FACES conference unites Chinese, U.S. delegates

April 5, 2011, 2:02 a.m.

Delegates from China and the U.S. will meet next week to attend a five-day conference sponsored by Forum for American/Chinese Exchange at Stanford (FACES) to discuss issues in U.S. and China relations. Many events during the week, which runs from Apr. 8 through Apr. 15, feature experts on U.S.-China relations from across the country, from fellows of the Freeman Spogli Institute to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

Twenty Chinese delegates are chosen from FACES chapters in Peking, Fudan, Remin and Zhejiang University, while another twenty come from all over the United States, according to FACES president Daniel Braswell ’11. These applicants were chosen from about 500 applicants in fields ranging from engineering to international relations. Although not all of the students have extensive knowledge in U.S.-China relations, Braswell said that the conference is intended to expose more future leaders to this topic.

“We’re looking for people whose interests are more tangential, and they’ll take from this a greater appreciation of this relationship to whatever it is they choose to do,” Braswell said. “We look for a passion in issues — we have people who are engineers, Fulbright scholars, Marshall scholars, and so we look for people who have a dedication to their passion and who we think will be leaders in their field.”

FACES conference unites Chinese, U.S. delegates
(ERIC KOFMAN/The Stanford Daily)

During the conference, delegates will participate in seminars, panels, social events and diplomacy simulations, according to Autumn Carter ’11, vice president of programming. This year’s events will focus on entrepreneurship between the U.S. and China, international security issues over U.S. and Chinese strategic interests in Iran, food security and models of democracy in the Chinese world and featured speakers include Iranian studies professor Abbas Milani and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jack Jia.

This upcoming conference will be the first of two — in October, the same group of 40 delegates will reconvene at one of FACES’s Chinese chapters for another round of discussion and debate, Carter said.

FACES was founded in 2001 after an incident in which a U.S. surveillance plane crashed into a Chinese plane and the U.S. crew was detained on China’s Hainan island, heightening tensions between the two countries. Following talk of a possible outbreak of war, several Stanford students founded the group in an effort to establish better ties between the two countries.

“These two countries will have the most important relationship in the coming years, so we’d like that relationship to be based on communication and dialogue, rather than suspicion and mistrust,” Carter said. “If we can get dialogue going at this level, then that relationship down the road is going to look a lot more positive than it has in the past.”

While the topic of democracy in China is particularly sensitive — several Chinese pro-democracy activists have been censored and arrested — Carter and Braswell feel that such the conference can still cover these themes, at least for their conference on Stanford campus.

“There’s a question of whether the Chinese delegates would be comfortable, but in our experience, we’ve discussed these issues before and we’ve found that Chinese delegates are more than willing to express their opinions on how they feel about this issue,” Braswell said.

“The reason why this organization exists is for us to engage in critical, thoughtful, engaging dialogue, dialogue that is going to push people’s assumption from both countries,” Carter added.

“As much as it is that there will be disagreements, you might find more convergence than you would expect,” Braswell said.

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