Former VP of ABC Television: US and China have to get along or there will be no more world

This is a tremendous accomplishment in such a short time and will have lifted everybody out of poverty by the end of next year, by the end of 2020.

Editor’s Note: Harvey Dzodin is a CCG senior fellow and former Vice President of ABC Television in New York. In this exclusive interview with China Focus, Mr Dzodin gave his views on China’s development, the Belt and Road Initiative, Western media’s biased reports on China and the future of the Sino-American relations. Also gave his views on China’s development, the Belt and Road Initiative, Western media’s biased reports on China and the future of the Sino-American relations.

China Focus: How do you see China’s development in the past 70 years? And in your opinion, what pushed China to develop so fast? 

Harvey Dzodin: The word I would use is “astronomical”. You know maybe it refers to the stars and the sky in astronomy and how big our universe is. But the way that China has grown since the reform and opening-up period is astronomical because the changes have been so profound. I mean, China lifted, people disagree on the number, but China basically lifted 850 million people out of poverty.

This is a tremendous accomplishment in such a short time and will have lifted everybody out of poverty by the end of next year, by the end of 2020. Well, a couple different factors. Certainly you have to say that the CPC – the Communist Party – and its leadership has taken the country solidly in a direction forward, towards progress and growth. Also you have to say the people have been part of that effort.

When it comes to governing countries or people, one size doesn’t fit all. Every country has its own traditions and history, and its own way of doing things. So I’d say that each country has to choose the system that works best for them.

China Focus: Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013. More and more countries have participated in the BRI. what do you think about BRI’s role in promoting the common development of the world? 

Harvey Dzodin: I think that the Belt and Road Initiative is a brilliant stroke because it’s bringing the world together. It is making more supply chains. It’s making more two-way trade between countries. It’s speeding up development.

I do believe that because it’s relatively new it still has some rough edges. The rough edges basically to me are that sometimes countries spend more money than they’re able to afford. Some people call that the “debt trap”, but I don’t think that should be called the “debt trap”. I think it’s a lack of attention by the recipient countries to know what they need and what they can afford.

China Focus: Some Western governments and media always take a biased attitude to the BRI. What’s your opinion of this? 

Harvey Dzodin: Well, if you talk about BRI specifically, I believe countries like the United States are jealous that China has put in this program. Like many years after World War II. We had similar programs like the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe, which was devastated by World War II, but now China’s taking the initiative. It’s the 21st century initiative to open-up markets around the world and to make a two-way flow of trade. And I think they’re jealous.

China Focus: It is rare to hear rational voices on China from Western mainstream media today. What is the main reason leading to this? 

Harvey Dzodin: Yeah, sure. It is clear that American media and some other media from Western countries hold a double standard when reporting news about China.

I think because China is the heated country now there’s a lot of jealousy. And I think it’s really an unfortunate development. You have to look at the American media not as a monolith, but as a continuum from right to left. There’s very irresponsible media in America like Fox News or Drudge report.

Then there are more the legacy media like New York Times or ABC, CBS, NBS, CNN, that I believe are less unbalanced or more balanced. But I know from my time some years ago at ABC that ABC would try to reduce the bias as much as possible and get other points of view. But now the news business has changed.

You want to get more and more eyeballs more and more viewers more and more readers and so sometimes you have to be sensational and sometimes being sensational means you have to use stereotypes and do a story at the expense of somebody or some country even though it’s not true.

China Focus: So faced with the harsh criticism from western media, what should China do to cope with it? 

Harvey Dzodin: China needs to tell its story better. China’s soft power is very bad. China has such a good story to tell. China’s story of how it’s grown and progressed over the last 40 or 70 years is almost unprecedented in world history as we know it. So I think it does have to do with what President Xi Jinping said and let’s tell a better story.

I think it would really work is to find a way for more people-to-people exchanges because we have more in common than separate. And we need to have a better understanding.

China Focus: The Sino-American relationship has been going down since last year. Particularly, the trade tensions between the two countries have drawn world attention. What is the main reason for the worsening relations? In future, how can the bilateral relationship become stable and healthy?

Harvey Dzodin: For China and the United States, we have to talk about something called the Thucydides trap. It is a theory that a Harvard historian (Graham Allison) put forward. A rising nation will always threaten an established nation and usually go to war in most cases.

So now we have China, the rising nation. We have America, the established leader nation and it is being challenged. And I think that’s why there is the bias. It’s a jealousy. Nobody likes to slip from number one to number two or number three.

And I think it’s unfortunate because if we could work together on these kinds of issues, for example, if US was willing to buy technology from China, let’s say high speed railway technology, it would make our 19th century rail system into a 21st century one. But we’re afraid of China. We think China is putting cameras in the subway cars, looking at some report that some guy officer going to the Pentagon…this is ridiculous.

And imagine if China could take advantage of our superior experience in terms of providing services and a lot of them working together on the technology, it would be really great for the world.

It’s not always going to be easier bilateral relations because as we talked about Thucydides trap, two leading countries often have major conflicts, but still I think with a more rational person we could have more rational discussions.

One very good thing that China and US did in the Bush administration and in the Obama administration was they had these strategic dialogues on issues like defense, economics and so on. It didn’t mean that we agreed on issues, but it meant that we could talk to them, person to person, in a civilized way. We don’t have that as much now. Some of President Trump’s negotiators and Chinese negotiators going back and forth on the trade war, but Trump is frequently undercutting them and making the progress that might have been made.

But there’s no question that China’s been hurt a lot by President Trump’s trade where let’s face it. China didn’t start this. President Trump with his weird view of economics on international trade started this and American economy though is hurting as well.

It’s a phony war in my opinion. Virtually every economist says it’s a phony war. Look at how iPhones are calculated for purposes of the trade war in the trade figures. An iPhone has very few Chinese components, but it’s counted fully as a Chinese import. So instead of a few dollars, it’s counted as a few hundred dollars. And that goes to what president Trump cites as a deficit with China.

I expect China-US relations to bump along with some forward movement, but many bumps in the road. I would hope that even though the relationship might be difficult, that it would be done on a more intellectual basis and on a basis of mutual respect and understanding.

We’re the two most powerful countries in the world. We have to get along or there will be no more world. I always like to quote what Albert Einstein said. Somebody once asked the Dr. Einstein what weapons are going to be used in world war three? And he thought he said, I don’t know, but I can tell you that in world war four, the weapons will be sticks and stones.

And frankly, I think Dr. Einstein was overly optimistic. So the bottom line is if we want to continue our bilateral relations, if we want to continue this world as we know it with all the challenges that we face, we have to find ways to work together on most of these issues, because otherwise we’re not going to be here to work on them.


Editors: Bai Shi, Dong Lingyi