Tapping the collective pool of its members’ experience, knowledge and resources, the Committee of 100 is in a unique position to contribute to improved relations between the United States and Greater China. Because of our ties to both the Chinese and American cultures, we share a dedication to fostering understanding of China by the American people and interpreting American policies and opinions to the Chinese. One way we do this is by regularly meeting with American and Chinese government officials to exchange ideas and present Committee positions on such issues as Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China or the 1997 Hong Kong turnover to China.
Committee of 100 delegations to Greater China have included extended private meetings with China’s President Jiang Zemin, Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung-chee Hwa, and Taiwan’s former President Lee Teng-hui. Our first delegation visited China in April 1994, led by I.M. Pei and accompanied by 19 members and spouses. The purpose was to introduce C-100 to China’s top leaders and to present the results of a public opinion survey on American opinions of China. We were able to show how the American public’s view of China, while somewhat negative, was far more positive about China and its culture when compared to the opinions of Congressional members. We made suggestions for improving American views of China, such as increasing cultural exchanges and bettering relations with the American press. Upon return to the U.S., we met with a variety of U.S. security, commerce, and other officials to share what we learned about Chinese government perceptions of the U.S.
While most meetings focus on U.S.-China relations, Chinese leaders have invited visiting Committee members for discussion of other issues. In April 2000, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji invited a visiting delegation of Committee members with high technology expertise to Zhongnanhai for a lengthy discussion about expanding the Internet in China and the use of venture capital.
In 1997, the world’s attention centered on the turnover of Hong Kong to China. The Committee worked with The Asia Society on a major Wirthlin Worldwide survey and outreach program in an effort to temper the highly negative media coverage of the July 1 event. The project began with a survey in March of American and Hong Kong opinion about the transition, which showed stark differences in perceptions between the two peoples. While nearly 60% of Americans who were aware of the Hong Kong turnover believed that Hong Kong people would prefer independence, the Hong Kong survey revealed only 14% preferred independence, and 62% wanted Hong Kong to return to China. The survey results were announced at a National Press Club symposium in April featuring the authors of a C-100/Asia Society-sponsored Asian Update that provided context to Hong Kong’s transition and suggested implications for the future. A national outreach campaign followed to provide this information to the media, Congress and the public. Finally, the Committee organized a delegation to visit Taipei, Hong Kong, and Beijing to witness the transition.
Committee members are in contact with diplomats from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong as well as American officials who handle China issues at the State, Commerce, Defense, and other departments. When Chinese dignitaries visit the U.S., C-100 joins with other organizations to welcome them, as it did in September 2000 when Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited New York. Private meetings with the Committee also take place, such as a May 2000 briefing with Nobel laureate Lee Yuan-tseh, a key advisor to the then newly elected President of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian.
At various turning points in U.S.-China relations, the Committee has prepared position papers on China policy. Before President Clinton’s June 1996 summit with President Jiang Zemin in Beijing, we presented the Administration with guidelines for a constructive China policy from our bi-cultural perspective. “Seeking Common Ground, While Respecting Differences: Essentials of a Winning China Policy,” proposed stressing diplomacy over confrontation, increasing exchanges to enhance mutual understanding, and focusing on areas of common concern rather than on disagreements. The Committee suggested that the overriding principle guiding U.S.-China relations should be based upon greater understanding of and respect for cultural differences.