LISD Co-Sponsors Princeton’s Inaugural US-China Global Governance Forum

The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at Princeton University co-sponsored the inaugural US-China Global Governance Forum, April 5-9, 2017, on the Princeton University campus. Organized by the student-led Princeton US-China Coalition, the forum presented an platform for students from the US and China to interact with reputed faculty and government leaders, formulate joint solutions in response to modern-day policy challenges, speak candidly with each other about political and ethical topics, and develop personal relationships to foster longer-term exchange.

The forum drew together 28 exceptional student delegates, identified for their high potential to lead and transform US-China relations, from universities across the US and China, including the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Vanderbilt, University of Virginia, Tsinghua, Fudan, Renmin, Sun Yat-Sen, and Shanghai International Studies University. The forum was open to both the conference delegates and to Princeton students, faculty and the broader Princeton community.

Across the span of four and a half days, the US and Chinese delegates attended lectures given by well-known Princeton faculty in international relations, law and human rights, and journalism including professors Robert Keohane, Tom Christensen, Martin Flaherty, and New York Times Beijing Bureau Chief Edward Wong, who spoke, respectively, about climate change, East Pacific security, human rights concerns in China, and foreign media and journalism in China.

Keynote speaker, former US Ambassador to China, Max Baucus (2014-2017), deliver the closing address, "China: Opportunities and Obstacles," discussing hopes and challenges he faced during his tenure engaging with Chinese Communist Party leadership. In addition to speaking on topics such as the need for US-China cooperation on North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, Ambassador Baucus highlighted the common humanity of US and Chinese peoples, emphasizing, “Chinese people and American people are basically alike … We all want decent income, food on the table, decent healthcare, clean air and water.” 

In addition to attending lectures, US and Chinese delegates and select Princeton students participated in "comparative seminars." In these small, organic discussions, delegates exchanged their contrasting perspectives on different topics, including, Power Shifts in the International System; Education and Youth Empowerment; The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine; Comparative Frameworks for Human Rights; and Criminal Defense and the Legal System.

Undergraduate LISD Associate and Program on Religion, Diplomacy and International Relations (PORDIR) assistant, Jacqueline Gufford, led the discussion on the responsibility to protect, wherein delegates debated notions of sovereignty, the idea of “universal” norms, and the conditions under which foreign intervention could be morally permissible or necessary, with a special focus on Syria. Constitutional law scholar, Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, led a comparative discussion on the conceptual foundations for human rights. Moving beyond discussions on policy, the seminars offered Chinese delegates the chance to candidly share their opinions on underlying values and normative beliefs, as well as listen to American normative perspectives.

The forum's capstone was the concluding Policy Proposal Presentation. Starting from the beginning of the forum, US and Chinese delegates gathered into five "bilateral" teams of 5-6 delegates. Across the four days of the forum, each team formulated joint US-China policy proposals in response to a contemporary global issue, drafting both a policy memo and a presentation. The teams focused on the following topics: climate change, women's rights, cybersecurity, Northeast Asian security, and the international politics of Taiwan. On April 9, each team presented its proposal to Ambassador Baucus and other panelists. Each proposal was followed by a series of questions and feedback, and delegates could further discuss their proposals at a private luncheon with Ambassador Baucus at Princeton’s Prospect House afterwards.

As noted by student oganizers of the event, "The inaugural US-China Global Governance Forum represented a 'microcosm' of the grassroots bilateral exchange that can re-shape US-China relations in the coming decades."