An Olympic lift to U.S.-China relations
May the Games help break down walls of fear.
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It is time to move toward constructive engagement that would emphasize hope over fear. Imagine a US-China renewable energy initiative, along the lines of the US-Soviet space station. It could include Chinese production of cheap solar panels for massive installation in the US by American workers. Such collaboration could vastly decrease our dependency on fossil fuels. Or Chinese manufacturers could locate plants in the US to be closer to market, as Japanese and German car manufacturers have done, bringing new jobs. Or how about a joint environmental movement to help developing nations articulate laws allowing development while keeping pollution in check.Skip to next paragraph
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To proceed positively, Washington must pursue constructive engagement with Beijing in strategic dialogue in the areas of trade, the environment, energy consumption, antiterrorism, and nuclear nonproliferation. Both nations should vastly increase personal contact, whether by students, teachers, government leaders, journalists, or others. Whether it's Americans going to China and seeing its impressive modernization and the social as well as economic benefits of a market economy, or meeting visiting Chinese students and leaders, such exchanges break down stereotypes and promote understanding. Engaging China is the most effective method of urging the country to make progress in human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law.
The greatest opportunity at hand right now, though, is for the 20,000 foreign journalists converging on Beijing, many of whom are fanning out across that country, to see and to report on China in its vast fullness. A broader and more nuanced portrayal of China in the media is critical to the enhancement of Americans' understanding as well as to progress by policymakers.
Remember that 30 years of evolution in China – away from a totalitarian government and toward a market economy – date back to another grand event televised to the world: President Nixon's historic visit to China, which included iconic images of the Nixons at the Great Wall. May the Olympic Games, with all their pomp and drama, break down the walls of misapprehension and further integrate China into the global community – for the good not only of the US and China, but for the world.
Cheng Li is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the editor of the recent book, "China's Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy." Frank Wu, a former dean of the law school at Wayne State University, is the author of "Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White."