I would like to express, first of all, my appreciation to Mayor Huang for the invitation to be here today and for his leadership in making Tianjin a preferred destination for foreign capital. The extraordinary growth of Tianjin is a testament to a great vision and superb execution.
I am not a politician. I do not have the experience of the gentlemen before me today in either domestic or international affairs. But I have always found myself on the periphery of politics, observing it closely, and there have been times when that made me feel like a nuisance. Today is not one of those times.
I have always thought of politics as the art of the possible. I come, after all, from a place that produces dreams and imagination for the whole world, Hollywood. My state, California is known for entrepreneurial risk taking, for producing brilliant innovators who gambled everything on a new idea or product. Many of them have succeeded.
That same bravado was very much on display during the high points of the US-China relationship. It took real courage for President Roosevelt to send in the American Volunteer Group to join the Chinese air force in 1941. It was a big risk for President Nixon to meet with Chairman Mao in 1972 without the battery of advisors and preconditions that would be almost mandatory now.
Today, we seem to have lost that willingness to risk greatly in order to succeed greatly. We need to reclaim it.
I grew up a Cold War child. We were told about a concept called MAD, or mutually assured destruction, which meant that the US and USSR would not initiate a war that was guaranteed to destroy both countries. To this child, it sounded very much like if adults always act like adults we will be O.K.
It wasn’t very reassuring.
Today, we are told the interdependency of their economies gives rise to a similar concept between China and the U.S. – MAED ( Mutually Assured Economic Destruction). We should all be grateful for this insurance policy, but we should seek to build on it in more positive ways.
We are at a critical point in the U.S. – China economic relationship. There are strong forces in both of our countries pushing for less integration of our economies, eliminating the insurance policy that has distinguished the U.S. China relationship from other historical power conflicts. Many are calling for a retrenchment, a retreat from deeper engagement in the face of lingering disagreements.
We need to come up with a deeper and more permanent integration, a new framework that better aligns China’s need to invest its massive reserves- $3.3 trillion and rising – with America’s need for infrastructure renewal.
Neither country will achieve its goal – China in protecting its established wealth or the U.S. in reinvigorating its infrastructure with Chinese capital – unless both adopt a game changing approach. The U.S. needs to create a rational non-controlling architecture for foreign investment in its infrastructure, as large parts of the rest of the world have done successfully, to placate domestic political factions concerned with foreign control over critical US institutions.
And China must do its part too – by changing the political calculation of local US political leaders so that it becomes safer to promote China. Perhaps counter-intuitively, that requires China to become bolder about its commitment to America.
The desire on the part of both countries to improve the environment has created an additional opportunity for cooperation. There are hundreds of clean tech companies today in the US that have been privately funded with the expectation of state support. That support has waned significantly in recent years, leaving these very promising companies in a difficult position. At the same time, Chinese state support for clean tech companies has if anything increased.
I want to end then with a modest proposal. That Tianjin, in addition to becoming the aerospace center for China, open its doors widely to the many emerging US clean tech companies that may be better able to thrive in a more patient environment. In so doing, Tianjin could not only become the clean tech center for China , but provide an enormous benefit that will be recognized the world over.
In these scenarios, the rise of China would not hamper the incumbent power, the U. S., but would prop it up and help revitalize it. Then, for the first time in history, two powers could develop together, and the development of China could help the redevelopment of America.
I think the answers are staring us in the face. They are right here in Tianjin. Maybe Hollywood can help remind us of the true friendship that I know exists between our two countries. What we are doing here today in Tianjin makes me confident it can.