2021: “History and Experience of the Chinese Communist Party’s Engagement with the United States”: A Lecture by Professor Zhang Baijia

April 9, 2021 “Lecture 10: Zhang Baijia Analyzes the History and Experience of the Chinese Communist Party’s Engagement with the United States” at the Institute for Country and Regional Studies (ICRS) of Beijing Language and Culture University.

Professor Zhang Baijia, diplomatic historian and deputy director of the Chinese Communist Party’s institute for the study of Party history, led off a series of lectures on China and the world aimed at the future Chinese diplomats coming out of the Beijing Language and Culture University. While many graduates become interpreters, in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, interpretation is not a technical career track distinct from diplomacy. Many Chinese diplomats start off as diplomatic interpreters for several years and then move up the regular career ranks of the PRC Foreign Ministry. Two decades later some have risen to near the top of the PRC Foreign Ministry.

Interpreters on the Diplomatic Career Track in the PRC Foreign Ministry

The United States invests considerably in training its own diplomats for one or two years in a foreign language, both in Arlington, Virginia a the Foreign Service Institute and at several overseas locations. Still, integrating the interpreter ‘specialty’ into the diplomatic career track has its advantages. Many of the better linguists at the US State Department came in with good language skills. I have met diplomats from European countries who are astonished and envious at the investment the US makes in training its diplomats. True, but we can always do better.

Then there are the preferences of individual diplomats, not everyone would like to spend many years in the country of that hard language. A China assignment is difficult for many of us. Myself, I met many friendly and admirable people, lived in a country with some of the best Chinese restaurants in the world, and always found more to learn about its endlessly complicated and intriguing history, culture and politics.

This is especially true with countries that have so-called ‘super-hard” languages, super-hard because they grammar and vocabulary are especially different from English which is the native language of most US diplomats. In my own career at State, mostly working on Chinese affairs (15 out of 25 years in Washington, Taiwan and Mainland China), I found that my language skills — being able to talk or read about almost anything — was a great help. I learned a lot talking to a wide range of people, bouncing ideas off knowledgeable people, reading between the lines in the Chinese press and academic articles (much gets communicated in subtle ways, details that are significant when put together by someone familiar with a subject that would escape editorial or post-publication criticism). Several times I was able to write what were essentially book reviews/analyses that got a big reaction.

This is a sign of under-investment in language training more than anything else. To be fair, this is something that takes generations. When I worked in the U.S. State Department’s Office of Russian Affairs (2002 – 2004) I was impressed with the depth and breadth of U.S. expertise on Russia — important articles were translated and analyzed and contextualized much faster and much more thoroughly than was the case for China. It takes time. Then again, my regular diplomatic work as part of the U.S. Mission China team gave me the knowledge and judgement that made it possible for me to identify just which books or articles which I might share that would further our work. For example, going to meetings with and spending time with colleagues working on commercial and agricultural issues, gave me insights I never would have had if I took a narrower view of my work in the environmental and science section of the U.S. Embassy during my time there 2007 – 2012.

Just a few months after I got to Beijing in 1996, my Science Counselor, complained to a Chinese counterpart that he hadn’t been allowed to attend a science policy conference. As a sort of consolation prize, the counterpart gave him a book that was published about the conference. The translation of the title from Chinese would be “Science and Education for a Prosperous China”. [We put slightly sanitized versions on the U.S. Embassy Beijing website at the time. Now they live on the Internet Archive — see the subheading Science and Education on the 2012 archival copy of the Embassy website.] I found the book described problems of Chinese science and the need for a radical change so that ideas and innovations could flow more freely among universities, government and industry. I wrote a series of reporting cables back to Washington that made a bit of a sensation. All from a book. In my reporting I often blended in relevant details from books and articles to contextualize what I was learned talking with Chinese experts. My supervisor that they were too long — concise and to the point is important in diplomatic reports read by some of the busiest people in the US government — but relented after getting lots of comments back from across the US government including the transriverine comrades.

Online Lectures from China: Listening to Chinese Talking Amongst Themselves

The coronavirus and improving internet infrastructure in China, as in the United States, has expanded the availability of online lectures. Lately I have enjoyed YouTube lectures by Chinese scholars:

Recently I came across on YouTube another Zhang Baijia talk, this time on the “History and Experience of the Chinese Communist Party’s Engagement with the United States”.

Zhang Baijia: “History and Experience of Chinese Communists in Relations with the USA”. Two hour video. Some fun anecdotes. Here’s one. After Nixon’s visit Zhou Enlai: ‘Who do we send to USA? Let’s see who can name all 50 states?” Zhou sent the winner to the USA where he worked for many years!

Today I found on the weixin blog of the Institute for Country and Regional Studies (ICRS) of Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) a summary of that Zhang Baijia’s along with previous videos in the series. Those of you listening to the talks in Chinese can use the star button at the right to slow down the pace of the videos if they are a bit fast.

Begin translation of the summary of Zhang Baijia’s talk

The Institute for Country and Regional Studies (ICRS) of Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) was established in January 2017, and has been entrusted by the Department of International Cooperation and Exchange of the Ministry of Education with the functions of the Secretariat for Country and Regional Studies in Universities. The Institute is responsible for promoting country and regional studies in universities across China, bringing together the strengths of all parties in China, promoting academic exchanges and cooperation, and providing a platform for scientific research, talent training, government services and international exchange in country and regional studies. The Bulletin of Country and Regional Studies, edited by the Institute, provides readers with monthly international news and views, and invites renowned experts and scholars from home and abroad to write current commentaries on current hot issues.

The content of the articles represents the personal views of the authors.

The History and Experience of the Chinese Communist Party’s Engagement with the United States”

On April 9, 2021, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, the tenth session of the first season of the “Across the World” lecture series hosted by the Institute of Country and Regional Studies of Beijing Language and Culture University was held simultaneously on the Tencent Conference platform and offline. Professor Zhang Baijia, member of the Academic Committee of the Center for Strategic and Security Studies of Tsinghua University and former Deputy Director of the Party History Research Office of the CPC Central Committee and researcher, delivered a timely and hi lecture on the theme of “The History and Experience of the Chinese Communist Party’s Engagement with the United States”, which attracted more than 300 online listeners from all over China.

(Lecture was held simultaneously online and offline)

The lecture was hosted by Huang Jing, Academic Dean of the Institute of Country and Regional Studies at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU), who extended a warm welcome to Mr. Zhang. During the lecture, Mr. Zhang reviewed and analyzed the history of Sino-US relations before and after the establishment of New China and after the reform and opening up, arguing that Sino-US relations before 1949 were never bilateral in a general sense. Diplomacy in the revolutionary era was different in nature from diplomacy in the ordinary sense. From the perspective of the Chinese revolution, the essence of the diplomatic struggle was to achieve national liberation and national independence, and the essence of the CCP’s diplomatic struggle against the United States was to oppose American oppression, but the actual situation was complex and varied. During the Anti-Japanese War, the CCP pursued the anti-Japanese united front policy and sought the cooperation of the United States. After the war, the main aspect of the CCP’s strategy was to prevent and reduce U.S. interference in the Chinese revolution.

Slide from Zhang Baijia’s talk: Zhou Enlai’s basic requirements for foreign affairs cadres and key diplomatic skills

Caption translation Zhou Enlai’s basic requirements and skills for foreign affairs cadres

Basic requirements:

  1. Stands firmly for our position, masters policy, know job well, strict discipline.
  2. Behaves in accordance with our position, acts according to his professional capacity, speaks carefully and follows common rules of courtesy.

Key diplomatic skills:

  1. Builds a united from of allies, distinguishes clearly friends from enemies, united with majority, sows divisions among and and isolates the minority.
  2. Reasonable, bears interests in mind, is restrained, and seeks points of agreements despite disagreements on other points.
  3. Preparedness ensures success, and unpreparedness spells failure.
  4. Good at knowing which way the wind is blowing, knows when the time is ripe.
  5. A good listener and able to understand the other’s point of view
  6. Combines hard information (facts) with soft information (understanding the way things work) ]

After the founding of New China, China’s most basic diplomatic goals were to achieve independence, maintain peace, and establish a new type of diplomatic relations with all countries. China’s struggle and détente with the United States revolved around this goal. After 22 years of struggle, the door was finally opened to normalize relations between China and the United States, and after 30 long years, the two countries finally established normal diplomatic relations.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States provided a favorable external environment for China to carry out its policies of reform and opening up and socialist modernization. Over more than four decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States, the two countries have experienced many twists and turns, but on the whole, the relationship has continued to develop. On the whole, this is the best and closest period of Sino-U.S. relations in history. The most fundamental lesson is that relations between countries, especially between major powers, are extremely complex, and both sides have common interests as well as contradictions, and how to expand common interests and properly handle contradictions is the key to promote the continuous development of relations.

Finally, Mr. Zhang concluded that the relationship between China and the United States must be handled with a deep understanding that the two countries have different national conditions, but they cannot help but compete. The competition between China and the United States is a reality that both sides will have to face sooner or later because, first of all, China has become the most important variable in contemporary international relations and the pattern of Sino-foreign interaction has changed; China will go through a phase of tightening external environment, which is an inevitable phase for China to move from an emerging power to a mature power. China will have to learn about the world around it; China must remain modest and cautious, be good at learning, and most of all avoid of becoming a conceited great power.

Second, U.S.-China relations will go through a relatively long and difficult phase, but it is possible that both sides will be competitors rather than adversaries. This is because the demands of both sides in the U.S.-China game are not on the same level, maintaining hegemony and maintaining the right to development; both sides have some room for maneuver, and it is possible to avoid a zero-sum game like the U.S.-Soviet Cold War; but the situation is serious, and a certain degree of “decoupling” is inevitable. There will be a longer cycle of policy adjustment on both sides. Finally, Sino-US relations call for rationality and wisdom. The future world will be multi-polar and diversified, and it will be difficult to reproduce the existing model of one superpower. It will take patience, wisdom and courage to shape the U.S.-China relationship to suit the needs of the times.

Professor Huang Jing comments:

After the lecture, Professor Huang Jing, Director of the Institute of Country and Regional Studies at Beijing Language and Culture University, praised the lecture as a very “enjoyable” one. He first thanked Mr. Zhang Baijia for his lecture and commented on it. He pointed out that diplomacy is a complex and systematic issue for China-US relations, which should be viewed not only from the perspective of the interaction between China and the US, but also from the perspective of the whole world. Second, Chinese diplomacy needs to have strategic goals, and the formulation of such strategic goals relies on judgments about the world as a whole and not merely on its own desires. China’s position must be based on an objective judgment of the world as a whole, the accuracy of this judgment will determines the success of its entire diplomatic effort. The third priority is the management of strategic goals, because the world situation is constantly changing, and it is very important to be able to manage the country’s strategic goals and adjust them in a timely manner. In addition, the quality of diplomatic staff is also a very important factor.

Finally, Professor Huang Jing said that one of the key reasons for the long-term continuation of the current Sino-US competition is that China and the US have completely different national conditions, and China wants to maintain its fundamental power to achieve national rejuvenation, while this process will impact on the US hegemony, and the ultimate strategic goal of the US is to maintain its own hegemonic position. There is indeed an inevitable conflict between the two countries.

Professor Zhang Baijia answered audience questions

In the Q&A session, students and teachers, both online and offline, actively spoke up and asked a series of questions on hot topics in Sino-US relations, such as the South China Sea and Taiwan, which were worth exploring in depth. Mr. Zhang Baijia provided detailed and in-depth answers for the audience. The lecture ended with a round of applause from the audience, both online and offline.

[Here a photograph of questions asked of Professor Zhang Baijia are listed but not the response from Professor Zhang. Perhaps this helps protects the students: ideologically qualified robots (perhaps by analogy the 50 milliwatt party (?)) searching the web for ideological error have a much harder time detecting photographed errors compared with textual ones.]

Translation below:

1) Professor Zhang, how do you see the strategic competition between China and the USA in the South China Sea?

2) What lessons does contact with the USA during the War of Resistance Against Japan have us in handling US – China relations today?

3) Could you tell us which issues to which we should pay special attention in our study of diplomatic history?

4) Could you explain to us briefly the changes in the foreign affairs decision-making structure in the USA since 1949? In addition, could you give us your view on the relative merits of the 1980s PRC foreign affairs decision-making system then led by a Vice Premier-Foreign Minister with the current PRC foreign policy decision-making structure?

5) Tensions in the Taiwan Strait have been rising. Do you think that a war will break out again in the Taiwan Strait and what would the USA do?

6) What do you think about wolf warrior diplomacy?

1) What do you think about the constant pressure that the US is applying on China in the South China Sea region? How should we carry out crisis management?

2) Do you think that the way the US is always playing the Taiwan card will finally break through the PRC’s redline? Will the US and China go to war eventually over this?

3) Is our Chinese foreign policy paying attention to the ties between various kinds of NGOs and color revolutions?

4) In the back and forth in Sino-US relations, sometimes signals are successfully transmitted that reveal intentions to improve relations yet sometimes there are signals that are not successfully transmitted (for example Edgar Snow didn’t pass on the message). What do you think are the conditions required from the successful transmission of a foreign policy signal?

5) How do you interpret the Xinjiang Cotton incident?

6) What lessons do the Thucydides Trap have for Sino-US relations?

7) The KMT, although defeated and forced to retreat across the Taiwan Strait, was still fairly strong. For example, the KMT defeated the Mainland in the Battle of Jinmen. If the USA had not interfered would the PLA have liberated Taiwan?

Here is the video replay of the online lecture

Previously in the Lecture Series “Across the World”

The world today is undergoing a great change unprecedented in a century. Peace and development remain the theme of the times, while the international environment is becoming increasingly complex and unstable and uncertain. Against this backdrop, how do we view China’s relationship with the world? How can China adjust its foreign policy at the right time? What role will China play in the international community? The first season of the “Across the World” lecture series hosted by the Institute of Country and Regional Studies of Beijing Language and Culture University has come to a successful conclusion. Stay tuned for the second season of lectures coming soon.

[Note: below is a summary and a link to the video of each lectures in the “Across the World” series]


Poster for the lecture series “Across the World”

Beijing Language and Culture University

Academy of International and Regional Studies

Academy of International and

Regional Studies

Add:No.15, College Road, Haidian District, Beijing


纵横世界”系列讲座 | 第十场:章百家分析中共对美交往的历史与经验

北语国别院1 week ago







       讲座由北京语言大学国别和区域研究院学术院长黄靖主持,黄院长对章先生的到来表示了热烈地欢迎。讲座中章先生分别回顾并分析了新中国建立前后及改革开放之后的中美关系史,认为1949前的中美关系从来不是一般意义上的双边关系,从国际关系的角度看,中美关系深受多边关系的影响,同时又嵌入中国内政。革命年代的外交在本质上不同于一般意义上的外交。从中国革命的角度看,外交斗争的本质是实现民族解放、国家独立,中共对美外交斗争的本质是反对美国压迫,但实际情况是复杂多变的。抗日战争时期,中共实行抗日统一战线政策,争取美国的合作。战后,中共策略的主要方面是防止和减少美国对中国革命的干涉。       新中国成立之后,中国最基本的外交目标是实现独立自主,维护和平,并与各国建立起新型外交关系。中国同美国或斗争、或和缓都是围绕这一目标展开的。经过22年的斗争,终于开启了中美关系正常化的大门,经过30年的漫长岁月,中美两国终于建立了正常的外交关系。Image
















编辑 | 杨小琴 党琼玉 

排版 | 党琼玉Image


Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座成功举办,于洪君阐释“百年未有大变局下的中国与世界”

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=o3144vp8fkg&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座第二场成功举办,黄靖分析“百年变局中国际政治板块的漂移与重组”

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=z3140cdkajb&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座第三讲成功举办,姜锋研究员畅谈《大变局中的欧洲-挑战与机遇》

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=l314498k0rv&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座第四讲成功举办,杨光斌院长阐释《国家治理能力与国家兴衰》

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=p3148cedc7r&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座 | 第五场:刘鸿武教授阐述“中国区域国别之学的历史溯源与现实趋向”

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=w3150f3cjxh&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座 | 第六场:邢广程教授分析新世纪初俄罗斯的外交布局

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=x3161kqypvo&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座 | 第七场:江时学教授阐述百年大变局中的中国与拉美国家关系

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=a3162t24qvi&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”系列讲座 | 第八场:孙海潮:新冠疫情和世界乱象“双常态化”趋势分析

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=m3159e5wpwg&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false

Link to summary: “纵横世界”第九场成功举办,田文林教授阐述《阿拉伯世界当前困境及其地区影响》

Link to video: https://v.qq.com/txp/iframe/player.html?origin=https%3A%2F%2Fmp.weixin.qq.com&chid=17&vid=h32055qg09v&autoplay=false&full=true&show1080p=false&isDebugIframe=false




Academy of International and

Regional Studies




About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated, with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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