Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU, Liaoning University bridge China and America

September 14, 2008

SHENYANG, China - In an effort to spur business interest in the United States and China, Indiana State University and Liaoning University conducted a conference Sunday (Sept. 14) on "Bridging China and America" in this Northeast China city, capital of Liaoning Province.

Developing stronger bonds between the two countries is becoming increasingly important, according to John Rutledge, a noted lecturer, former professor at Tulane University and Claremont McKenna College and financial advisor to U.S. presidents, who was a keynote speaker at the event.

"Without a doubt, the most important question is how close will America and China be. If we become friends, the world will be a good place," he said. "If the relationship is not good, we will compete for resources and the world will be a very dangerous place. We will be the only two giant economies in the world. It's not an option to not like each other. We must get to know each other."

The conference is one way to bring Americans and Chinese together to get to know one another. It also allowed university officials and business experts to discuss economic differences between the countries and to perhaps spur trade between the two nations and between Indiana and Liaoning Province. The second year of the conference is one more link that has been forged through an 18-year relationship between the two universities.

"As we seek to build bridges between the U.S. and China, it is clear that universities can provide the first spans, just as Indiana State University and Liaoning University have done," Mike Alley, president of the ISU Board of Trustees, said in his welcoming address. "What started out with exchanges between faculty and students of our two universities has expanded to include opportunities for businesses and government officials in Indiana and Liaoning and even opportunities for educators at the elementary and secondary levels."

The 2008 conference was a follow up to a 2007 conference the two universities conducted in Indianapolis. Both conferences were co-sponsored by Baker & Daniels, the Indianapolis-based legal and professional services firm.

"We are grateful for the many experts and scholars who have journeyed from their homes and abroad to share their ideas," said Shan Wang, general secretary of Liaoning University. "I hope this leads to promotion of even greater trade and economic relations between Liaoning and Indiana."

"How extraordinary that two universities located half way around the world from each other would serve as sponsors of a major summit on the subject of regional economic development involving leaders from inside and outside the academy," said Lloyd W. Benjamin III, former ISU president, in his welcoming remarks.

"With generous support and a strong commitment to the principle that universities must be stewards of place, our universities have acknowledged their important role to translate theory to practice - to assure that our faculty and students are prepared to engage in the business and social sectors of our societies - to undertake the analyses, conduct the research and provide the answers to our most pressing issues," Benjamin said.

Cheng Wei, president of Liaoning University, concurred.

"Universities should cultivate a good presence," he said. "Universities should not just transmit knowledge, but to improve their culture. This conference fulfills the place universities should take in the areas of globalization."

China is Indiana's fifth largest export market and has been the state's fastest-growing export market for the past seven years. Exports of Indiana products to China have grown faster than the overall rate of U.S. exports. China is also one of the state's largest import markets.

Former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan said the conference allowed the two universities to open up exploration of business development that could benefit both the state of Indiana and Liaoning Province. With its central location, abundance of highways, three international airports and water ports, along with development incentives, Kernan said Indiana is open for business.

"From our small towns to our cities, Chinese businesses would be welcomed and supported across Indiana," he said. "With Indiana and Liaoning working together, we can provide greater prosperity for our residents."

During the conference, panels of business, education and government leaders from the U.S. and China addressed such topics as promoting two-way investment between the two nations, Chinese-American trade balance issues and rejuvenation of regional economies in Liaoning and Indiana. Hundreds of Chinese students filled the auditorium for the event, which was held on the day of the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

Jack Tatom, research director of Networks Financial Institute at ISU and associate professor of finance in the ISU College of Business, said there were useful presentations from both countries.

"There were discussions of practical issues like cargo flights to Indianapolis International Airport and a representative from the Shenyang Air-Blower Group that was looking for an American partner," Tatom said. "The most important thing about the conference is the participation by the students who were there on their holiday. They were very open and asked very good questions."

Three Indiana State business students also attended the conference.

In addressing the United States' trade deficit with China, John Conant, chair of the ISU economics department, said it places a significant drag upon the American economy, and that whoever wins the presidential campaign must address the trade imbalance.

"It seems to me that our job, as economists and academics, is to educate both our publics and our politicians on the mutual advantages of truly free trade," Conant said in addressing the conference. "This means both fighting for expanded trade and against trade restricting policies, even if those policies are meant as development polices, not trade policies."

Jacqueline Simmons, a partner with Baker and Daniels, said solutions for the problems facing China and the United States from trade to intellectual property rights can be found.

"China and America need each other," she said. "We can find solutions. There is no right answer, but it will require compromise on both sides."

With the close of the conference and relationships strengthened between the two countries and universities, dialogue will continue into the future, Tatom said.

"The intellectual and cultural interchange is going to continue," he said.

The relationship between the state and the province are a natural fit, according to Alley.

"Building bridges to link Indiana and Liaoning makes perfect sense, as there are many parallels between our economies and peoples," he said.

Economies in both places are industrially based and both have seen hard economic times in the past few decades.

"Sharing lessons, insights and experiences on the efforts of Indiana and Liaoning to develop their economies after these economic challenges will enable us both to make further strides," Alley said. "In the process, we are creating networks of expertise that will span between our state and province, strengthening the ties between them."

Prior to the conference, Indiana government and business leaders and the ISU delegation met with officials from the People's Congress of Liaoning Province and pledged mutual support and to continue learning from one another. See related story

Photos: Mike Alley, right, president of the Indiana State University Board of Trustees, chats with Cheng Wei, president of Liaoning University, during the "Bridging China and America" conference the two universities conducted in Shenyang, China. (ISU/Tony Campbell) Former Indiana Governor Joe Kernan addresses the "Bridging China and America" conference in Shenyang, China, conducted by Indiana State and Liaoning universities.(ISU/Tony Campbell) Students at Liaoning University in Shenyang, China, applaud during the "Bridging China and America" conference conducted by Liaoning and Indiana State universities. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or