sales cycle of agricultural products. If they miss the best timing, the chances to recover from the losses are very small. And if they lose continuously, they may never fully recover.

Brown expressed her hope to build closer relationships with China, not only economically, but also in terms of political, cultural and educational exchange.

For example, Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon, is known as one of the most authentic Suzhou-style classical gardens outside China. The garden is not only a result of collaboration between Portland and Suzhou, but also a symbol of the friendship between the two which became sister cities in 1988.

Oregon has been very successful in promoting US-China educational exchanges as well, Brown continued. Many schools in Oregon offer Chinese lessons and have a lot of Chinese students enrolled. Even though the US has tightened its visa policies in the past two or three years, the number of Chinese students admitted to Oregon schools remains relatively stable.

David Dollar, a senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution, told the audience that looking at the data of Chinese investments to and China’s imports from the US, the US macroeconomy will not necessarily suffer considerably from the current US-China trade tensions. The real risk, however, is long-term. Even though the US economy is doing well at the moment, it can only revitalize its productivity growth in an open, competitive and innovative external environment.

China is the second largest economy and the largest trading nation in the world; its growth rate is expected to remain high in the next decade or even longer. This means China represents a great opportunity for the US and that disconnecting from China will have a measurable effect on the US standard of living, Dollar warned.

The United States and China are going to be the two most innovative economies in the world for the next 10 to 20 years, so increasing investment and trade between the two countries will bring significant mutual benefits. This requires both countries to engage in healthy competition and set the boundary between national security issues and economic issues in a sensible way, Dollar said. Instead, if bilateral investment and trade keeps decreasing and the two economies decouple, the prosperity of the two nations and of the world will be compromised.

Reta Jo Lewis, former special representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs at the US Department of State, expressed her concern about the tendency to politicize everything in the current US-China relationship. It is true that the two nations disagree on a number of things, but many issues are better to be considered, discussed and dealt with within a specific realm and context, whether it’s about trade, finance, technology, or education and research.

Even if there can be policy fluctuations at the national level, US-China exchange and cooperation at the sub-national level should continue, Lewis said.

Editor: Li Yujie

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