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Firestein Addresses International Audience at University of South Carolina


October 1, 2020 

On October 1, David Firestein, the president and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations, was invited to speak at a Moore School’s Folks Center for International Business event: “U.S.-China Relations: Issues, Challenges and Prospects.” Speaking to an international audience of over 450 people representing 15 countries, Firestein delivered a presentation around the current state of the U.S.-China relationship, its present fault lines and an outlook on how to advance engagement for the future.

Firestein emphasized that the U.S.-China relationship is at a low point, as illustrated by the recent closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston and corresponding closure of the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. He went on to detail key factors behind the deterioration in U.S.-China relations, including issues pertaining to trade and tariffs, competition in technological advancement such as 5G; territorial and security issues in the South China Sea; concerns about human rights of the Uighurs in China; the national security law introduced in Hong Kong and most of all, contention associated with the outbreak of COVID-19, which has dramatically altered U.S public perception of China. 

Despite these issues, China remains the third largest U.S. trading partner and, according to recent polls, the majority of Americans still look to maintain solid economic ties with China given its importance to mutual commercial interests.  

Firestein’s presentation followed introductory comments by Bob Caslen, president of the University of South Carolina and Pete Brews, dean of the Moore School, who set the context for the event. Governor Jim Hodges, who delivered opening remarks, reaffirmed the university’s and community’s commitment to U.S.-China business and policy dialogues. The discussion was moderated by Professor Gerry McDermott of the Moore School. 

This Folks Center forum was sponsored by the Rachel and Jim Hodges Fund in collaboration with University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.