Insights and Analysis

A Chinese Journalist Discusses Sino-U.S. Relations with Ten Top U.S. Scholars

September 23, 2015

By Julia Chen

America’s willingness to accommodate China’s growing political and economic power will be crucial to U.S.-China relations. That was the observation of journalist Liu Yang, deputy newsroom director of China’s Global Times, who visited the U.S. recently as The Asia Foundation’s L. Z. Yuan Fellow in Media and International Relations.

The five-week fellowship in Washington DC and the San Francisco Bay Area provided Liu with extensive opportunities to interact with top experts on both coasts, and included a summer course on U.S. foreign policy at George Washington University, and a professional placement at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. In San Francisco, Liu attended meetings with Bay Area specialists on U.S.-China trade and economic relations.

Chen 9-23-15

Liu Yang: “In the beginning, the Global Times was just another publication established by the People’s Daily, but now it is one of the main voices of Chinese media.”

Every other year, the L. Z. Yuan Fellowship, named for a former journalist and senior advisor for China programs at The Asia Foundation, brings Chinese journalists to the U.S. in the belief that mutual understanding will encourage closer U.S.-China relations. Liu is the eleventh Fellow since the program began. Past fellows have included journalists from Xinhua and CCTV, the business magazine Caijing, and the Shanghai Morning Post. The Global Times is a daily newspaper with English and Chinese editions, established by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. This visit to the U.S. was Liu Yang’s first, and he described it as “eye opening.”

Shortly after Liu’s fellowship ended, we asked him about his experience here, and about the role of the Global Times in China.

Given your discussions with specialists on U.S.-Asia relations in the U.S., what will you be writing about upon your return to China? Have your views changed over the course of the fellowship?

I have already written a report to tell Chinese readers that a huge, historic debate on China policy is going on in the U.S. The report, which is titled “Discussing Sino-U.S. Relations with Ten Top U.S. Scholars,” was published on August 26. In this report, scholars such as Jeffrey Bader, Bonnie Glaser, Douglas Paal, Alan Romberg, and David Dollar share their perspectives on whether the U.S. policy community is, or should consider, changing U.S. policy toward China. In conclusion, I tell readers that the mainstream attitude in Washington D.C. now is to accommodate China’s rise while working to influence China’s choices.

Before this trip, I had heard that this kind of debate was going on. Some reports in China have told of U.S. scholars feeling nervous and worrying about China. My interviews during this trip confirmed that for me. But I am most surprised by the mistrust between our two countries. Some U.S. scholars have advised President Xi to give a public speech clarifying China’s real intentions. But Ms. Glaser [of the Center for Strategic and International Studies] told me this kind of promise was useless. Xi and Obama have made promises to each other several times, but the problem is that they do not trust each other.

You say China watchers on both the east and west coasts talked about the need for China to improve its use of “soft power.” In your view, how can this be accomplished?

To be honest, that is a difficult question. I believe “soft power” comes from confidence. But China is still developing, and is facing more troubles than several years ago. In Chinese society, people are often angry and anxious. They are worried about the future, and fighting for more money. At this time, I do not think China has much “soft power,” but in the future, I believe it will.

For example, when you become an elegant British gentleman, or a charming and thoughtful scholar, you gain followers. People admire you and learn from you. That is soft power. China is still learning. China needs more time.

How do you see the role of the Global Times in Chinese society, and how has it changed over time?

In the beginning, the Global Times was just another publication established by the People’s Daily, but now it is one of the main voices of Chinese media. In Washington, a think-tank scholar told me he felt GT was the most unboring newspaper in China. That made me feel proud of our newspaper.

The core culture of Global Times is to defend China’s national interest and to tell the truth. In China, the editorials of GT stir both huge public attention and controversy. People who do not like GT criticize us as being too pro-government on domestic issues and too nationalistic on international issues. I think this proves that China is becoming more diverse.

Liu Yang’s recent articles on U.S.-China relations for the Global Times can be read here:




Julia Chen is The Asia Foundation’s senior program officer for Asian American Exchange. She can be reached at [email protected]. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and the interviewee, not those of The Asia Foundation.


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