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CHINA Town Hall Sparks Lively Local Discussion

China Town Hall Flyer 2020Click the link to watch the town hall recording.

On Tuesday, November 10, the National Committee on U.S China Relations held its 14th consecutive CHINA Town Hall. The committee president Stephen Orlins hosted an insightful conversation with featured guest speaker Ray Dalio, renowned investor, philanthropist, and New York Times best-selling author.

“Today’s program comes at a critical time in the U.S., China relations with the election of the new President. Both countries have the ability to improve the relationship for the benefit of both people’s, Sino-American relations have a profound impact on communities across our country,” said Orlins.

This webinar sparked an informative and lively discussion in the local CHINA Town Hall conversation hosted by UT’s Office of Asia Engagement, Asian Studies Program, the Department of History, and TN-China Network, a non-profit organization supporting economic and workforce development in Tennessee.

The local town hall attracted almost 100 attendees and featured a four-panel discussion from David Parsley, Larry Combs, John McDevitt, and Peter Zysk to discuss the implications of US-China relations. Shellen Wu, Director of Asian Studies Program, moderated the local panel.

David Parsley, E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Economics and Finance at Vanderbilt University, specializes in the exchange rate in globalization and the Federal Reserve. Parsley shared his insight about the current relationship status.

“The U.S., China relationship is moving beyond an economic relationship, so despite efforts to stimulate economic ties. It is more and more focused on political differences,” said Parsley.

The panel also discussed the supply chain industry and how Tennessee is affected economically. Larry Combs, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the Jack Daniel’s Global Supply Chain, explained the impact of Chinese tariffs.

“Over the last 10 years, I have been working on our business in China and, in particular, our production footprint. Chinese tariffs impact the state of Tennessee because our whiskey is the ninth-largest export for the state. We account for 60% of the total tariff on American whiskeys, so it’s a dramatic impact on our business,” said Combs.

The Senior Director of Supply Chain Management at Radio Systems Corp, John McDevitt, echoed Combs’ comments and added the need to diversify the supply chain.

“In the last 10 years we found ourselves in a fortunate situation of lots of demand and we were already diversifying our supply chain moving out of China. We have been moving products to Vietnam and now we’re seeing a lot of Chinese companies have dual manufacturing operations in Vietnam and China,” said McDevitt.

Peter Zysk, Director and Head of Insight, Asia at the business advisory firm Brunswick Group shared his team’s opinion polls conducted in June 2019 and June 2020, both in the U.S. and China.

The data showed a significant decrease in favorable views towards each other in both countries. A great strain has come from Covid-19 and each country’s response to the pandemic.

“It’s really three factors that are impacting the relations, number one is described as the sort of the irresponsible actions of the government and President. Number two is the blame game being played over the pandemic. Number three is the poor response to the pandemic in the U.S. I think this paints a broader long-term reputational challenge for the U.S. in China.” Said Zysk.

The audience stayed engaged throughout the panel discussion. Questions rolled in expressing concerns over the current relationship and how it might impact the future of both countries in trade, economy, and higher education.

This year’s China Town Hall Event has been expanded to a multi-night series focusing on a variety of topics, from Society and Culture to Health and Climate, and a session on U.S. China relations in mandarin on November 16. The audience is encouraged to register online to participate.