Taking the Venom Away from Competition

On October 9th, CSCC welcomed the Penn community to the 2018 China Town Hall. For the first hour of the event, students, faculty, and researchers listened intently to the Honorable Condoleezza Rice, the 66thU.S. Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor under President George W. Bush. 

From the onset, Rice did not label China as a dangerous threat. Rather, she identified China as a strategic competitor, stressing that “we need to take the venom away from those words.” Guided by this theme, she highlighted areas for new U.S.-China cooperation. Stressing the need for collaborative infrastructure projects, she promoted the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). She remarked that AIIB sets up a transparent system for the United States and China to make breakthroughs in global development.  

Pivoting to mounting U.S.-China tensions, she offered suggestions for how to deal with unfair trade practices. Rice proposed talk before tariffs. She suggested that the United States should work with the Chinese business, technology, and investment communities to convey the structural issues, such as closed sectors reserved for China’s State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and to propose solutions such as reciprocity, so that China could succeed on the world economic stage.

Moving to immigration issues, Rice expressed her firm opposition to the recent American visa restrictions placed on Chinese international students. As a current Professor at Stanford, she explained that she wants to “train the best and brightest all over” and that “everyone benefits from learning from other countries and people.” Regarding the underlying motivations for such a policy – the race for technology – she believed that the United States could outcompete China through innovation and openness. She suggested that the U.S. should increase the budget for the National Science Foundation, in order to excel. With that approach, Rice stated that she “like[s] our odds in the race for technology.”

Lastly, she closed with a discussion of human rights. She urged the United States to protect the Uighur community in the Xinjiang region. Holding fast to American tenets, Rice noted the United States’ role as a global voice for the voiceless. She contrasted America’s value on human rights with China’s “mistreatment of epic proportions” in Xinjiang. She questioned, for example, why China has shut off access to the Red Cross. Again, she focused on ways that China could improve its international reputation by advocating for China to increase its transparency. 

From trade to immigration to human rights, Condoleezza Rice touched on pressing issues at the 2018 China Town Hall. She labeled China as a strategic competitor, with a hopeful note, that constructive competition and mutual cooperation between the U.S. and China could improve global economics, education, and society. 


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