Henry Kissinger called the relationship between the United States and China the key for world peace at an event Tuesday.
The former secretary of state answered questions from a moderator and viewers during an international webcast screened at Charles E. Young Research Library. The National Committee on United States-China Relations organized the CHINA Town Hall in over 80 venues, making it the largest CHINA Town Hall in the event’s 10-year history. About 40 students, professors and community members attended UCLA’s event, which was sponsored by six campus organizations, including the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations.
Moderator Stephen A. Orlins, president of NCUSCR, called Kissinger the “father of the USA-China relationship” because he re-established diplomatic relations between the USA and China.
Kissinger said it was almost impossible to telephone the USA when he first visited China in 1971, and that there were no high-rise buildings or traffic. He added that until 1976, the USA had more trade with Honduras than with China.
Kissinger also said he thinks that differences in the countries’ histories and cultures need to be taken into account when forming relations.
“Almost every Chinese (person) that I’ve known has been affected by the culture of revolution,” Kissinger said.
During the webcast, a Twitter user asked what advice Kissinger would give to the next president regarding relations with China. Kissinger said he thinks the next president should hire an official who is familiar with the politics and culture of China, and that he or she should try to initiate dialogue between the two countries.
“The relationship between the United States and China is the key element for peace in the world,” he said.
After the webcast, Barry Naughton, the Sokwanlok chair of Chinese International Affairs at UC San Diego and expert on the Chinese economy, spoke to attendees about China’s future.
Naughton focused on what he called the miracle growth of China’s economy in the past 35 years. He said experts anticipated China’s economic growth and societal advancements when China established new relations with the USA, but they also expected China’s government to become less authoritarian. However, the Communist Party of China is stronger than ever, Naughton said.
He added that the economic growth rate in China has slowed since 2010, partially due to the one-child policy. Naughton said Chinese villages were once filled with young people hungry for work, which made China synonymous with cheap labor, but now the labor pool has almost vanished because there are fewer young people.
Naughton also said China has made massive investments in technology to compensate for its recent lack of economic growth, but the investments were less profitable than the country expected and did not improve the economy.
He added the Chinese government has not stepped back from its economy like other East Asian countries have.
Students who attended the event said they found Naughton’s talk insightful.
Zhe Wang, a visiting political science graduate student from China, said he went to the event because he is interested in the Chinese economy and political reform.
Ken He, a first-year history student, said that as an international student from China, he is very concerned with China’s shrinking workforce.
“China is known for its labor market. If China’s not the world’s factory, what will we be?” he said.
Naughton concluded the event by saying that wealthy Chinese citizens are investing more of their money in foreign countries, including the USA.