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University hosts virtual U.S.-China town hall featuring Fareed Zakaria

University hosts virtual U.S.-China town hall featuring Fareed Zakaria

University hosts virtual U.S.-China town hall featuring Fareed Zakaria
October 20
22:22 2021

CNN host and best-selling author Fareed Zakaria was featured in a university virtual town hall on Tuesday to discuss U.S.-China relations. 

The two-hour-long event was hosted by history professor and China specialist Harold Tanner as a part of CHINA Town Hall 2021, a national program by the National Committee on United States-China Relations. The NCUSCR seeks to promote cooperation between the two countries, according to the organization.

UNT was among 80 other venues participating in the broadcast of Zakaria in conversation with NCUSCR President Stephen Orlins. The discussion covered topics on the future of the two countries and was followed by an in-person discussion moderated by Tanner. 

Orlins began the virtual conversation by stating that U.S.-China relations are at a crossroads. He went on to assert that U.S. relations with China have not been this low since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and China began in 1979.

“As the relationship undergoes enormous changes the major constant is that all agree that U.S.-China relations will help determine the peace and prosperity of the twenty-first century,” Orlin said. “Through these changes, the national committee has steadfastly believed that understanding China and crafting good policies based on that understanding would make Americans more prosperous and secure.”

Orlin then introduced Zakaria as the first journalist to have been invited to speak in the 15-year history of the NCUSCR China Town hall. Immediately after, Orlin asked if average Americans should be concerned about the relationship between the two countries. 

“The cliches are true,” Zakaria said. “This is going to be the most important relationship of the twenty-first century.”

Zakaria went on to explain that in his opinion, the two countries’ relationship was the biggest, newest thing to happen on an international scale in recent history.

China has risen from one percent of the world’s gross domestic product to 15 percent in the last 20 years, Zakaria said. He predicted that China will surpass 20 percent, rivaling the United States. When discussing the comparison in world power between the two countries, Zakaria noted that both countries also have rivaling defense budgets but refuted the idea of a new cold war forming.

“When you think about China, it has not yet done anything on that scale,” Zakaria said. 

The live stream concluded after both Orlin and Zakaria took questions from pre-selected individuals. As soon as the video of the virtual town hall concluded, Tanner asked for questions from the physical audience of a nearly dozen students and staff.

The first of many audience questions surrounded the ethics of trade in China, with another professor chiming in from the audience. 

“How do you separate trade from issues related to human rights?” asked political science professor and advisor John Ishiyama. “How many dollars do you want to trade for human rights? It’s not easy to separate these things.”

After the event, students in attendance discussed the impact of the town hall. 

“I think that a lot of questions that people generally had were asked by the speakers from across the country,” political science sophomore Callahan Stroud said. “Then hearing the academic’s perspectives, which in a way was a lot more nuanced in many ways, showed the simplified worldview that a CNN journalist has.”

Featured Image: UNT Professor Harold Tanner discusses the livestream of the CHINA Town Hall with students on Oct. 19, 2021. Photo by Lindy Jenkins

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Ana Santos

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