Former U.S. diplomat calls for more communication

2024-04-12 China Daily Editor:Li Yan

China and the United States should foster a stronger momentum of communications in various sectors to dispel misunderstandings and develop a more robust relationship, a veteran U.S. diplomat has said.

Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said at a seminar in Beijing earlier this week that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's recent visit to China is a signal that bilateral ties are beginning to stabilize.

China and the U.S. are economically interdependent, something that has "no parallel to the Cold War", McFaul said, voicing his support for bilateral trade.

"Trade between the two countries generally leads both societies better off," he said, adding that they should turn to multilateral institutions to help them mediate and manage trade problems, instead of "pulling in different directions".

McFaul said the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the interactions between the two countries, and that he sees a decline in bilateral exchanges during the past years.

"It was notable … how many contacts there were between government officials, between businesses, between professors, between students. It was really thick," he said. "Today, something that alarms me is how those connections are much, much smaller than in 2019."

But he also noted that the situation is improving after "a dark period of disconnection".

The past several months have seen more exchanges between the two countries after Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden met in San Francisco in November, when Xi announced to invite 50,000 young U.S. citizens to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years.

McFaul, now director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, said the programs are important in terms of enhancing mutual understanding.

"We have tens of thousands of Chinese students studying in America, including in my university. That is a good thing from my point of view," he said, adding that the close exchange in areas, including the academic and business communities, is "a great advantage we have that we have to nurture".

McFaul also encouraged scholars from both sides to visit each other's country more often to gain a more accurate understanding, as the two countries cannot afford to "have differences based on bad information or misperception".

Calling crisis management "the paramount goal" for bilateral relations, McFaul said a deeper dialogue between China and the U.S. is necessary to help them better understand, and reduce security anxieties over each other's intentions.

Military-to-military dialogue is vital for managing crises, McFaul emphasized.

"Nobody would benefit from a military conflict between our two countries," he said.

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