【2022TCF】Opening Speech by Stephen Orlins
06 September , 2022


For years during the first week of September, I would attend the Taihe Civilizations Forum, see old friends, and discuss U.S.-China relations and China's role in the world. The forum always symbolized the end of summer and the beginning of more efforts to improve the most important bilateral relationship in the world. Because we are old friends, we could frankly discuss the common and conflicting interests that we have. I valued the formal panels, the discussions over breakfast, lunch, dinner, and walks in the evening. I hope that next year I can join you in person.


It comes as no surprise to any of my friends attending this conference that U.S.-China relations have reached new lows in the last few months. I, for one, will not sit idly by and watch the deterioration of the relationship that will determine if my children and grandchildren live in a peaceful and prosperous world in the 21st century.


Despite all the negativity, I still believe that our situation can and will change. I recently gave a speech to a 1,000 students at my alma mater Harvard. The audience was almost all students from China who are now studying in America. It was the second night of the Jewish Holiday of Passover and I was reminded that after the Jews escaped from Egypt, they wandered in the desert for 30 years before God allowed them to see the promised land. While we are now in the desert, I have been privileged to see the promised land of U.S.-China relations.


I saw it when President Xi and Obama signed the Paris Accords and led the world in combating climate change, I saw it when Chinese and American scientists worked together to combat Ebola, and I saw it when Fuyao glass rebuilt my brother's community in Ohio by opening a factory several miles from his home in an abandoned GM factory; but most of all, I saw it in the faces of the audience that night at Harvard. The hundreds of thousands of Chinese students studying in the U.S. and the tens of thousands of American students studying in China will work to bring together the peoples of our two great countries.


As Chairman Mao once said: The world is yours, as well as ours, but in the last analysis, it is yours. You young people are like the sun at eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you.


The hopeful energy of our young people will drive us towards a brighter future, but it will only happen if conferences like this and think tanks like Taihe Institute and every person in this room work to educate the peoples of both countries about the other. And that is why what you are doing is so important.


I wish you a successful conference and look forward to joining you next year.

  • Alan Beebe Former President of American Chamber of Commerce in China
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  • Brian Wong DPhil in Politics Candidate at University of Oxford, Hong Kong Economic...