The Texas Tech community got a history lesson like no other after listening to a panel of former foreign ambassadors discuss countries’ relations with China Monday.

The Tech Office of International Affairs partnered with the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD), a non-profit organization aimed at empowering American diplomacy, to host the fifth annual Ambassadors’ Forum at 5 p.m. on March 9 at the International Cultural Center located at 601 Indiana Ave. 

The forum consisted of former U.S. diplomats talking about China’s presence in the world and answering questions from the audience. Ronald Neumann, AAD board president and former deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, was the moderator for the forum, which also was made up of Charles Ray, former U.S. ambassador for the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Republic of Zimbabwe, and Sylvia Gay Stanfield, career member of the U.S. Foreign Service. Catherine Novelli, former Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, was set to join the forum but was unable to attend.

Sukant Misra, Tech vice provost for International Affairs, said the ambassadors’ first-hand experience can help people understand global issues.

“They can help us examine the complexities that surround our concerns from security to trade to the coronavirus,” he said to the audience.

During the forum, the relationship between the U.S. and China was one topic that was touched on multiple times.

The relationship between the two countries is as old as the U.S. itself, Ray, who also was the first U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, said. The economic relationship between the nations is one major issue.

“It’s expected that before 2025, as the Chinese economy continues to grow, it will be running with the U.S. for the number one spot as the world’s largest economy,” he said. “The fact is that without the Chinese-U.S. economic relationship, the U.S. economy will be far less richer than it is today.”

In addition to China’s economy, the presence of the coronavirus was another topic discussed during the forum.

When answering a question regarding the validity of global information, Ray said facts can get lost sometimes when global issues, such as the spread of the coronavirus, occur.

“The information, for example, that has come out of China about the coronavirus, about numbers of infected, etc., we really don’t have a solid way to verify or refute,” he said. “But what we could do is to try to mend the fences, so that we can get in and start picking up the pieces.”

To add onto Ray’s information, Stanfield said the coronavirus can impact China in different ways, thus impacting the country’s relations with the U.S.

“The coronavirus has really had a major impact on the Chinese economy,” she said. 

This impact on the economy is due to a variety of factors, Stanfield said. Because many of China’s workers work overseas and travel to different countries, the coronavirus impacts the nation’s economy, as it limits the country’s trade with other countries.

“You have to have a job, you have to be able to get the supplies to keep the economy going, to continue to maintain jobs for people,” she said.

Regardless, the U.S. still needs to manage its relationship with China, Stanfield said.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Stanfield said regarding the U.S. managing relations with China.

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