CHINA Town Hall Recap
On October 12, the 2023 CHINA Town Hall program brought together influential voices for an insightful discussion on U.S.-China relations. Hosted live from Beijing, the event featured Ambassador Nicholas Burns engaging in a webcast conversation with Stephen Orlins, President of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Among the partner venues was The Beijing Center (TBC), where TBC Executive Director Simon Koo led an on-site discussion covering a broad spectrum of topics, including the Israel-Hamas conflict, technology competition, and global development.
Ambassador Burns commended recent high-level engagements between the U.S. and China, expressing hope for further stabilization of ties with the nation often considered its “greatest rival.” Describing both nations as the two strongest military and economic powers globally, Burns emphasized the critical need to balance competition with cooperation, especially concerning global challenges such as climate change, public health, and food security. He underscored the importance of connectivity to avoid conflict.
Despite the administration’s reluctance to support economic “decoupling” with China, Burns acknowledged that “people-to-people contacts had been decoupled” in previous years. Ambassador Burns advocates for a reconnection between citizens, emphasizing the decline in Chinese tourism in the U.S. and the diminishing number of American students in China. He sees citizens, including students, NGO representatives, and members of Congress, as the stabilizing force in the relationship. He emphasizes the need for a long-term commitment to people-to-people connections. Simon shared a positive outlook, noting that the number of American students studying abroad at TBC is gradually recovering.
Ambassador Burns also discussed his expectations for the U.S.-China tourism summit in Xian in 2024 and another in the U.S. in 2025—a promising opportunity for cultural exchange, as our participants believe. They emphasized the need to address existing disparities in tourism numbers between the two nations. Improved communication and understanding between ordinary people in China and the U.S. are seen as integral to navigating the evolving dynamics of U.S.-China relations. The summit aims to strengthen ties through increased tourism, an initiative seen as crucial in the wake of reduced travel during the pandemic. Ambassador Burns noted the doubling of direct flights between the two countries, reaching 48 per week by the end of the month.
The 2023 CHINA Town Hall event provided valuable insights into the complexities of U.S.-China relations. As both nations work to overcome challenges and identify areas of collaboration, fostering communication and understanding between their peoples remains a pivotal aspect of building a harmonious global future. We eagerly anticipate the CHINA Town Hall in the spring of 2024. Stay tuned!