The U.S. & China: What Comes Next? by Lin Yang at TEDxBeaconStreet (Transcript)


Before I came here this morning, my friend warned me, “Be careful if you want to make fun of yourself by saying you’re made in China, people may associate you with cheap and poor quality products.” I smiled and said, “Well, I can’t deny that I look Chinese, and I trust I’m good quality, I could be good quality, and I was striving to be good quality.”

Having grown up in a new era of China, my generation live with a story of China’s prosperity by opening up to the outside world China’s opening has enabled us to acquire advanced knowledge, to learn English, to use computers, and Internet. All through 1980s and 1990s, China started its economic engine. This is the typical story happening in China at that time: US multinational Coca-Cola started a factory in China, McDonald’s started the first store in Beijing, US giant Ford started a joint venture with a Chinese auto maker. My dream at that time was to work for one of the joint ventures set up by the American multinational companies in China.

My dream later landed me into an opportunity to work as a TV newscaster for China’s national television as it launched its first international channel to the global audience. My job was to sit in my Beijing studio to tell the stories happening in China to the global audience. Through the lens of my studio, my typical newscast was about the over 10% economic growth in China in early 2000s. After being a China’s storyteller for a few years to the outside world, I one day decided to go out to America to explore the real outside world I still remember very vividly that about ten years ago, I finished my last newscast, bid farewell to my studio, hugged my family and friends, and boarded on an airplane to come to America to study.

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All through my 13-hour flight, my mind was full of imagination and excitement about what my life will be across the ocean I was imagining that I can sit in a class at Harvard Yard, I can climb on top of the Empire State Building, I can run as in a film of Forrest Gump, I can dance in Rodeo Drive in Hollywood. And here I am, in America my journey has been far beyond just studying. While I was enjoying my classes at Harvard Yard, I was also amazed by the hot debate about how China will emerge as a rival or a competitor to America.

While I was climbing the Empire State Building, I was also amazed that the skyscrapers nearby are becoming the favorite for Chinese investors. When China was trying to innovate its ‘Made in China’ products, there was concern in America whether there is a rising threat. When I was running on the farm road, I know that economic landscape has been changing dramatically across the globe. While I was having my own journey, the journeys of US and China have been more intertwined, interdependent about each other than any other time in history China has become the second largest economy in the world, and bilateral trade investment has been growing exponentially, and it’s for the first time in a century that Chinese investment in America has surpassed the US investment in China, reaching about 60 billion US dollars.

The factories set up by American multinational companies in China in 1990s are now becoming the strategic partners of American corporations like I did ten years ago. Some Chinese enterprises are also venturing out to test the waters of the international markets contributing to American economy and supporting 80,000 American jobs. There are noises bouncing back and forth, too: trade balances, currency, exchange rate, and intellectual property right. The most recent China-led AIIB bank, which in US is absent, and the US-led TPP, which in China is absent, has shown some signs of differences. All through my journey, some questions were always puzzling me.

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Why made-in-China products can not be high-end innovations? Why US and China have to be rivals or competitors? Will the world embrace China as the engine for global prosperity or the threat for global security? What are the ways that US and China can work together and collaborate? The burning desire to understand the new era of US-China’s relations and to answer the questions in my mind have forced me to foray in the world of entrepreneurship by starting my own venture. That is why I started “Innovation Ideas Institute,” a think-tank to fill our society with ideas and knowledge, with especial lens on our young generation that has led the new China and new America in this globalization era; and to inspire the world of academics, policy, and business about critical issues that they might otherwise ignore.

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