Dr Ed Feulner is the Founder of The Heritage Foundation, the Washington-based think tank where he was also Present from 1977 to 2013.
In this interview with James Chau, he says it is in the best interests of the U.S. and China to understand their mutual interests, but also encourages them to break from their traditional narrative by talking "concretely" and creating solutions.
This interview was recorded at the US-China Trade and Economic Relations Forum in Hong Kong on 9-10 July, 2019.
James Chau: Ed Feulner, strong words, but honest words as well. What do you tell China at this stage?
Ed Feulner: I tell them that it's in both countries' interests, in the interest of the people in both countries, to come together to figure out what specific issues still are there. Don't rehash the same old arguments from 10 or 15 years ago. Let's deal with where we are now. Let's both sides realize that we have to work together because for the next 50 years, these are going to be the two controlling economies in the whole world and we have to get along together.
JC: Is there a way to break that cycle of that rehash narrative? How do you reach out beyond yourself?
EF: That's the big challenge of course. And that's why this particular conference is so important because you have real candor coming from both sides. That's the interesting thing to me– our Chinese counterparts are speaking very frankly, Americans are giving fairly tough indicators of where some of our particular concerns are, and if we can at least define the problem, then we're part of the way toward getting it settled. And I'm a congenital optimist. I believe it can be settled, but let's figure out what the full dimension of the problem is first and agree on those problems. Then say, "Okay, let's deal with them."
JC: You use the word 'tough.' That makes me think of course of that phrase, 'tough love." Is there love still in this relationship?
EF: Oh, I think there should be. Jeremy from the US Chamber of Commerce just pointed out, though, that for the last several years there's been distrust from the American side in terms of what's going on with the US-Chinese relationship. Yes, we all depend on Chinese imports in our own individual homes and all the rest. But the way it's been portrayed by both political parties, by leaders in both the Senate as well as in this administration and the last administration, it's not a pretty picture that's being painted about the US-China relationship. So again, let's get back together, talk concretely and solve some of it so we can move ahead.
JC: Last question here, President Trump, whom of course you proudly support as an American says we're back on track in terms of the US-China trade relationship. Is it back on track?
EF: I think it's back on track for further discussions, but, as he has said, and as I quoted this morning, a bad deal is worse than no deal. So he's not going to settle for a bad deal. And that's why we've got to make sure that when we get together, we talk about specifics and we figure out what those are and how we can actually deal with them concretely.
JC: Ed Feulner, thank you very much.
EF: Thank you.