We are fast approaching the most momentous US Presidential Election in memory, and one in which the US-China relationship sits squarely at the center. It is natural to think about what the next chapter may hold, what lies in wait around the corner in a year that has already thrown up too many surprises.

AmCham China is an independent, non-governmental organization focused on commerce – we  don’t engage in political matters. Instead, we stick resolutely to our area of expertise – commerce – and it is in this sphere where we try to improve US-China relations. Commerce has long been the foundation for US-China relations and, as such, can hopefully rebuild trust and hope between our two great nations.

There are very significant areas of contention in the US-China relationship, some of which appear to have no near-term prospect for reconciliation. Let us define those areas, put them aside, and focus on what remains. Many of us admit that we cannot allow the world to disconnect and fragment. Let us, then, choose a few areas of global benefit to humankind and demonstrate an ability to work together in these areas.

Working toward better public health, broad wellness initiatives, environmental protection, and more are all issues on which we have broad agreement and where there remains significant opportunity for cooperation.

In considering China’s massive population, coupled with the urgency of addressing wellness initiatives, one can also see where meeting these challenges can provide learning and opportunity. Companies involved in these efforts will gain experience, insight, product development, and data that can be applied both to further domestic China initiatives and inform efforts that could be expanded to additional global markets.

These ideas are some of the guiding principles for AmCham China’s Social Impact Initiative (SII), which we launched earlier this year thanks to the support of many of our largest member companies. The SII’s aim is to convene decision makers and industry leaders to develop public-private partnerships that address pressing social issues. We have chosen to focus on the twin tracks of public health reform and the revitalization of small-, and medium-sized enterprises in light of the pandemic’s devastating impact.

In pursuit of efforts like these, I have convened member meetings on several occasions with China’s preeminent infectious disease expert Prof. Zhang Wenhong, with a view to exploring a platform for broader US-China cooperation in public health and welfare coupled with social responsibility initiatives. Many elements of our membership could benefit from this platform, certainly including healthcare, technology, services (finance, insurance, legal, accounting, consulting, etc.), systems tech, and specialty manufacturing.  

The benefits that US-China trade and cooperation brings to the United States are many and varied. Its economy, development of innovation, practices, overall competitiveness, corporate revenues, and employment all benefit from American corporate involvement in China. Much of the benefits of US-China engagement have become obscured in the wars of words both between the two countries and between the two political parties in Washington DC’s politicized environment. All attention in the short term remains on the US Presidential Election results and the consequent implications for the bilateral relationship (expertly previewed by Ambassador Max Baucus here).

But, irrespective of what happens in November, let us concentrate on longer term goals. Let us use our commercial expertise to see where the US and China can best work together, and let us stay focused on cooperation, not division.

This message from AmCham Chairman Greg Gilligan originally appeared in the AmCham China Quarterly magazine, 2020 Vol 3, which can be downloaded directly here.