Columbia experts on US-China relations in the era of COVID-19: ‘we should be cooperating with each other’

May 08, 2020

The US-China relations play an influential role in various aspects around the globe, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In early May, leading experts from Columbia University spoke on the future of US-China relations at a webinar presented by Columbia School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). 

SIPA Dean Merit E. Janow moderated the discussion with Thomas J. Christensen, Professor of Public and International Affairs at SIPA, Benjamin L. Liebman, Director of the Center for Chinese Legal Studies at Columbia Law School, Shang-Jin Wei, N.T. Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy, and Roberta Lipson, CEO of New Frontier Health as panelists of the webinar.

The following are excerpts from the online discussion. 

Professor Christensen on the current relations between China and the US:

Relations were quite bad before the COVID crisis, and they’ve only gotten worse since the initial reaction in Wuhan to the crisis has received widespread criticism around the world, including in the US. And the poor handling of the crisis in the United States has received criticism around the world. Unfortunately, it seems like both governments have responded to the criticism by criticizing each other. So now, we have a very tense US-China relationship at a time in which we should be cooperating with each other.

I can’t think of a more common threat than the disease, and it’s tragic that we can’t cooperate on some key issues to try to defeat that disease.

Professor Wei on PPE import:

The trade war is affecting negatively, even in the current pandemic. Part of the Trump initiations of the trade war was to apply a very high tariff on imports from China, including PPEs. In the last two months, the US has offered a temporary exemption to PPE products import, but research tells us that temporary tariff cut is not good enough because there is always uncertainty in terms of incentives to PPE producers.

Professor Liebman on China’s experiences:

We’re just not doing enough to learn from China’s experiences yet. China does have good scientists, good doctors, but today there is less learning from China than from Europe. And there are many things being done at our university to respond. We are keeping ourselves open to the world. It is very important to make sure that the best young scientists and students come from all over the world, including China.

Lipson on collaboration between the two countries:

So many good things have come out of the collaboration between the US and China. The programs that we’ve had have the capacity of building programs in epidemiology and various training programs. We are the two countries with the most brilliant scientists and development labs in the world. How much better would it be if we took advantage of each other’s information and work together?

Watch the full video here.