US-China Institute hosts talk on policy, political situation

Relations between the United States and China have been a major part of the 2016 presidential election, from confrontations in the South China Sea to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s ceaseless denouncements of China’s trade policies. On Thursday, the U.S.-China Institute hosted “The China Card: Politics Vs. Policy,” a day-long conference at the Radisson Hotel which focused on examining the impact of China on U.S. politics.

USC’s U.S.-China Institute, part of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, seeks to provide insights into the relationship between these two global powers to stimulate public discourse through research, education and events. Topics at the conference included the 2016 election, notably the demographics who are likely to support Trump and his protectionist policies, as well as the environment, global business, law and human rights and defense.

The event brought together leaders from across the country, including former diplomats, scholars from the East Coast and abroad and the first Chinese-American woman in the United States to be elected mayor of any city, Lily Lee Chen of Monterey Park, California.

The first panel included Jonathan Rothwell, senior economist at Gallup, who discussed some of the characteristics of Trump’s voter base. According to polling data collected by Rothwell and Gallup, voters are more likely to support Trump if they are located in areas that are less exposed to foreign trade. This may imply that in regions which are well-connected to international commerce, such as Southern California, people are more likely to consider the benefits of trading with China rather than potential downsides.

“The China Card: Politics Vs. Policy” commemorated the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-China Institute, which was originally founded by then-Provost C.L. Max Nikias in 2006.

Also in the first panel was Dornsife professor of political science, who spoke about the possibility of achieving free trade policies during the next presidential administration.

“Freer trade is going to be tough, and it’s going to be tough for years to come because of what’s happened in both parties,” said Shrum, who noted Trump’s move toward protectionist policies as being uncharacteristic of typical Republican candidates. “This is what I’m confident of: China has been a recurring issue in our campaigns, for good and for bad. It’s an issue now and it will be again.”

Phoebe Mengxiao Tang, a Ph.D. candidate in political science and international relations, said that she enjoyed hearing about China from very different perspectives.

“It’s very beneficial to hear content and discourse from different angles related to China and China’s relationships,” Tang said. “Some of [the speakers] even traced back the history of China, and how China traditionally has viewed the world and how it places itself in the world, which I find very interesting.”

Clayton Dube, executive director of the U.S.-China Institute, spoke about the media and the research it produces for the public.

“We have one job: to inform public discussion about how the relationship is evolving and why it matters,” Dube said. “We produce documentary films … which more than 50 million people have seen. We also produce two magazines, and we train with secondary school teachers to do a better job teaching about China.”

Dube also noted the U.S.-China Institute’s cross-disciplinary nature, citing that it collaborates with various schools within USC to examine the relationship of the two countries in depth.