This article was first published in the UCLA Daily Bruin on February 2, 2009 by Courtney Lakroix.
On Friday, a conference, “Two Systems, One World: U.S.-China Relations under the Obama Administration” brought together speakers to discuss different aspects of Chinese foreign policy.
The UCLA Center for Chinese Studies and the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations co-hosted the event with assistance from the UCLA Asia Institute.
Approximately 50 UCLA community members and students went to the UCLA Faculty Center to hear the analysis of U.S. and Chinese relations and the conflicts the countries face in their relationship with each other.
Notable guest speakers at the event included Robert A. Kapp, the former president of the U.S.-China Business Council, Barry Naughton, a Chinese economy professor at UC San Diego, and Mikkal Herberg, the research director on energy issues at the National Bureau of Asian Research.
The speakers highlighted the current issues affecting the U.S. and Chinese economies, such as the competition for oil, the energy crisis and the countries’ diplomatic relations with each other.
Naughton referred to China and the United States as “mirror-images” of each other because of the interdependence between the two countries. The United States has invested in China with free trade agreements and the purchase of cheap consumer goods. The country also remains in extreme debt to China, he said.
He added that both China and the United States pay attention to the political and trade links between the countries and indicated that China should create a stable stimulus project.
Naughton said the U.S. economic crisis will likely cause problems for China because the U.S. decrease in consumer spending is no longer contributing to China’s economic growth. The current recession could result in a limitation of Chinese imports and could potentially lead to trade conflicts with China since the U.S. would focus on American exports rather than importing foreign goods.
In addition to the economy, the competition for oil was a popular topic at the conference.
Herberg said the issue of oil competition causes “toxic relations” between the United States and China. Since the price of oil has increased significantly, China has made deals with other countries to maintain their oil supply. There is tension over this issue as the U.S. opposes China’s attempt to purchase oil from other countries.
The speakers then discussed China’s energy consumption and the United States’ involvement with China’s attempt to gain more energy. China’s leadership is using solutions such as removing subsidies from oil companies and taxing large vehicles, Herberg said.
Herberg added that China refuses to agree to emission limits, and U.S. refuses to ratify anything unless China is included.
The topic of energy usage triggered the discussion about the necessity of China and the U.S. to engage in negotiation for climate change. They agreed that if the two countries cannot reach an agreement, there is little for hope for a global agreement because the countries are so large and influential.
Despite the variety of topics mentioned at the conference, all the speakers agreed that the Obama Administration must act quickly to create a successful economic stimulus package to repair the economy and relations with China. David Richardson, a first-year economics student, said he attended the event in order to further his interest in politics by learning more about the issues plaguing China and U.S. relations.
He said the most important message of the panel was the emphasis on continuity in the relationship between China and the U.S.
Victoria Pregler, a fourth-year political science student, said the conference was effective in informing students of relevant issues facing the U.S. administration.
“It was amazing to have the opportunity to see so many knowledgeable speakers discuss the extremity of such an important topic,” she said.
Kelli Calloway, a third-year international development studies student and intern for the Burkle Center said the conference was held to educate more people about important topics that are often overlooked on campus.
“It’s easy to get wrapped up in the UCLA bubble, but it is important to think about world issues,” she said.
The conference provided an opportunity for people to learn about foreign policy and current affairs, particularly with the Obama Administration just beginning its term in office.
When asked what he hoped people would remember from the conference, Herberg reiterated the importance of U.S. and China relations.
“The importance of U.S. and China relations. We need to have a constructive relationship and work together to manage our differences,” Herberg said.