The U.S.-China Forum has been established for ten years. Thomas Fan was the key originator of the idea of establishing a forum to express the opinions and concerns of Chinese Americans on U.S.-China Relations. Hence there were arrangements with seven Chinese language newspapers (Chinese Daily (LA), Washington Chinese Daily News (DC), Dallas Chinese Daily, Southern Chinese Daily News (Houston), Chicago Chinese News, Las Vegas Chinese News Network, and The Xin Times (Atlanta)) to offer the forum one full page of newspaper space weekly to publish its members’ thoughts on US-China relations which inevitably extends to broad international problems and issues. The founders of the forum had the wisdom to carve out a quarter of page space to accommodate opinions and concerns expressed in English so that these newspapers could draw both Chinese and English readers and encourage their exchanges of views. Dr. Wordman’s English column was hence designated for that purpose. Wordman is the pen name of one forum member, but the column space is open to anyone who wishes to publish an English opinion essay.
The forum also has two websites, U.S.-Chinaforum.org and U.S.-Chinaforum.com, where the former is principally in Chinese and the latter in both English and Chinese language. Their principal goals are 1. A permanent medium for publishing and safekeeping of the Forum’s publications. 2. A website for accommodating author-reader interactions and other forum-sponsored activities such as conferences and other news or social media activities involving the forum members, such as interviews and essays transformed into a potcast or video cast. This year, the forum celebrated its tenth anniversary with a cruise journey from Southern California to Mexico. We look forward to seeing a photo report of such an event. Dr. Wordman humbly writes this piece here to commemorate the forum’s tenth anniversary and his personal reflections and wishes.
Ten years is a long time for any volunteer project. U.S.-China Forum has made to the ten-year milestone with only volunteers donating their own time, energy, and resources. In this column, this author wishes to discuss another Forum activity that has never been revealed publicly; that is the Forum’s biweekly Friday night ‘Zoom Meeting’ starting 10 PM (Pacific 7 PM) to midnight or later with the participation of Forum members and invited speakers and audience. This Zoom meeting was typically run with an open agenda that might have a few suggested topics but inevitably loaded with spontaneously raised issues with international and national importance. Of course news and current events are the main sources of inputs, the U.S.-China trade war, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the space exploration and U.S.-China naval development, the presidential elections, the summit meetings like G7, BRICS, ASEAN, G20, …. and forthcoming APEC to be held in San Francisco, etc.
However, invariably economics always surfaces up in the Forum Zoom Meeting, trade imbalance, inflation, infrastructure, currency matters, unemployment, drug abuse, healthcare and elderly care, homelessness, etc. These discussions keep our brains energized; the exchanges are informative but frustrating as well. We recognize that many of the world's problems seem to be rooted in economics and how each nation’s economy is managed. The frustration is that with all the bright economists we have in the world, we have few solutions for the problems except bickering about which economic system is better and who is to blame for our problems.
The U.S.-China competition, the current most intense international issue, really boils down to economics as well. China‘s economy (currently no. 2 in the world) has been growing faster than the U.S. economy (no. 1) causing it to compete by pulling all tricks to slow down China’s growth. However, military competition is a waste of money for the two nuclear powers, since both have enough stock-pile of nuclear arsenal to destroy each other and more. Both sides will have too much to lose if ever engaged in war, leading to a nuclear war destroying the entire human race. Thus, political and diplomatic confrontations will only serve the purpose of enhancing one’s economic power or influence. Ideology or philosophy on values advocating any superior political and/or economic system has essentially lost credibility since historical facts have proven that there is no perfect political or economic system in human history.
People on earth have experienced enough throughout history to realize that the humans are too sophisticated to be governed by a rigid and static system (calls for open mind and collaboration) and humans are living on a complex planet still with many uncontrollable surprises, such as pandemics and natural disasters. What really matters to humanity is their economic status; every human being desires to have a good standard of living. Liberalism, capitalism, socialism, colonialism, communism or whatever ism adopted by any government on earth have never been able to produce a perfect governing system to produce a sustainable prosperous economic system for its subject citizens. My ten-year observation on issues of US-China relations has convinced me (more so with each of the US-China Forum Zoom meetings I had), that we must think deeper than taking our politicians’ promising words: We have a better system! We must hold our values! Our economic problems are caused by someone else! And we must compete and win by stopping others who want to reform, innovate and advance! No, we don’t. Genuine collaboration (not under colonialism) produces a win-win outcome, it has been shown in the third world by their advances in living standards as well as between developed countries, for example in the EU.
Every Zoom meeting gets me excited and also frustrated. The frustration comes from the fact that the ever-increasing number of world problems and some domestic issues in the U.S. and China are caused by their mutual mistrust, which is the result of misunderstanding leading to hostile policies. The excitation comes from my realization that the poor U.S.-China relations can be improved by focusing on economics, and understanding how each is pursuing its goal of giving its citizens a better standard of living. The zero-sum theory (this principal culprit of world economic problems was propelled by the oil-dominated world economy) can be proven wrong. In dealing with future global and domestic issues, collaboration indeed can produce win-win results (Saudi Arabia’s changing foreign and domestic policies show its foresight). In some areas, such as climate change and sustainable energy development, the U.S., China, and the world (including the Middle East oil-producing countries, Venezuela, and Russia) are abandoning the zero-sum theory. In other areas, such as infrastructure, healthcare and elder care, environmental protection, pandemic prevention, and space exploration, one can easily argue from the economic point of view for collaboration rather than maintaining a zero-sum competitive attitude.
Hence, I have a dream. I would like to encourage my colleagues and friends to engage in any academic institution or think tank focusing on understanding the economic development model of the U.S. and China, not to critique which is better or worse, but to articulate how to construct collaboration to enhance their common goal - raising their citizens’ standard of living. Obama’s worry that the Chinese population achieving middle-class living standards would deteriorate the U.S. living standard is an antiquated, illogical, non-scientific, and false conclusion from the zero-sum mentality. (Would any state accept the theory it should stop other 49 states‘ economic development to keep its standard of living?) In fact, by closer collaboration, both the U.S. and China’s economies will benefit, for example, energy costs, cell phone prices, even electric vehicles, food price, and public transportation costs will all be much lower for the citizens of each country. By collaboration, the living standard of both countries (and the world) will improve not deteriorate. Perhaps, the world will have fewer number of ultra-rich billionaires but a more even wealth distribution curve. Shouldn't the goal of elevating a nation’s standard of living be THE real worthy goal to keep? Dr. Sun Yet Sen used to say: “There is no peace if there is no fair economic development opportunity.” Personally, I would like to pursue my dream; I wish to be a graduate student again to enroll in a renown university to study economics. My thesis would be to prove that the collaborative economic development model will produce win-win results for the world. I will pay for my own tuition as not to be funded by any money institution which finances economists (even Nobel laureate) to produce biased economic theories discouraging global collaboration.