Tonight, I will be listening in on the China Town Hall presented by the National Committee on U.S. Chinese relations. I learned about the event through a friend’s post on Facebook. The event is funded by the Starr foundation. The goal of the event is to educate the United States about China.
The speaker is Jon M. Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to China. The event is being webcast and audience members may submit questions.
Ambassador Huntsman thanks the audience. He talks about how China is the most important relationship that the United States has. He considers it the most important bilateral relationship in the world.
He talks about the entry of China into the WTO in 2001. He says China is on the world stage. He talks about the importance of the younger generations in both the United States and China. He believes the younger generation in America needs to learn Chinese. He talks about the importance about cross cultural understandings between the two different generations.
Ambassador Huntsman claims that human rights are a part of who America is and it will be part of our relationship with China.
Ambassador Huntsman also talks about the strategic distrust between China and America.
He points out some rocky parts in the relationship. Military to military communications between the United States and China are very poor. Military expenditures in China are not transparent.
He also talks about the rise of internet blogging in China.
Q: How to work on the currency war?
Huntsman does not want to talk about the currency issues, leaving it to the Department of Treasury. He feels the market will dictate the outcomes. He believes China will re-balance by reducing its exports and increase its domestic consumption. He is talking about the uptick in exports to China. He foresees greater Chinese investment in the United States as well as an increase in U.S. Exports to China.
He feels it comes down to a properly balanced currency and believes that the correct policy is in place to move towards that.
Q: How does the United States debt effect a relationship with China?
Huntsman feels the United States has too much debt. He believes China holds 2 trillion dollars in U.S. debt. He feels debt is bought and sold in a free market environment and a lot of countries buy and sell U.S. debt.
Huntsman does not feel that debt is not a factor at the negotiating table in trade deals.
Q: With China’s reserves growing at $2 billion a day, does the U.S. body politic have the patience not to impose sanctions against China?
Huntsman feels everything will be dependent on the revaluation of Chinese currency.
Q: What leverage does the United States have to get the China to play by international rules of trade?
Huntsman says there are international trade bodies which both China and the United States is a part of. He talks about the transition to the rule of law.
He talks about having trade disputes (approximately 2-3%) taken to the WTO.
Currently, China tends to respond with equivalent charges (or charges of equivalent value) whenever the United States brings a charge.
The relationship with China will soon overtake trading with Canada. He values it at $400-$500 billion dollars.
Overall, Ambassador Huntsman feels that a lot is working between the United States and Chinese trading despite difficulties.
Q: How would the U.S. Resolve conflicts in South China Seas?
Huntsman feels that the South China sea is something that the United States has always taken an interest in owing to the amount of trade. He feels the United States has an interest in the freedom of navigation. He wants to keep the South China seas open for the free flow of trade and commerce. The United States has a forward deployed military to ensure that those lanes will stay open.
Q: Can China make significant social progress without backing away from authoritarianism?
Huntsman says history will decide. If you want a genuinely innovative society, (because you can only maintain a society on cheap labor for so long), he feels innovation will require freedom. He believes it will require the free flow of information, including the internet that is devoid of outside control.
Q: How do you feel about the awarding of the nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo? Is the U.S. Doing anything?
Huntsman feels the award is an important gesture to freedom and democracy. He feels that Liu Xiaobo is very important symbolically.
The wife of Liu Xiaobo has been using the internet to send out information.
Huntsman says that in a nation of 400 million internet users, there will be a national discussion about the award in China. He believes there is a lot of chatter in China about the award.
Q: How is the United States and China cooperating on climate policy? What can American’s do?
Huntsman believes that there is a very important topline negotiations regarding emissions reductions, including the Copenhagen goals. This will be discussed in Cancun later. The United States does not have the kind of climate change bill that indicates the United States is taking the issue seriously enough.
He wants to see alternative energy cars. 70% of power in China is fueled by coal, that may require sequestration. He wants to see new buildings in China to be built to environmentally sound goals.
When you look at clean energy issues, he feels positive things are happening on the ground.
He feels it is important for individuals to raise awareness about sustainable communities.
Q: Strategic engagement has not lead to democratization, how do you justify continuing the policy?
Huntsman believes that China is a very different China than it was. He cannot believe there would be the kind of active internet community or blogosphere. The kinds of conversations he is having with college students are very different today. It is not an American style democracy. He feels that changes in China are driven by information technology and the blogosphere which push change. One blogger in China has 125 million followers.
Q: Congressman John Conyers Jr. asks about the amount and quality of aid China is sending to African nations.
Huntsman feels it would be a good thing if the African aid spoke to good governance and infrastructure development rather than simply taking out raw materials to fuel the mothership.
He wants to see China leave behind stronger health care, better governance, and a better infrastructure in Africa as well as Latin America.
Q: With midterm elections coming up, some members of congress are expressing anti-Chinese sentiments and how much influence do they have?
Huntsman feels that people care deeply about the U.S. Chinese relationship during election cycles. People care and want to talk about these issues.
Huntsman feels that it is very hard to explain the U.S. Chinese relationships in 15 second soundbites.
Huntsman wants to focus on points of agreements, but feels that the election cycle is not the best time to do so.
I submitted the following question and will see if there is a response.
Some observers note that the restrictive controls on information, Chinese censorship, for example are impacting China’s ability to compete globally and innovate. Is there significant pressure from the younger generation to open China up? Do you see more foreign companies withdrawing from the Chinese market, like Google did, owing to the restrictive controls? What do you make of the Washington Post report that China’s latest Communist party central committee meeting “ended with only the vaguest mention of political reform” despite internal pressures for such reform?
My question was not asked, but I feel other questions covered much of the ground if not the specifics.
Some people may recall the other posts I did on China.
You can find the discussion of Mary Kay Magistad here.
You can find the discussion by Anchee Min here.
You can also review my own experiences involving blogging and censorship.