At the invitation of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Chinese daily Global Times, editors-in-chief and other media representatives from China, Germany, and the US met in California to discuss current affairs that affect their countries in similar ways but may be perceived entirely differently.
Jin Zhongwei, chief editor of the news site Guancha (observer).
“The best thing about this forum is that we get to hear different opinions and perspectives. We all face the same problems, but we all have different ways to tackle them,” said Zhang Yong in his opening statement before the discussion at the 2018 Media Forum. Mr. Zhang is the Deputy Director General for External Relations at China’s largest newspaper, the People’s Daily.
"We are a strong country"
A total of 24 editors-in-chief and leading media representatives, 8 each from China, Germany, and the US, came together for a two-day forum in California to discuss current affairs that affect their countries in similar ways but may be perceived entirely differently. At the invitation of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Chinese daily Global Times, they talked about politics, business, and the media. The forum’s motto, "Fostering Relations in a World in Turmoil: Prospects and Challenges for Cooperation between China, Germany and the US," provided the general framework, whereas the individual agenda items focused on specific questions: Are we on the verge of trade war, and if so, how might it affect the three economies? How is the North Korea conflict developing, and what will be China’s influence on the country in the future? How is the current #MeToo debate unfolding in China?
The tone of the discussion was very open, and criticism was clearly expressed. “America’s intention with the tariffs on steel and aluminum is to cement its supremacy in global trade. But this won’t work. We are a strong country,” a Chinese participant commented. His raised voice made it perfectly clear how upsetting the trade strategy of the US administration was to him and his fellow countrymen.
Impressions of the Media Forum
Among the German participants: Wolfgang Krach, editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Süddeutsche Zeitung".
Under the main topic "Fostering Relations in a World in Turmoil: Prospects and Challenges for Cooperation between China, Germany and the US" the participants discussed questions of international order and possibilities of cooperation between media houses of all three countries.
Interpreters guaranteed the communication between the participants from the three countries.
In the AI Research Lab of the University of Berkeley, Prof. John Zysman and the management of the institute discussed the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence.
Main focus: Technological revolutions and digitalization
The main focus at this year’s forum was on digitalization and the next technological revolutions. On the two days leading up to the gathering, Chinese and German participants took a study tour around Silicon Valley, where they had the opportunity to meet with representatives of leading tech companies, such as Google, Uber, and Airbnb, as well as startup entrepreneurs and scientists. The topics discussed included algorithms, big data, AI, and autonomous driving – as well as the social changes involved. “We saw a lot of clichés: cool open-plan offices full of young people who believe they can change the world with their technologies. They are willing to work very hard and take risks. It seems like, in some cases, this cliché is actually the reality,” said a German participant at the subsequent forum.
Do we primarily see opportunity and new business models in these technologies? Most of the American and Chinese forum participants certainly did. Or are we concerned with legal and ethical issues and the threat of losing sovereignty over one’s personal data? These matters came up a lot in the questions of German participants. While there is no definite right or wrong in this debate, the national differences were striking.
The Media Forum won’t resolve these differences, but it can give participants fresh impetus and insights into the views of other nations, which they will take back home to their own countries and newsrooms. This alone is a valuable outcome, just as Mr. Zhang pointed out in his opening statement.