Breaking the Ice

The Role of Scholarly Exchange in Stabilizing U.S.-China Relations

A new report by the CSIS Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics recounts a groundbreaking U.S.-China scholarly exchange initiative that occurred during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Trustee Chair Scott Kennedy and Professor Wang Jisi of Peking University, founding president of Peking University’s Institute of International Strategic Studies (IISS), argue that although the deterioration in U.S.-China relations pre-dates the mutual physical isolation of the two countries from each other, renewing robust direct communication between the two societies is necessary, if not sufficient, to stabilizing ties.

The report documents the goals and planning for their trips, the unique challenge of traveling during the pandemic, and their observations regarding developments within the two societies and with respect to the bilateral relationship. The report concludes by explaining how the reduction in connectivity has led to the creation of echo chambers, which has fed a vicious cycle further propelling the worsening of ties. They offer a set of five policy proposals intended to interrupt this dynamic, including restoring direct connections across the two societies and resuming and expanding dialogue between the two governments.

This report is made possible by generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Scott Kennedy
Senior Adviser and Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics

Wang Jisi

President, Institute of International and Strategic Studies (IISS) and Boya Chair Professor Emeritus, Peking University