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Staying Friends at 40
Harvard forum discusses how to deepen China-U.S. relationship
By Zhao Wei  ·  2019-04-13  ·   Source: Web Exclusive

Stephen Orlins, President of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, delivers a speech at the welcome ceremony of the Harvard College China Forum 2019 in Boston on April 12 (ZHAO WEI)

Stephen Orlins, who worked in the Office of the Legal Adviser of the U.S. State Department, modestly calls himself a xiaotudou, a small fry. However, he is more upbeat about one category of work he did there, helping establish diplomatic relations between the United States and China.

"All the other things I did in life were unimportant compared to that," Orlins, today President of the National Committee on United States-China Relations, said at the welcome ceremony of the Harvard College China Forum 2019 that opened in Boston on April 12.

The three-day conference, themed "A Global Community, One Shared Destiny" will hold 11 panel discussions on a wide range of topics, from finance and technology to international relations, music and pharmaceuticals. Besides Orlins, who also reminisced about learning Chinese when he was young, other speakers include Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, Jin Liqun, President of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Lawrence Culp, CEO of General Electric, and Graham Allison, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense.

"There are increasing challenges... to the globalized world that we all live in," Jia Rongli, Co-President of the Harvard College China Forum, said, explaining the reason for choosing the theme of the forum. "We hope that the forum will facilitate more productive collaborations through dialogue between leaders from all parties."

The welcome ceremony of the Harvard College China Forum 2019 is held in Boston on April 12 (COURTESY OF HARVARD COLLEGE CHINA FORUM)

The Harvard College China Forum was founded as an academic journal in 1997 by then Harvard graduate students. Initially run by the students at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the journal, Harvard China Review, expanded its staff membership to other Harvard schools and eventually to academic institutions in Greater Boston. The forum was launched partly as a publicity endeavor and partly to boost revenue for the journal. But as the conference gained more momentum, the leadership decided to focus on it.

This year, the Harvard College China Forum celebrates its 22nd anniversary as a leading student-run China conference in North America focusing on the challenges, trends, and issues affecting China and providing a platform for professionals from industries to address these issues. The annual forum is held in Boston every April.

The U.S.-China relationship, one of the most important bilateral relations, is also a hot topic at the forum. Speakers at the welcome ceremony expressed optimism on the relationship as the two countries have walked through 40 years, enduring ups and downs.

"This year is the 40th anniversary of those incredible days," said Orlins, who was speaking about the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. on January 1, 1979 under the leadership of Jimmy Carter, then President of the U.S., and Deng Xiaoping, then Vice Premier of China.

"I expect that this year would be a celebration of the wisdom of President Carter and Deng, and their bravery too, because I sat there and it was not easy for them to do," Orlins said.

Orlins urged all Chinese students at Harvard and other attendees to work on the relationship. He said he was strongly optimistic in the long term, but the optimism would not be justified if "you don't participate."

(Reporting from Boston, U.S.)

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

Comments to zhaowei@bjreview.com

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