Dialogue between Wang Huiyao and Carter Center on Sino-US RelationsCCG | September 06 , 2021
In exploring the above topics, on Sept. 6, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) invited The Carter Center’s CEO, Paige Alexander, and Senior Advisor for China at the Carter Center, Dr. Liu Yawei, to dialogue with CCG President, Dr. Wang Huiyao.
January 1, 1979 remains one of the defining moments in modern history. On this day, former US President Jimmy Carter and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping took the historic first step to formally establish the Sino-American diplomatic relations despite challenges and differences. This breakthrough then ushered in a new era of an improved bilateral rapport and subsequently enabled social and economic ties that have gone on to become more integrated than ever between the two countries. Forty two years later, this relationship is facing a delicate moment of this relationship, can we look forward to another reshaping of China-US diplomatic relations? The world-renowned Carter Center was founded by President Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter in 1982, dedicated to missions on human rights, peace, and global development. Its remarkable achievements earned President Carter the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. To this day, the Carter Center has been tirelessly working for peace and development for those who are in need. What makes the Carter Center an exceptional organization? In what ways can it contribute to the US and China coordinating and partnering in resolving conflicts and health and development issues in the world?
In exploring the above topics, on Sept. 6, the Center for China and Globalization (CCG) invited The Carter Center’s CEO, Paige Alexander, and Senior Advisor for China at the Carter Center, Dr. Liu Yawei, to dialogue with CCG President, Dr. Wang Huiyao.
President Carter’s legacy, including advocacy of renewable energy, the normalization of US-China relations and the Second Communiqué
Wang Huiyao: Good evening and good morning, to Paige and Yawei and all the viewers in China and outside China. So, welcome to this CCG special dialogue again. The dialogue series we had for the last 6 months has been very productive and we have carried out over a dozen of high-level dialogues with very prominent participants. So, the topic for tonight is “The Jimmy Carter Legacy and Lessons for Moral Leadership in the 21st Century”. This is live from CCG’s head office and we’re very honored to be joined by Ms. Paige Alexander, the CEO of Carter Center and Dr. Liu Yawei, the Senior Advisor for China at The Carter Center – thank you for joining us today. This is a very interesting time. A week ago, we had a discussion with Neil Bush, the third son of George H. W. Bush and the president of Bush China Foundation. 50 years ago, Dr. Kissinger first made his secret visit to China, we are looking back to the past half century , and also looking to the future against the background of 50 years of China-US exchanges.
Of course, for the last 40 and 50 years of China -US relations, both President Carter and President Bush have made a lot of great contributions. I would like to introduce the distinguished speakers from the Carter Center tonight – Ms. Paige Alexander, who is the CEO of the Carter Center and a distinguished leader in international development. Her career spans across organizations including USAID, the largest and most active international aid agency, IREX and the European Cooperative for Rural Development (EUCORD) and she has carried a vast number of projects in Africa, Middle East, Europe and Eurasia. Paige, you have joined the Carter Center for over a year now, and we are very pleased to have you tonight. And Dr. Liu Yawei, the Senior Advisor on China at The Carter Center and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also the associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta and an adjunct professor of Political Science at Emory University. Yawei also sits on CCG’s academic advisory council and made visits to China quite often in the past.
We want to review a bit of the history. I know President Carter will be 97 years old on October 1st, which is also the National Day of China. So, we have often heard President Carter said he shares his birthday with the most populous nation in the world. And, of course, we know that he actually established diplomatic ties with China on January 1 1979.
I still remember well at the end of 1978. I was at the university campus after lunch, walking to the classroom. The loudspeaker came out of campus, saying that China was going to establish diplomatic ties with US in January, which was such an exciting news and we knew that China would be open since that time. So, I think that was really a milestone that President Carter achieved and of course, he invited Deng Xiaoping to visit US in February 1979. So, from your point of view, what’s President Jimmy Carter’s most enduring legacy, not only as a political leader, but also a global citizen? Perhaps Ms. Paige, you can start first.
Paige Alexander: President Carter has often said he shares his birthday with most populous nation in the world, I think President Carters really left an enduring legacy in terms of the domestic and foreign policy, so for modern-day audience, much of these legacies have been illustrated in a great documentary, which I recommend called Carterland as well as two recent books, one by Jonathan Alter, one by Kai Bird. And it really gives you a much more modern sense of the legacy that he left. I admit even as someone who has served in 3 presidential administrations myself, I was amazed to learn so much of what I touched in those administrations really had their beginning from policies during the Carter administration so I’ll give you a few examples on the domestic policy legacies. He talked about climate change. So, 40 years ago, President Carter became the first president to acknowledge the need for renewable energy and he had 32 solar panels installed on the West Wing roof of the White House. And he said something like, a generation from now, the solar panels can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken or a small part of one of the greatest adventures that the American people will undertake harnessing the power of the sun. And now there are a little bit of all of those – we have one of the solar panels in Carter Library and Museum. There are others throughout the country. And his entire farm is now solar-paneled, so you see that he was ahead of his time there.
He was also continuing his domestic environmental protection policies, established the Department of Energy, doubled the size of our National Park land and also doubled the wild and scenic of the wilderness areas in the Alaska Lands Act. He did things like fighting carbon emissions back in the late 1970s and really sought to save consumers money with vehicle fuel economy standards and energy efficient home appliances, which we all are using today. He created the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which, I think everyone has heard the news, has been essential again this year, especially in the last week with the California fires and the hurricane in Louisiana. He was ahead of his time, focusing on diversity, he appointed more minority and women in key administrative and judicial positions, 41 women to judgeships, including a name, everyone is familiar with now – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who later rose to the Supreme Court. Again, domestically, he created the Department of Education. He deregulated the airline industry. He did things that had become essential in most of our modern days like it was an oddity at the time but he deregulated the beer industry, and he also freed up many other industries such as reforming the federal communication regulations, which really enabled the rise of real and fake cable news to compete and I’ll say one might question whether now that was a good idea.
But his foreign policy legacies are equally as impressive and pretty much seen altering for the US and internationally. These include some monumental successes, like the Camp David Accords, the return of the Panama Canal, nuclear arms reduction with the Soviet Union, and a steadfast belief in diplomacy where he refused to use military means to confront crisis such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran. He created the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to hold people accountable. He established the Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau inside the State Department, which acted as a moral check on our foreign policy. And normalizations with China, of course, which I’ll let Yawei talk about it later. And then I’ll say after the White House, when he left, he spent the last 40 years continuing to show the world what type of person he is. He’s always acted from a personal narrative, not a political one. And he has integrity, honesty, and candor and a commitment to the public good above all else. So, his post White House years have been devoted to causes that are important to him and advancing human rights alleviating suffering and offering help and a helping hand to those who need them.
So, I’d be happy to talk more about the Carter Center and all of his legacies but I think it’s really important, especially for people of my generation and younger to have a much better understanding of what his White House years were like because that is one important piece of his legacy and his 40 years post White House is equally as important and I can talk more about that. But I should let Yawei answer some of the questions regarding the opening with China that you were talking about.
“President Carter and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping swung the door wide open.”
Wang Huiyao: Thank you Paige. I think this is excellent to hear. He’s a great president and he has established a lot of new agencies and even Education Department. But most of all, he has such a far vision that he has already started paying attention to the environment and climate change in the late 70s. That’s remarkable and he probably is the pioneer on that initiative. I’m really encouraged to hear that after his retirement from White House, he’s been so active in terms of founding the Cater Center and particularly continued to maintain good relations between the US and China and trying to build platforms for dialogue, conferences and seminars. I visited the Carter Center many years ago in Atlanta, I was quite impressed with its many milestone projects. Yawei, you can share with us, what’s President Carter’s legacy for China-US relations probably?
Liu Yawei: Thanks Huiyao and Paige. Huiyao and Carter Center have a good relationship. He also observed one of the US elections, if I remember correctly, it’s 2012, when Obama was running for his second term, we were in Chicago, Purdue and other places of the US. Now Huiyao mentioned that 2021 is the 50th anniversary of Kissinger’s secret trip to China. I think obviously there is a conflict of interest here. For disclosure, I do work for President Carter but I also want to say the Chinese are unduly fascinated by Kissinger’s secret trip and then President Nixon’s visit to China in February 1972. Of course this is considered as an icebreaking trip that opened the door to China. Paige mentioned that Jonathan Alter, whose recent book is very best. Actually, I quote him that Kissinger and Nixon only opened the door very slightly, but President Carter and Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping swung the door wide open. There are people who wanted to close this door now, but the door was opened by President Carter and Deng Xiaoping so large and so many people were able to go through the door in each of the directions that no one can actually close that door.
But back to 50 years ago, if you look at 1972, after the trip for 6-7 years, President Nixon and then later President Ford were not able to make the final move and even though President Ford visited China, coming back to the states, he was facing in-party opposition by people like Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, so he wasn’t able to do it. Then President Carter was elected in 1976 and after he got into the White House, I think he issued the marching order to Vance, the Secretary of State, but also to Brzezinski, his National Security Advisor, basically saying that let’s get the negotiation starting. If you look at the career of President Nixon, it’s so much easier for him to say, I want to go to China or we want to open the door to China, because his whole career was built on anti-Communism, he and his committee House Un-American Activities Committee ruined the career of so many Americans who were sympathetic with China. So when he said, I want to go to China, nobody is going to question his motive, no one is going to say he’s soft on Communism, but when President Carter was going to do it, he is facing a lot of political hurdles because his predecessor, President Truman, was accused of losing China in 1949. That’s why President Johnson and President Kennedy, both wanted to open up to China, but both decided politically it’s not possible. They’re going to face rebellion in Congress and elsewhere and the Taiwan lobby was very effective, so it was in this context that President Carter made a decision and he personally took care of the instruction, his representative, Leonard Woodcock, was good friend. I remember President Carter telling us, “I appointed Leonard Woodstock to be in charge of US dealings in China before there was US Embassy not because he had good knowledge about China but because he was a good negotiator that he united all the workers and he’s good at negotiating with the workers, with the management and companies.
Final thing I want to say here is for Nixon and Kissinger, opening the door to China is largely a strategic move, because they want to get out of Vietnam, they want to play the China card against the Soviet Union. For President Carter it is not just strategic but also emotional. President Carter, growing up in Plains, Georgia, and every week he would donate a nickel to the Baptist missionaries, because they were working in China on schools and hospitals. Around his 25th birthday. He was in China that was his first trip to China in 1949. He was a sub-mariner and he visited Qingdao and Shanghai and other places. he was really there witnessing the disaster and catastrophe of the Chinese Civil War. He finally was able invited to Deng Xiaoping to visit the United States, we all watched that visit. I was in college freshman, on the 9-inch black and white TV, for the first time, we saw live shots of the United States and then we realized this is not a country that was going to be overthrown anytime soon by China, this is not a country that will collapse anytime soon, and I grew up both intellectually and knowledgeably with normalization. So again, I want to emphasize, Present Carter’s contribution to US-China relationship is probably more significant than Nixon’s and Kissinger’s. Thanks.
Wang Huiyao: That’s a great review of the historical account of these landmark years. It was President Carter that made the final decision to formally establish diplomatic ties with China and also issued the Second Communiqué with China. That was really important to establish diplomatic ties and also to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan. I think it was a bold move at that time, but that the decision that President Carter made, I think, not only changed the US but also changed China and the world. Because since China and the US actually got together, the whole world has really transformed enormously in the last 40 some years. It’s really great to look at the legacy of President Carter – when we look back particularly during a difficult time now, it’s important to review how it started and where we come from.
Ms. Alexander, you have been running the Cater Center as a CEO, how did you know President Carter and how did that position come along and what have you done to attract President Cater’s attention to be appointed as the CEO of the Cater Center, which is such an important organization?
Paige Alexander: Thank you Henry, I did grow up in Atlanta during the 70s and 80s. It was not quite the village of Plains, Georgia where the Carters come from, but it was a smaller place back then. Because Jimmy Carter had been in politics in Georgia and the governor of our state in the early 70s he was really well known to a lot of people in Atlanta. So when he became president in 1976, many of his staff came from Georgia and my parents happen to know someone in the White House office. They had invited my mother to come see President Carter welcome Margaret Thatcher, the then Prime Minister of the UK in 1979. I have 3 older brothers, but my mother picked me to see the first female Prime Minister and I also then got a chance to meet President Carter. Although I had driven by the governor’s mansion growing up every day going to school because he lived down the street, I had never really met him until 1979 when I was a teenager. So when you fast forward 40 years, they were looking to fill the CEO position at the Carter Center, I got a call and I was living and working in Europe and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect job. My family also lives here in Atlanta and it gave me a chance to return home, as my parents say, and be at the helm of a world-renowned non-profit organization that truly encompasses every single element of my professional and personal career, from the political campaigning to the public service to International Development work. I knew President Carter was a courageous and visionary leader when he was in the White House as I have just talked about all the things he did, but I’ve been even more impressed with his post White House work. I went through a series of interviews including a wonderful opportunity to spend the day in Plains right before Covid shut things down. And I enjoyed a whole afternoon with the Carters at their home, having soup and sandwiches and talking about everything from Israel and Palestine to Russia in Syria to farming techniques in agriculture. So after that, I was offered the job and I relocated here to Atlanta in the midst of Covid and I’ve been working in the office essentially by myself for the last 16 months, but the staff is really continued without missing a beat both in our Atlanta offices and all of our field offices, so this means about 3,000 employees have continued to the work that they and the Carters have been dedicated to as part of the Carter Center. That’s how I came here.
Wang Huiyao: Great stories, I didn’t know that you had a great connection there in Atlanta. President Carter famously normalized US-China relations and has been pushing for positive diplomatic ties as well as being a pioneer at education – probably Yawei and myself both benefited from that. I remember his scientific advisor give him a call to tell him that Deng Xiaoping said we want to send 5,000 Chinese students to the United States at midnight and President Carter answered that he could send 100,000. Four decades have passed, we had already probably 3 or 4million Chinese students who went to the United States and Yawei is one of them. So you can see that kind of people to people exchanges and ties that really changed China and United States as well. I think this bond of academic and the talent flow between our two countries have really greatly enhanced the innovation, cooperation, and cultural and scientific exchanges, and of course, business, which has enormously benefited from it.
I know the Carter Center was founded by President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn Carter and they worked tirelessly for the last number of years. Yawei, maybe you could share with us how you were able to work at the Carter Center and your interaction with President Carter, since you were there since 1998, which is many years ago.
President Carter supporting international students to study in the US
Liu Yawei: Thanks Huiyao for that question. I would like to briefly mention my encounters with President Carter. Paige met with President Carter first time in 1979. I heard about President Carter in 1978. Huiyao, you mentioned you were a college student, I was also a freshman in college when we heard the news that the two countries are going to normalize. I was in Xi’an, the northwestern part of China. My reaction was a little different from you – you said that you knew China was going to open up, my initial reaction to the news is, how come we are going to become friends with the enemy nation? Because we were taught to defeat American imperialists, to overthrow the United States, and to bring communism to the United States.
My initial meeting with President Carter was almost 11 years after Paige’s first meeting with President Carter. I was a student at Emory and President Carter is a distinguished professor at Emory University so every year he would have two Town Hall meetings – one Town Hall meeting with freshman of Emory University and the other is with all international students. The International Student Town Hall usually happens in September. So I was new and I was thrilled that President Carter is going to meet with us. I remember he said that Richard Nixon said there was only one China but he didn’t say which China, I said there is only one China and that’s the People’s Republic of China. Chinese students in the town Hall meeting all applauded. That was the key difference that the Chinese press and the Chinese people should always remember – that’s the difference between President Nixon and President Carter.
My third encounter with President Carter is a memorable encounter. I traveled with President Carter to China since 2001 all the way to 2014, more than 10 times. But during the travel in 2009 at the end of the visit, we were staying in Shanghai Jinjiang Hotel, where Kissinger and Premier Zhou Enlai like negotiated the Shanghai Communiqué. I think toward the evening, I was in my hotel room and I got a call from John Hardman, Paige’s predecessor. He said that President Carter wanted us to be in his suite, so we went to his suite and he said, John and Yawei, this was a tremendous visit. Because President Carter was there to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the normalization, he opened up a bottle of wine and the four of us, President Carter, Mrs. Carter, John Hardman and me, we finished that bottle, it was very memorable.
And then, 2011 or 2012, I was driving home when President Cater’s office said the President Carter wanted to talk to you. I was very surprised. I said sure, it’s an honor to talk to President Carter and then President Carter came over the phone and he said Steve Jobs called me today. Of course, Steve Jobs was the Apple CEO and he asked President Carter and ask the Carter Center to help him out. I said, what could the Carter Center do to help Apple and then President Carter said, there was a series of suicide in the Foxconn factories. Foxconn was assembling all the iPads and iPhones in Shenzhen, China. So largely I think there is an image problem. Steve Jobs thought President Cater is working with China, so hopefully President Carter could talk to the China side and then to help Apple overcome the crisis. I’ll end telling my encounters with President Carter with the second phone call from President Carter this year, Paige was presiding over the meeting and suddenly to everyone, Carter’s scheduler said, President Cater wanted to talk to you. I left the meeting and President Carter said, do we know anyone at the Biden administration? I said, you know every but we don’t. I’m concerned about the visa issues with Chinese students so I talked to Paige and we decided to ask President Carter to write a letter to President Biden to look into the issue. I think in my entire 23 years at the Carter Center at no time letter was so quickly drafted, approved, processed and delivered in basically about 24 hours. I think Paige delivered the letter to Tony Blinken even because this is before President Biden was inaugurated and we got the letter in.
Paige Alexander: And we got a response back!
Liu Yawei: Right, I think, in Biden administration’s eventual decision to allow international students, majority of whom are Chinese students, to come in after August 1, I think President Carter did play a role.
Wang Huiyao: This is great. We, CCG, have been involved in it as well. I talked to the charge d’affaires here – student exchange is important. Also, many Chinese families are quite concerned about that, so I’m glad to see that the figure that until July, the US Embassy here in China has issued 85,000 student visas to go to the United States and if you count August, we probably could see over 100,000 student visas being granted by the United States. We also see long queues in the Pudong International Airport to go to US. As President Carter had set up this bond and welcome the Chinese students and Deng Xiaoping has unleashed these students’ study abroad movement, which has created quite a lot of benefits for China as so many talents have returned to their motherland. This talent circulation has tremendously facilitated the entrepreneurial, scientific, and industrial revolution in China.
Promoting US-China initiatives in pandemic relief and infrastructure
Wang Huiyao: So, Paige, I know you had been working at USAID for quite a long time and you have been looking after many important projects in different parts of the world, for example, Africa and Europe. China also set up a new agency in 2018, which was called the China International Development Corporation Agency, CIDCA. But now, I think the developing countries really need a lot of cooperation among the big countries and particularly in development agencies – how can we work together, given that the pandemic is still raging and that the Carter Center has so much experience working in the past in Africa and many other countries. From the development point of view, what’s your take on current situation and how may it be in the future? And what are the experiences that you had in the past in the USAID and other agencies? For the purpose of development, how can we work together in the year ahead?
Paige Alexander: So, just in case we have some people who are listening and do not know exactly what the United States Agency for International Development is. Let me give you a quick chapeau of that. It’s often called USAID, and it’s an independent agency of the federal government responsible for administering foreign aid and development assistance. So the annual budget for USAID is a little over $27 billion dollars and there about 9,000 employees. Therefore, it is one of the largest official aid agencies in the world. It’s important as China is setting up theirs to fully understand the history of ours. Our history dates back to the US Congress passing the Foreign Assistance Act in 1961 and that reorganized all the US Foreign Assistance Program and mandated the creation of this agency to administer the economic aid. I think China has gone through a little bit of that, with the Ministry of Commerce and then moving the new agency around. But USAID at that time became the first US foreign assistance organization whose primary focus was on long-term socioeconomic development. So, USAID’s work encompasses humanitarian projects as well as other development work such as global health, agriculture, environment, education, poverty alleviation and many other programs where we do this through technical and financial assistance mechanism. And because it’s an official component of the US foreign policy, the aid receives guidance from the President, the Secretary of State, and the National Security Council. We have often said that it is part of the three-legged stool, which includes diplomacy, defense, and development in terms of how we relate to all of our overseas partners. It’s got field offices or projects in about 100 countries. And all the funding going to USAID then goes out the door is awarded completely through competitive grants and contracts and cooperative agreements. All the information on where USAID spends its money can be found on a handy website called ‘foreignassistance.gov’, and this is a dashboard for transparency so US taxpayers and anyone else knows where their foreign assistance funds are being spent. Over the years, with changing administrations, there are often important signature initiatives, I think anyone listening who has a government that changes as frequently as ours does, every 4 to 8 years would recognize this. And we have things such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which is also called PEPFAR and that survived through three presidential administrations. You have the President’s Malaria initiative, “Feed the Future,” which is a global hunger and food security initiative, “Power Africa” which was set up to leverage partnerships to increase access to the power in sub–Saharan Africa, and now Covid relief. So there are many programs I could highlight but those are just a few which really stand out as game changers, which have stood the test of time because they make good development assistance with good development sense and it’s a long–term bet that we’re making.
As I understand it, China’s new agency provides a larger amount of development finance in the form of concessional loans. And Chinese aid, unlike aid provided by other developed countries, isn’t governed by the categories of OECD’s development assistance committee, so it’s not counted in international statistics so it’s harder for me to make true comparisons. Although China is a latecomer in International Development Assistance, I know that China has been engaged in foreign aid in Africa since the early 60s when it was still a very poor country but there was still a lot that was being done. But China is different today and its footprint is growing bigger and bigger in developing countries. I think Yawei Liu as well President Carter who once said he saw the presence of China in every African country he and Mrs. Carter had traveled to.
So, China has really transformed itself from a developing country to a country getting close to joining the club of developed countries and foreign aid played a small role in China’s transformation. As a result, China is in a better position in terms of how to engage in this work. But as with all assistance in developing countries, it’s a challenge to coordinate assistance on the ground to share best practices to learn from these lessons. So, we hope the new aid agency will engage with those who have been doing this work for a while and we can find ways to work together to help those most in need.
Wang Huiyao: Yes, that is probably something that both US and China can work together in the future. Now, infrastructure– not only in the developing countries, but also in the US and in China. It seems that the infrastructure transformation is going to be the next biggest attraction for the whole world to develop. And China already got some experience. We have set up an Asian Infrastructure Investment bank joined by 104 nations already. So, as you said, USAID was set up in the 1960s and China now have this China International Development Cooperation Agency set up in 2018. So, I’m thinking, Yawei, you have been at the Carter Center for a long time, and of course, you were involved in some projects of the Carter Center in Africa. What I’m thinking is that now US and China need to find something to work together. I mean the world needs us to cooperate in Africa, Latin America, and all those areas, particularly for the pandemic. US and China should work together rather than we get into some politics traps to focus on tracing the origin, rather than dealing with the virus, which is more urgent. The world’s revival leans on that. But apart from that, we probably need more experience on the infrastructure, finding a way that we can work together. I know that President Biden has proposed the one-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan for the US. I had a conversation with Neil Bush, and we talked about how China and the US could have a JV – joint venture company in Texas, for example, helping the energy exports to China. And I know that G7 has proposed ‘build back better world’ – B3W, and of course, China has the Belt and the Road Initiative. We had a CCG conference recently, where the Chinese former Vice Minister who looked after China outbound investment said that maybe B3W and the Belt and the Road can work together. So, Yawei, how do you see we can cooperate on infrastructure and probably given your Carter Center’s experience in Africa and other countries, do you see the possibility of US and China working together in the years ahead?
Liu Yawei: Thanks, Huiyao, for that question. Actually, the Carter Center started promoting US-China collaboration in Africa back in 2012, 2013 so we’ve been working in this area for almost a decade. I also want to thank you – because I still remember in the middle of working on that, I asked you whether you know someone in MOFCOM and you told me that you know people at the Research Institute of MOFCOM, because we wanted to talk to people who are in charge of development assistance to African countries. You mentioned whether China and the US could work together in the international development area. Before we get into the bigger picture, which is infrastructure, I just want to review some of the small cooperative projects between the US and China. The first one, between USAID and China happened in East Timor. It was an agricultural project. Paige mentioned that everything must be on the competitive bids. I think a Chinese entity won that USAID contract to working in agriculture in East Timor. After that, they worked also through another contract in Liberia. Liberia emerged out of the Civil War and needs to be rebuilt. US, China, and UNDP worked together to rebuild the University of Liberia. That’s why we had one of our meetings in Johannesburg at the end of 2017, because at the time, the Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian, and our former Vice President for Peace, Jordan Ryan, was the UNDP Liberia country representative and Donald Booth, US Special envoy for South Sudan was the American Ambassador in Liberia. So, we brought them together and hopefully they could share how they were able to work together back then, and they could make recommendations to the governments to see if US and China could work together. So, that’s Liberia.
Of course, the most important collaboration for the US and China is in public health, and that is Ebola in West Africa. Carter Center was very much involved, but not with China but with CDC here. Henry, you probably want to talk to the China side to basically see how this collaboration was brought about – who called whom first. From the USA, Susan Rice said, President Obama asked her to contact the Chinese government to see if China could work together with the US to contain Ebola in West Africa. So that’s the American side of the story. We don’t know anything about the China side of the story. And this cooperation was so successful so when President Xi visited the US in 2015, this is what Paige mentioned earlier, what Barbara Smith was very much involved is the MOU between USAID and the MOFCOM which is before China International Development Cooperation Agency was formed, the MOU was signed. I went to CDC and talk to one of the doctors. Then he said 90% of the MOU work is about CDC and what did China and the US do? They established the first CDC in Addis, Ethiopia together, so this is the first African CDC, and this is a result of US – China work in West Africa.
So again, looking back and looking forward, although US China relationship is at the lowest point, there is still a lot of potential for two sides to work together. One of the issues is just as you mentioned, the pandemic. Second is infrastructure, but all of this, I think is drown in the lack of trust and groundless accusation, largely from the USA in terms of what China is trying to do. “BRI is a geopolitical move, and it has nothing to do with assistance and it’s commercial.” or “China is a sharp power”. All of that. So, I think the potential is great but both sides will have to overcome the current hurdles which is going to take time, patience, and courage. Carter Center very much likes to work with your organization, through you hopefully with the Chinese government to get something going. Not to build a road together, but maybe just a small pilot. Particularly what we’re looking into is, if China and the US could work together to provide covid assistance to Myanmar – as simple as that.
Wang Huiyao: I think that US and China can work together complementarily in many areas. I know that in 2015, General Electric (GE) and China’s SINOMACH (China National Machinery Industry Corporation) signed an agreement working in a third country as well. Recently , Chinese President Xi was talking to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Macron on working in Africa. I think Africa has such a great potential and you mentioned about Ebola that that US and China work together. That could be a great example, particularly for fighting pandemic and infrastructure. China is working with African infrastructure in a half a century ago. My father worked on Tanzania Zambia Railway in the 70s, which is something memorable. So, I really think that there is an area that both countries can work together. The world needs both of us, especially the developing world as we can really supplement each other for helping them. The US has a long tradition, but China has a lot of a new expertise accumulated like the infrastructure. But absolutely, the pandemic is really a time that we must work together, and then in climate change and all those great areas.
As you said, we really need to build up trust and not try to find problems with each other and try to come back to the normalcy that we had in the last decades– most of the time. Paige, you were involved in post-conflict reconstruction of the Balkans. You are very familiar with that area, so maybe you could share some thoughts on those international initiatives and the response on the Balkans and how to help? Even with the situation we’re having in Afghanistan these days – again, we need global leadership, we need global concerted efforts to really make sure that the area is reconstructed and into a more stable and peaceful situation. So are there any ideas or recommendations you can give and share with us?
Afghanistan is in need of help and the US and China should work together for it
Paige Alexander: I had the good fortune to work on the Balkans starting in1995, when the Dayton Accords were being negotiated. I would not have guessed that 25 years later that would still be the framework that we’re living under. So to say that development is not linear, you don’t always go from a humanitarian crisis to a post-conflict democratic and economic programming. Often the crises happen in advanced developed countries or the interventions needed are due to backsliding which requires financial or other assistance, so we can recoup the ground that we’ve lost during a crisis. Whether you’re in the Balkans, Haiti, Syria, Yemen or Afghanistan, each is so complex and it requires dedication and a really long lens towards recovery that can often change faster than the program work is really able to address. Through my time working on Bosnia and Kosovo, I could see the issues were generational and we knew many of the interventions needed to take time. It really needed time to take hold before the basics regarding the rule of law and regulatory reforms could be put into place and show their usefulness. So Afghanistan’s a very special case, which we really wouldn’t have enough time to cover in this discussion. But the international community should not let its sole attention become the refugee situation. I’ve seen that happen in Syria as well. So we must really remain focus on those who are in Afghanistan and what we can do to continue helping them live their best lives. It would be wrong for me to surmise what US policy should be now in terms of recognition of the people running the country. But we need to retain some level of discourse so those Afghans who need and want assistance can continue to get it from other countries.
On the issue of the role of China and potential US-China cooperation, I think it’s fair to say that the top priority for China, like that in the US at the beginning of the war, is to prevent a country from becoming this safe haven for terrorists. China really shares a short border with Afghanistan and China’s got a good relationship with Pakistan. That influence over the Taliban is very significant so I hope China takes advantage of the leverage, which the US clearly lacks. I remember when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she introduced the concept of a new Silk Road and it’s about linking Afghanistan to the South Asian countries like India economically. At USAID, we actually were in the process of changing our office of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Near East Bureau. We merge those for this exact reason: to be able to link. If China now has the ambitious Belt Road Initiative, we hope that you could include Kabul in the BRI when the latter situation is stable enough for foreign direct assistance and other investments.
At the present time, when it comes to US-China cooperation, it probably mainly revolves around speaking with the same voice at the UN. Tony Blinken, our Secretary of State and China’s Foreign Minister had two phone calls in August. The first call was about ensuring a peaceful evacuation of American and Chinese citizens in Afghanistan and the second phone call was about working together at the UN Security Council to pressure the Taliban to allow continuous evacuations of Afghan people who want to leave and to permit inflows of humanitarian assistance and stop supporting international terrorism. Beijing facilitated the initial dialogue also between the US and the Taliban. China could continue to play that role as it’s going to take some time before Washington decides on the recognition issue. So yes, I do believe that the US and China could cooperate in Afghanistan, but the devil is in the details. We just mentioned some of the successes we had in cooperation in South Sudan and with Ebola and the trilateral cooperation that we want on African affairs. I hope Beijing and Washington will be able to coordinate their policies towards Afghanistan. I do think it’s in both governments interest in terms of peace and development in that country.
The Carter Center and CCG would like to facilitate US-China assistance to developing countries
Wang Huiyao: Yes, absolutely. I think it’s important that we maintain a peaceful and possibly prosperous Afghanistan so we don’t let terrorists to re-emerge there again, also for the security of Afghanistan and that part of the region including Xinjiang in China. So it’s important that all the big countries work together. I’m glad to see that the UN Security Council passed the resolution on that so that we can actually see a more stable Afghanistan. They are now forming a new government and China is closely watching – I really hope that the US, EU, and other countries, and China of course – can all work together and to ensure a safe and peaceful Afghanistan to come.
The Carter Center observed fair elections at China’s village level
Wang Huiyao: Yawei, we are talking about China-US relations in the last four or five decades and President Carter was the president who established diplomatic ties with China and the US. So what are the initiatives – for all those years, what else have you done, after President Carter founded this Center? We are having a complex situation with a lot of arguments these days, maybe it’s good to look at the history and the leadership of President Carter, and the vision he has for promoting better US-China relations.
Liu Yawei: Thanks, Henry. I know our time is running short so I’ll be quick. I think after President Carter left the White House, he was immediately invited by Deng Xiaoping to visit China. After that, President Carter visited China multiple times. I think during one of the visits, President Carter said, “Now I have my center, I would like to work with China on issues.” Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping said, “My son, who is disabled, is the President of the Chinese National Association for the Disabled People. Maybe the Carter Center and his Association could work together.” So that actually was Carter Center’s initial entry project into China: to provide training for special education. That actually was my first volunteering work with the Carter Center, to interpret for the Chinese special education teachers who came here. President Carter said, over 900 Chinese teachers were trained here at the Carter Center and then the Carter Center also purchased production lines of artificial limbs for China. I think many years ago, we got a letter from the Beijing Bureau of Civil Affairs, saying that the production line is still working. We want to thank President Carter for doing that. So that’s our initial entry into China. Later, from 1996 all the way to about 2012, I can summarize our engagement with China as tellingg the China story. So what was the China story? The Carter Center was telling a story that China had real fair competitive elections at the village level because we observe village elections. I think one of the Chinese officials said, “If we say China has democracy, nobody is going to believe it. But if the Carter Center observed and then told the world that there were real grassroots democracy in China, that is incredible.” So that has taken a lot of effort from about 2012 – almost a decade, our work is largely divided into two categories. So one category is about reducing misperception, reducing the lack of trust and to increase mutual understanding. So that is our online initiative, US-China Perception Monitor in English and Chinese. We also organized high-level forums in the US-China relation, which began in 2012. The last one we had was in January of this year. It’s the eighth one. I want to remind our audience that in 2019, in January, we were the only US organization that organized a three–day meeting on the 40th anniversary of the normalization. No other US organization or think tank really “dared” to do that because the relationship was at such a low point. We also organized the Young Scholars Forum on US China Relations. So the next one which is the 6th will be held online starting September 22nd.
The second category of the work we do, which I think is more challenging but significant, is to bring China and the US to cooperate in a third country. We talked about Africa. I don’t want to get into the details of what we have done because of the time shortage. I want to share an anecdote here to highlight the necessity. The Carter Center works in Mali. We have an international ceasefire monitor group over there. China actually has peacekeepers on the ground in Mali. Huiyao, you mentioned the Chinese government and the French government signed an agreement that they were going to coordinate their development assistance in francophone countries. So you know this is all good. China, US and France are supposed to work together in Mali. So the anecdote I want to share with you is between our consultant, Ambassador Bisa Williams, who’s running our mission in Mali and at the diplomatic gathering ran into the Chinese Ambassador. Again, I heard this from a third party so don’t quote me on this. But what the Chinese Ambassador told Ambassador Bisa Williams is that people like you, Americans and French, are troublemakers. Because you are here, you prolong the problems in Mali. As soon as you guys leave, things are going to be good. So that’s the core of the misunderstanding, that’s the core of the lack of perspective of each other. For developed countries like the US and France, and China, which is a new kid on the block, they need to talk about these issues. Even if they don’t agree, they still need to figure out since the US, the Carter Center, China and the French government are all engaged in Mali. They are all spending resources, human resources and others there, but there is no conversation whatsoever between the stakeholders. Hopefully again, Huiyao, you and us and other parties can set up a case, a pilot, just look at the particular country where there is US involvement or there is Chinese involvement and we come together both from the non-governmental sector and the government – USAID, whoever that we can bring to the table. That brings us to where we’re working on, which is Myanmar. How could China and the US, if not working together, coordinate their policies with ASEAN or with the United Nations, so that international Covid assistance to Myanmar could be delivered fast and effectively. I’ll handle my sort of Carter Center activities here in China.
Wang Huiyao: Thank you Yawei, I think that’s part of what we need these days, particularly organizations like Carter Center and also other similar NGOs, think tanks and social organizations and of course those in China as well like CCG. So Paige, you are the head of Jimmy Carter Center and you have a lot of experience in the international development area. And so while revisiting the history, we’re also looking in the future. It is such a challenge in China-US relations. Now Democrats are back again, but it seems that the political climate is so poisoned in the US now and maybe that’s another popular war – so negative. So how can we change that? You know the legacy of President Carter which is establishing diplomatic ties between US and China. He actually opened a door for Chinese students, millions of them went to the United States. He actually was the president who had been assigned the 2 Communiqués with China and laid the great foundation for the China-US relations. Now this situation is deteriorating, which the 97-year old President Carter is also seeing. So, from the Carter Center’s perspective, how do you think that we can repair under and work on this relation and put it forward so that we can probably have some normalcy and have some expectancy, instead of being a roller coaster ride during President Trump’s days? Even with President Biden, we haven’t seen it getting much better, so what do you think of the China-US relations and how can we repair that and how can we bring normalcy as many people expect?
President Carter’s 5 moral lessons on peace, development and prosperity
Paige Alexander: So it’s a good question. I think there are probably 4 or 5 top lessons that I believe others could learn from President Carter and this goes to the relationship that we want to have with other countries. I think, first, war should always be avoided; conflicts can be resolved through peaceful and equal negotiations. President Carter certainly followed this when he was in the White House and waging peace is one of the missions of the Carter Center. Second, I think human rights are always an integral part of US foreign policy decision-making so human rights are both a political right and a right to live a decent free life. For the US to be a global champion for human rights, it also needs to respect human and civil rights at home. This is why the Carter Center began to engage in domestic election work because we recognize their threats to democratic election standards in the US, especially in our backyard here in Georgia and given the role it played in the last federal election. I think everyone should take a look at themselves from the inside before we start portraying what we want to be doing with other countries. Third, I would say developed countries have an obligation to provide support to underdeveloped and developing nations. In today’s world, it’s not just Western countries that are engaged in foreign aid. Other countries, particularly China, are also moving from camp south to camp north and there needs to be more coordination. Yawei already touched on that about the places we have coordinated in the past and the things we need to do moving on. Fourth, I would say one of the most important characteristics of President Carter’s leadership is not to submit himself to political pressure and seemingly popular demands when making policy decisions, but to make moral decisions that will benefit people in the country in the long–term. He lived his administration that way, which is why he probably only had 4 years. But we’re seeing the significant benefits of so many decisions by President Carter that were not evident decades ago and it’s because he did not put politics first: he put people first. So overall I’ll say that President Carter’s always lived his values, and his vision of a future world is a world where wealth is relatively fairly distributed, racial and gender equality is guaranteed and protected by law, and national conflicts can be resolved through peaceful means and all major powers, regardless of their political systems – as we see, our different political systems – agree to cooperate and collaborate to stop things like global warming and nuclear proliferation, to eradicate diseases, to empower people all over the world, to lead a decent life. I think these are the places that we can try to come together, and have those honest and frank conversations. Because I think we each bring to the table something important and skillset that the other doesn’t have. But at the same time, we have to respect that there will be differences. I think that’s the relationship we need to have at this point.
NGOs can help stabilize and improve the relationship
Wang Huiyao: We really need to maintain the dialogues and exchanges. It’s probably true that this pandemic has cut off the face-to-face meetings which creates a lot of problems. So, Yawei, what’s your final recommendations to put the US and China relations into right track and going forward? And how can we avoid the conflict and and deterioration on bilateral relations?
Liu Yawei: It’s not really recommendations, we talked about the specific things that both countries and both NGOs like yours and ours, can do to stabilize and improve the relationship. I think, in terms of the overall relationship, first, we need to look at history. I’m American history major, I think if you look back at you know over 200 years of this relationship, it’s special. I was born in China raised in China, came here when I was 27 years old, and got the opportunity to pursue my study and to work for president Carter himself. So I always like to tell people I’m a example of how good things will come along, if two countries open door to each other and work with each other. Huiyao, you mentioned millions of Chinese came over here now. US government and private sector give these Chinese students – I’m one of them – the opportunity to work here and to excel. There is indeed a special relationship between these two countries. Americans care about China, and many Chinese like the US, they want to send their kids over here, we need to protect that. There is a very good documentary called Better Angels and president Carter watched it and recommended it. I think everyone probably should watch that documentary.
Secondly, basically because US and China is the largest and second largest economy, because of the size, because of what they can do, it doesn’t matter it’s in Afghanistan, Mali, DRC or any other countries, if US or China choose not to work together, then that impact is going to be felt by that particular country. So there is a lot that two countries can do.
Lastly, I think now the US has declared – at least President Trump’s administration declared the engagement policies is dead – I don’t think the Biden administration is going to say that, although the China policy is still under review – it’s what Tony Blinken had said, ”We’re going to cooperate with China where we can. We’re going to compete with China where we should. And we’re going to confront China where we must.” China doesn’t really buy that framework, China thinks that the Biden administration is pursuing confrontation with China. I think if that’s the case, that’s the wrong direction to go. Because both leaders believe in peace and prosperity for their own people and for the world. This is also President Carter’s vision: peace, prosperity, decent life for all the human beings. I think the leaders if they can come around to this, and then they’re going to forget or they can shelf geopolitical concerns, they can shelf geopolitical concerns and talk about their concerns with each other, or focus on building the world better and higher and hopefully in the vision of President Carter. All of us, particularly here under Paige’s leadship, staff of the center are trying to live up to President Carter’s legacy, and hopefully to spread, if I can use the word – gospel – to all parts of the world.
Wang Huiyao: Thank you. Absolutely, I think we really have to maximize the similarity, minimize the difference and seek the common ground. I think that there’s a huge bond still existing between US and China, particularly among the people – student and people-to-people exchanges. So I congratulate the Carter Center for doing all those conferences, seminars, workshops and tours.Those are really needed, and we hope that there will be more of that. So we almost come to the conclusion now. My staff was telling us where we have almost 200,000 people watching us tonight.
We have collected few questions online for Q&A. One questions from China News Service – how should we build bridges across cultural differences between East and West, China and US, to seek common ground while reserving differences? And there’s another media mentioned the question – how do you view the possibility of a potential cold war between China and the US? How should we avoid it? Another from News Guangdong to Paige. The question was: “You were USAID’s deputy for the European region with a focus on immediate post-conflict reconstruction in the Balkans. This year is the 20 year anniversary of the ‘911’ incident and it is said that the Taliban will announce the new Afghan government soon. How can China and the US coordinate in the fight against terrorism in the next phase as well as the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq?”Also we cover a bit of that. Maybe now we we can talk through them together, and then you can give some final remarks on the thoughts of the topic today – President Carter’s legacy. Given the current situations of the US and the world, how can we bring this forward? Maybe, Paige, do you want to start?
“The fight against terrorism is a war, but it’s a war that can also be discussed in diplomatic terms.”
Paige Alexander: Sure. It’s the coming up in the 20th anniversary of 911. I think that so many lessons have been learned since that period in time, mainly because we figured out how to share information and a way that we were not doing it both internally within our own government and externally with others. So I think we’ve made some great strides there, but as I had said in my earlier answer that we’re all trying to avoid war. It’s in nobody’s best interest. The fight against terrorism is a war, but it’s a war that can also be discussed in diplomatic terms. So I think this is one of the reasons why we need to hold each other close, as they say hold, our enemies close. It’s a conversation that has to happen, because I think we’re all in this together.
It was a very different situation from when we were working together and rebuilding some of the former soviet countries at post cold-war. Part of that was as I said there’s not a linear trajectory and development, and sometimes you can have a fully developed country that just had backsliding. So the graduation assistance that we provided in Eastern Europe at the time did not last forever, because that’s not where we needed to be. We did not need to continually be doing projects in some of those countries. But I think at this stage that we’re at, these conversations – diplomacy, development, defense is a three-legged stool, and they all have to go together, we have to be willing to talk every single one of those areas, with our partners, with our allies. This is what’s going to get us to the other side of some of these issues. I led delegations with the US government that where we would have Department of Defense, Department of State and USAID together to have some of these tough conversations. Because you don’t just get the toys, the guns and the planes, you also often need to be holding up a mirror and looking at your own systems. So I think it’s just a continued conversation. I’ll say Yawei has been the penultimate East-West divide for us at the Carter Center. So he can probably answer a little bit more about how those conversations can continue.
Liu Yawei: In 5 days, it’s going to be the 20th anniversary of 9/11. On the day of 9/11, I was teaching American history class at a local college. During the break, when students heard the news, they started crying in the hallway, and then the school basically decided no more school on that day. I think the central question for many Americans – as it was a shocker – they asked why they hate us so much. I think if we can transplant that into US-China relationship, leaders from both sides need to pay attention to this essential question. Both countries are now working toward hating–the–other–side kind of mode. That’s very dangerous. If you look at the US leadership, if you look at the US Media, not only they say the China influence – what they call malign influence all over the world without looking fairly and squarely at what China has contributed the BRI and other Covid assistance issues. And also, some of the think tanks over here and NGOs, they also joined that chorus of hating China. They’re also going after ethnic Chinese over here, because the Justice Department has that China initiative that many members of Congress and many Asian American organizations want that to be dropped. So that’s from the US side.
Now from the China Side. I acknowledge the Chinese leaders are not as vociferous as the American leaders when they talk about the other side, but the social media side is a different story. Heating America message is all over the place. August 29th, there is a blogger who said everyone is aware there is critical changes taking place in China, one of the changes, he talked about, is that there is consensus among Chinese that US is launching a space war, a cyber war, a trade war, high-tech war, you name it – every aspect you can come up with is that US is launching a war against China. So this hating–each–other mode has to be stopped. If it’s not going to stop, I don’t know there might be a 9/11 moment in in this bilateral relationship. I don’t want to scare people, but you think about it. In South China Sea, East China Sea over Taiwan issue and others, there is literally a possibility that US and China are going to go to war. So I want to end my remarks that peace is so important for both countries and the leaders and the media managers, the think tanks and NGOs, they all need to join effort to deescalate what is going on in the US and try to debunk the myth. For example, US basically said Wuhan Institute of Virology leaked the virus, China said Fort Detrick did that. This kind of misinformation campaign has to be stopped and people’s perception of each other has to be changed. I don’t believe US has a conspiracy to make China collapse and I don’t believe the Chinese leaders want to edge out the US from East Asia. Both countries are obligated to provide for their own people, but also to provide for the whole world and to work with people all over the world to anchor peace and prosperity.
So thank you kindly for giving us this opportunity to engage you and the audience – 200,000 of them. In our view, hopefully, the more we share, the more peaceful the relationship is going to be, and the more peaceful the world is going to be.
We should reflect on history and think rationally
Wang Huiyao: Thank you Yawei, Senior Advisor at The Carter Center and Paige who worked in three administrations in the US government and now the CEO of The Carter Center.
So we’re reviewing this today in the last 42 years since President Carter established diplomatic ties which changed the US, China and the world. I think China has actually since then become one of the fast developing countries in the world. From looking at the legacy today, we found that the world has changed so much, and we really have to self-reflect the reality of the contemporary 21st century. Probably we will need to upgrade our thinking and I totally agree with Yawei’s opinion – nationalism or populism – we cannot really let that go out of hand and dictate or influence the political decision made by both countries. I really think that today, the world is so much intertwined with so much common prosperity, and we really need each other. How can we really decouple? I mean that is impossible and unimaginable, let alone to practice that, I think that is really unrealistic.
So we have to think about, in the 21st century, how we can cherish the legacy that President Nixon, President Carter, President Bush – all this foundation, the three Communiqués and also the millions of people’s exchanges and the billions of trade that we’ve been conducted among our both sides, and huge investment as well. So we need to be cool headed and particularly dialogue with each other.
That’s why I think, between the Carter Center and CCG – this kind of dialogue we’re having is really important to let the public know that there’s still rational thinking and how we can really not make a situation out of hand. I agree with Yawei that we could have a 911 moment or how issues can really trigger unexpected things. Because we’re now in such prosperity, who wants to get into hot war? So really we need cool heads and some realist thinking.
But on the other hand, China is rising, We need to really understand China, we need to accept China. What has happened in Afghanistan Iraq and many other countries that shows that there is no one model fits all, it has to be diversified. It has to be that a country adapts to its own situation. I think China is working on that path. And US is its own path.We will never converge, but let’s accept each other, let’s work things out together. So I think that’s what President Carter’s spirit is. There’s not going to be one model fits everywhere in the world. We have to live by diversity on a mufti-colored world. So again, thank you both so much for joining me tonight. You are on your Labor Day, your holidays – thank you and thank all audience both in China and other parts of the world. We hope that we will see you again. While you visit China, please come to CCG, we would like to have you again.
(Note: The above text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. It is posted as a reference for the discussion.)
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