UNC and Duke University students came together this weekend to discuss what many consider to be another major rivalry: that between the United States and China.
The Duke-UNC China Leadership Summit brought together 128 delegates — including students from UNC, Duke and various American universities as well as students from China — for three days of presentations, panels and networking.
The conference, held on both schools’ campuses throughout the weekend, started three years ago after two UNC students had the idea to foster U.S.-China relations in partnership with Duke students, said junior Stefanie Schwemlein, director of the conference for UNC.
“There was a real dearth of opportunities for actually pursuing academic study of China and of Asia outside of the curriculum,” Schwemlein said. “So I think they really wanted to fill that void.”
Schwemlein said this year’s theme was sustainability — environmental, political, economic and social. She said the conference’s function is to connect participants’ passions with U.S.-China issues.
“I think it’s really important to catch people early and help them to realize the importance of this international partnership, see it more than just a rivalry, because I think a lot of people misunderstand the U.S.-China relationship,” she said.
Peter Coclanis, director of the UNC Global Research Institute and a conference speaker, said in an interview there are mixed consequences surrounding the countries’ relationship.
“I actually think the rise of China is good for the United States, overall, on balance, but that doesn’t mean that many people will not be hurt by it,” Coclanis said.
He said people who work in markets that China can compete with — such as furniture — will suffer.
“I think the key in America, however, is for those who are benefitting from globalization to realize that not everyone is,” Coclanis said, “and to somehow create a structure so that some of the benefits are re-allocated to those who are hurt badly in terms of either job retraining or extended unemployment or whatever the case may be.”
Yifei Qian, a graduate student at Duke studying environmental management, said the summit was a chance to spend time with students who share an interest in China.
“They are the future elites of China who can make the impact on China’s reform and all that’s bad,” she said. “The insights they can get from this conference may influence their future decisions.”
Despite the collaboration, Schwemlein said, there is some competition surrounding the conference.
“I’m glad that it’s after basketball season,” she said.
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.