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NGO peace forum highlights U.S.-China relations, co-op
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10:12, March 15, 2009

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The relations between China and the United States have become the most vigorous and important bilateral relations in the world today, which is conducive to world peace and development, representatives from prominent non-government organizations (NGOs) in both countries agreed here on Friday.

"This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of Sino-U.S. diplomatic ties, and the smooth development of such ties should be partly attributed to the contributions of NGOs in both countries," said Mao Rubai, vice president of the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament (CPAPD), at an NGO forum held on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Boston.

The Boston event was part of the Second Annual China-U.S. Peace Forum, jointly sponsored by the CPAPD and the U.S.-based American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). With high prestige in their own countries, both organizations are dedicated to the promotion of world peace and disarmament, as well as social justice and common development.

As the world today is confronted with a lot of common difficulties and challenges, it has become all the more important for China and the United States to strengthen cooperation and make joint efforts, said Mao, adding that NGOs in both countries should "continue to join our hands" in promoting mutual understanding and a sound, comprehensive development of Sino-U.S. relations.

Citing the grave challenge of climate change as an example, Mao said that China and the United States have been cooperating on this issue since the 1980s, and put forward suggestions on how the two sides could further enhance such cooperation.

The two governments should raise this issue to a strategic height, join hands to facilitate international negotiations on the issue, urge developed countries to provide more government aid and technology transfer to developing countries, and encourage companies and enterprises of both countries to strengthen cooperation on the development of clean and renewable energies, said Mao, who used to chair the Environmental and Resources Protection Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.

Following Mao's speech, some of the more than 60 forum participants, mostly MIT faculty members and students as well as from the local community, had a question and answer session with the seven-member CPAPD delegation, covering a wide range of topics from U.S.-China trade to the real situation in China's Tibet.

"We had a very good turnout today ... People stayed throughout the program and asked many important questions," said Subrata Ghoshroy, research associate of MIT Program in Science, Technology and Society, upon the conclusion of the two-hour activity.

"I hope we could do it for four hours, so it would be much better," said Ghoshroy. "But I think this is a quite big step in terms of MIT's relationship with China, and I'm very pleased with the outcome."

The Chinese delegation, which arrived in the United States on March 7, earlier joined a main session of the Peace Forum in Washington D.C. on Monday, and had broad interactions with American civil societies and government figures in the U.S. capital and New York City.

Joseph Gerson, AFSC director of programs in the New England Region, said that the meetings between the Chinese delegation and important figures in the U.S. government were actually "a recognition that in this period of history, the U.S.-China relationship is essential to what happens in the world, particularly in questions of the international economy and the current financial crisis and as we deal with the global climate crisis."

"In many ways, the U.S. people and the Chinese people and our governments are in the same boat. We have to find ways to pull together because if we fail, it will be disaster not only to our own countries, but to the rest of the world," he added.

"As we sit in the forum ... here we can influence the direction of our countries, maybe slowly, maybe not as profound as you like, but we are able to affect our governments," said Gerson while asked about the significance of the forum.

Ghoshroy echoed his opinion, saying that the forum's impact "will basically filter up to a different channel, to the people who are actually doing decision-making in the government."

"It is going to go a long way in influencing people on policy eventually," he noted, adding that "we will put this taped forum on our website at the MIT."

Running concurrently with the Peace Forum was a mini photo exhibition prepared by the CPAPD, with dozens of pictures on display featuring the development of Sino-U.S. relations, China's reform and opening-up in the past 30 years, China's social and ethnic harmony, Tibet in the past and present, and China's efforts to deal with the current financial crisis.

The images aroused great interest among the forum participants, who watched them attentively prior to the event's formal opening.

"I think there remain many misunderstandings about China among the American people, so we hope we can take this opportunity to help them learn more about our country," explained Mao, the CPAPD vice president.

With the current forum concluding on Friday and the Chinese delegation leaving on Saturday, both CPAPD and AFSC have vowed to keep this special platform for non-governmental communication and understanding in operation in the years to come.

The first Sino-U.S. Peace Forum was held in China in April 2008, featuring the theme of "International Peace and Security."


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