Peggy Liu: How to engage with China more constructively

Peggy Liu

Tensions with China have increased dramatically around the world. There are very few voices that can bridge China and the West for better cultural understanding and more constructive engagement, in English. Peggy Liu, Chairperson of JUCCCE, is one such person.

Here is her recent article How to engage with China constructively

A nuanced view from a Chinese American who travels to countries around the world speaking to government and corporate leaders about the changes in China, and what that means for the world.

No person is perfect, no country is perfect. This is not a comparison of who is more perfect. It’s some insight into how 2 imperfect entities can understand and engage better with each other.

China is not the China of 30 years ago. The country is changing so fast, it’s a new country every 5 years. Please, be patient and remember how long it took the West to develop. China is doing the same, rebuilding in short decades. Picture a land that was devastated and really just started rebuilding in 1990. The first supermarket in 1990! It’s developing basic legal capabilities from scratch. Rule of Law classes were started in 2017 at government academies. It’s in rapid prototyping mode- try/fail/learn/try/fail/learn- at country scale.

It’s not really “Communist” anymore- in the way Westerners have a knee-jerk reaction to that word. A high level Ministry of Finance official once told me China is run more like a multinational corporation. Like IBM or GE. The government is led by people with Masters degrees in engineering and economics. These are “techonomist” leaders who think long-term and systematically. It is super aware of its shortcomings and vigorously debates them domestically. It welcomes solutions presented constructively, in private settings.

My suggestion for other countries is to cooperate on the ground in China to build towards the behavior you want to see in China. China wants to be better. It does that by researching best practices and seeking out top international experts for private dialogue. Shouting at it in public and pointing out weaknesses today does not help it get better for tomorrow. The best way for governments and private companies to help improve China’s international engagement is to leverage its educational system (workshops, vocational and compulsory) and international advisory boards.

… China has zero interest in making other countries adopt Chinese culture. This misunderstanding is where unnecessary fear arises. China just wants to do business with you.

China has very little understanding about how to use Western media platforms to get its messages out to the West, Western marketing style to relate emotionally vs in stats, Western presentation style for stages like TED. It is hopeless in explaining itself to the West. This leaves the onus on the West to understand it until more English speaking leaders are in charge in China.

Actually, the Chinese government is very transparent about its goals, it’s just not presented at all in a way that the West can digest. Its 5 year plans lay out in numerical targets where China is prioritizing and investing. The “CEO” then spends 3.5 hours explaining it. Unfortunately that means a lot of announcements around market opening, transparency, green, education, legal capability building made at the Belt and Road summit in April were completely missed. No matter how earnest China’s intent was to respond to international concerns.

Peggy’s article here.
Peggy Liu

Peggy Liu is Chairperson of JUCCCE, a non-profit organization creating a livable China. As one of the leaders in China’s sustainability advocacy, her work encompasses ecolivable cities, clean energy, reimagining prosperity, and sustainable diets. Because of her useful contributions in the field, Peggy Liu has been given several accolades including: 

  • Time Magazine Hero of the Environment
  • Foreign Policy’s shaper of US-China relations
  • Forbes “Women to Watch in Asia”
  • World Economic Forum Young Global Leader
  • the Hillary Step for Climate Change Solutions
  • China Business News Weekly (“China top 50 innovative business leaders”)
  • Global Times (“Green Goddess”)
  • L’Officiel (“China’s Most Successful Women”)

Prior to pursuing her passion for sustainability, Peggy was a venture capitalist in Shanghai, an ecommerce pioneer in Silicon Valley, a software marketing executive, a McKinsey consultant, and a computer programmer. She graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and completed public policy programs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. Peggy is currently a professor at China Academy of Governance.

She was also an advisor to several companies like Marks & Spencer, FTSE, HP, World Economic Forum, and the Clinton Global Initiative, The Hillary Institute. She currently does advisory work for The EAT Forum, which focuses on how to feed people sustainably.  She appears regularly in documentaries, news and events such as Discovery Channel, BBC, CNN, TED, WEF, Voice of America.

Peggy has recently been involved in promoting health eating habits in China for the young generation through “A New Way To Eat” program and the documentary “Cities Changing Diabetes”. Peggy Liu has also authored “A New Way to Eat” for United Nations Environment Programme magazine “Our Planet” and  “Kids as Food Heroes: Piloting a New Way to Eat in China” for Huffington Post on Jun 3, 2015.

Contact us if you are interested in having Peggy Liu speak at your next event.

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