Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies Co-Hosts Town Hall on U.S.-China Relations

Panelists Connect the Local to the Global during Event Featuring Live Webcast by Ambassador Susan E. Rice

​Hartford, Connecticut, November 8, 2017—The Trinity College community recently had the opportunity to learn about relations between the United States and China during a special event called “China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections.” The program on October 24 in Mather Hall’s Washington Room was sponsored by Trinity’s Center for Urban and Global Studies (CUGS) and the World Affairs Council of Connecticut. A panel discussion was followed by a webcast featuring Ambassador Susan E. Rice, hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Rice served President Obama as a national security advisor and U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations.


​Left to right: Panelists Dong Xue, David Manke, and Peter C. Bennett ’81 at the “China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections” event. Photos by Daming Xing 18.
Xiangming Chen, dean and director of CUGS and Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of Global Urban Studies and Sociology, moderated the panel, which included: Peter C. Bennett ’81, UConn School of Business career advisor; David Manke, vice president for international government relations for United Technologies Corporation (UTC); and Dong Xue, consul in the Economic & Commercial Office of the Consulate General of China in New York. Donald Chapman, the director of community and small business development for the City of Hartford, was scheduled to speak about Hartford’s Sister City program with the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, but was unable to attend.

The panelists discussed the symbiotic relationship that the U.S. and China share, covering issues ranging from economics to education. Shedding light upon the economic support that the nations offer each other, Manke described how China has made UTC into a global technology force. “The first Carrier air conditioners were installed in Shanghai factories to control the humidity for silk textile production. After realizing the value in the Chinese market, we became very serious about China,” said Manke. Subsequently, other product line offerings manufactured by UTC received exposure to the Chinese markets. Manke said, “Urbanization has been a huge factor for Otis and United Technology. China has been the largest elevator market, and it is hard to imagine going into the future when that will not be the case.”

Chen said that learning about America’s connections to China has a significance both to Hartford and to Trinity. “UTC created a state-of-the-art jet service center near Shanghai, so Trinity has taken its summer program to visit the facility, and the program has also visited the Carrier air-conditioner factory in Shanghai, as well,” he said. “UTC and Trinity have been working together for the summer programming for about five years; they have also taken students to see the jet engine facility in East Hartford.” Given the roles of jets and air-conditioners in connecting and operating cities, UTC helps make the Hartford region and Shanghai become linked urban labs for learning about cities, small or large, Chen said.

In regards to education, Bennett said that for Chinese students entering the UConn business programs, developing communications skills is consistently important and networking skills are very valuable. “The primary challenge is to get these students comfortable contributing in class, because classroom participation is very different between the two cultures,” Bennett said. He also emphasized UConn’s commitment to placing graduating students from its business programs on paths to success. “We do everything that students need in preparing for their careers, but our first and foremost initiative is connecting ideal candidates with the most well-fitting organizations at the right times,” he said.

Dong Xue provided insights from his work at the Consulate regarding the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and China. “Our diplomatic relationship began in 1979. Our nations have never been so interdependent with each other as they are today,” he said. He continued by describing the ways in which both nations suit each other economically: “The very reason behind the high level development of this relationship is the complementary nature of the two economies. During the past 38 years, the U.S. and China have seized the historical opportunities of economic globalization and given full play of their comparative advantages. China has the world's largest and most diversified manufacturing industries and the world's largest number of high-quality and low-cost labor force. The U.S. has its advantages as the world leader in scientific and technological innovation and has the most developed service industries and low-cost production factors.” In order to convey the relevance of the China Town Hall to Connecticut and New England, he said, “In New England exist some of the largest Fortune 500 technology companies that play a significant role in global manufacturing and innovation, as well as in the strengthening of both the U.S.’s and China’s economies and trade relations.”

Upon the close of the panel discussion, the live webcast with Rice began. Rice and her interviewer went over similar topics in their conversation, and the ambassador was able to provide her firsthand insights on U.S. and China relations. “We view the U.S.-China bilateral relationship as the most complex and consequential relationship in the world. Together as nations we have focused on counterterrorism and disease control,” she said. Rice also spoke about the issue of diplomacy: “What has been remarkable has been the ability for both nations to move beyond typical arguments and progress toward a relationship that can mutually benefit both nations,” she said. “They have their own interests, as we do, but the challenge is to manage the points of friction so that both nations can achieve their opportunities for advancement.”

The evening exposed Trinity students, staff, and faculty to the dynamic and complex relationship between the two nations. Psychology major Elhadji Mare ’18 said, “I knew a little information about the two countries’ relationship, but I never knew how mutually beneficial our economic partnership was with China.”

Jane Bisson ’18, a political science major and urban studies minor, said, “As an urban studies minor I have always appreciated events put on by CUGS and their ability to bring global perspectives to our campus in various forms. Today’s event provided fascinating insight into the country’s diplomatic relationship with China through the various perspectives of the panelists, as well as Susan Rice.”

Chen also reiterated the value of the Trinity in Shanghai study away program for CUGS. Launched in cooperation with Fudan University in 2012, Trinity in Shanghai offers students an opportunity to study at one of China’s top three universities and to learn and live in the premier economic, academic, and social center of China and one of the most dynamic and global megacities in the world. The Trinity-Fudan faculty exchange program, launched in fall 2016, adds another opportunity with academic benefits for both partners. For more information, click here and here or contact CUGS@trincoll.edu.

Written by Kyle M. McGrath ’18