On Thursday, November 15th Temple University hosted a moderated discourse on international affairs between China and the United States. Namely, addressing the trade relationship and rising political tensions, addressing questions regarding an impending trade war between the two countries. The two speakers, representing two nations, and two sides of the argument, were economist Derek Scissors and professor Guiguo Wang. Scissors is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and the Chief Economist of the China Beige Book. Professor Wang is the Eason-Weinmann Chair of International and Comparative Law at Tulane University’s School of Law and Academy of International Strategy and Law Professor at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. The moderator for the discussion was Associate Professor of Political Science at Temple University, Alexandra Guisinger. Guisinger is also the author of “American Opinion on Trade”, where she shares her research on the status of Americans’ knowledge on the impact of trade and foreign affairs on their day to day lives.
Temple University’s President Richard Englert began the presentation, advocating for the importance of discourse on tense political issues, and increasing diversity on Temple University’s campus. Temple’s Vice President of International Affairs, Hai Lung Dai, introduced Englert with an anecdote about his work to increase the population of international students at Temple University. As provost, Englert made an adjustment to bring offices of admissions, and international affairs physically closer to each other on the campus. Since 2010, efforts like this have increased Temple’s population of international students from 1,600 to over 4,000, according to Dai. This introduced a positive tone regarding collaboration to introduce the lecture.
Pressor Wang introduced his arguments first, highlighting many opinions of the international community on the Trump administration, as well as previous american executive administrations. Wang began by explaining some of the recent US policies that have been implemented to begin the overall conversation on an existing and potential trade war. The United States imposed a 25% tariff on imported steel and a 10% tariff on imported aluminum from all countries. Beyond manufacturing goods, similarly steep tariffs have been imposed on $50 Billion worth of Chinese Imports coming to the United States. Moderator Guisinger referenced in her opening comments that her survey research shows roughly 70% of Americans are unaware of the impact that international trade has on their employment and day-to-day lives. The overlap of political conflict and issues facing Americans was dense among the overall conversation.
Additionally, these restrictions highlighted by Wang tie into a conversation about America’s history in trade agreements, and their adherence to policies implemented by the World Trade Organization, WTO. Arguing for the U.S. failing to be compliant with WTO policies, tensions regarding trade of both manufacturing goods and Intellectual Property was up for debate.
Scissors made a larger, macroeconomic argument regarding the potential US, China trade war. Potential, being a key term, Scissors remains that in 2018, we are experiencing the height of a healthy trade relationship between the two nations, while rising tensions will lead to a future disengagement of this relationship. Arguing that the US, China trade war is actually on the horizon, and not an active fight in 2018, Scissors referenced statistics demonstrating frequent and economically prosperous trade between the two nations. With policies from the Trump administration disrupting the cooperation in the relationship, Scissors maintains that the conversation around the trade war will feel more urgent in the coming months.
Beyond opening remarks, the two speakers then participated in a more formal debate moderated by Guisinger. The conversation was directed by questions from the moderator and questions from students and faculty in the audience. Highlighting the significance of these rising political tensions, Scissors referred to the relationship between the two nations as a pressing issue that has achieved concern at the presidential level.
While Scissors made a commentary about the impact of the trade war on immediate US politics, a more private press conference held with the speakers demonstrated Wang’s aim for a more peaceful and globalized world. The tension between the two nations is increasingly prevalent, and apparently has room to grow. With rising trade conflict and a potential recession on the horizon for Americans, it is increasingly important for the population to be involved politically. Record-breaking statistics on voter turnout at the recent midterm election would support these notions. On a fundamental level, time will reveal the outcome of rising international conflicts.