To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most influential Chinese scholars to discuss this important inflection point in U.S.-China relations. For the fifth and final episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Professor Yao Yang, one of China's top economists and Dean of the National School of Development at Peking University.

Yao said U.S. engagement with China played an important role in facilitating China’s reform and opening up going back to President Nixon’s visit in 1972. Washington believed engagement with China would lead it to become politically and economically like the U.S, but American policymaker’s have lost faith in the effectiveness of this approach. Yao argued that reversing U.S. policy and attempting to decouple the relationship would lead to an economic cold war that would be detrimental to global growth and stability.  Washington was willing to tolerate Chinese mercantilist policies when China was a distant competitor, Yao said, and the U.S.-China trade war is a result of American concerns over the rapid pace of Chinese development and lack of economic reform. To begin to address U.S. concerns, Beijing should get rid of restrictive market access policies, particularly in the services sector, and resolve issues surrounding intellectual property. Resolving disagreements over the role of State Owned Enterprises and the government in the economy will require a longer timeline, Yao said. Even in China there are debates over the best policies for these issues going forward. To ensure the longevity of any bilateral trade agreement, Yao proposed each side agree to allow a third party verify the actual implementation of the agreement. Even if the trade war is resolved, however, Yao said he expects Washington to continue to pursue a policy aimed at restricting Chinese access to U.S. technology.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.

Yao Yang

Yao Yang is the dean of the National School of Development at Peking University.