Mutual Trust Is Key for Collaborating With China

Feb22011

People's Republic of China President, Hu Jintao and the Honorable Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State at a DC luncheon in Hu's honor.

There was considerable buzz in government, business and media circles recently regarding the state visit of His Excellency, Hu Jintao, President, People’s Republic of China to the U.S. I had the privilege of being in Washington, D.C. during the flurry of diplomatic activities as part of Applied Materials’ participation in a signing ceremony on January 18 on the Solar Decathlon Competition in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, China’s National Energy Administration, and Peking University. There were 18 different collaborations formalized during the ceremony, all part of the official state visit from China’s president.

While I was not invited to the Official State Dinner at the White House (an oversight I’m sure), I was fortunate to join colleagues in our government affairs office for a luncheon honoring President Hu. I was among about 75 government and business leaders who were treated to a reception with President Hu, and at least 600 people who dined on halibut and beef tenderloin while listening to remarks from U.S. government leaders and icons followed by President Hu.

President Hu’s message was clear and consistent with all reports I’d read or heard in the media leading up to the luncheon. He carried a strong theme on mutual trust and collaboration in an environment of no zero sum results. He mentioned mutual trust several times in his speech causing me to reflect on one of Applied’s core values – mutual trust and respect. Indeed, it is a critical value for business, diplomacy and life.

The President advocated for strong collaboration on climate change and energy policy while singling out smart grids as an important technology to deploy. He encouraged bilateral relations that were strategic and long-term in design.

I was surprised to hear him promote more youth exchanges between our countries. This struck a personal chord with me for several reasons. First Applied Materials has supported The Future Science Star program —which includes a trip to California for the top Chinese high school inventors — for the past six years. Secondly, as a former international youth exchange chairman for the San Jose Rotary Club and having my daughter live abroad for one year in the Rotary high school exchange program. It’s a critical endeavor if our two countries and cultures are to understand each other better and work side by side, collaboratively with mutual trust.

Of note at the luncheon was the impressive assemblage of U.S. leaders invited by co-hosts US-China Business Council, chaired by Coca-Cola Chairman and CEO Mr. Muhtar Kent and the National Committee on United States-China Relations, chaired by The Honorable Carla A. Hills. And, in a wonderful display of diplomatic leadership we were enthralled as President Hu was introduced by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Kissinger provided insight into the reopening of relations with China in the 1970’s under President Nixon and Kissinger’s secret mission to China to begin the stealth discussions with Chinese leaders about the possibility of re-establishing diplomatic relations. Clearly Kissinger made the history that enabled us to be at lunch in D.C. with Chinese and U.S. leaders on a cold January day in 2011.

I left the luncheon confident that the future holds much opportunity for our two countries and that the ability to work collaboratively with mutual trust is considerably less complex today than 40 years ago, but by no means a simple undertaking.