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Janet Yellen joins discussions with professors and students at Peking University
Apr 08, 2024
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U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks with students at Peking University on April 7, 2024

At Peking University's National School of Development, the U.S. Treasury Secretary lauded the potential of youth to shape the future and underlined the need for mutual understanding and cooperation between the world's two biggest economies, despite differences and respective concerns.

Peking University, April 8, 2024: "I find it exciting to be with the bright minds of China's next generation of economists and policymakers," said U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to a room of students at Peking University's National School of Development (NSD) on the warm Sunday afternoon.

Yellen, who was on a four-day visit to China, stopped by the National School of Development to engage in two separate talks with professors and students of the school, which she visited back in 1998.

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Group photo of School leaders with Yellen and her delegation

Accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, Yellen was received by Chinese Deputy Finance Minister Liao Min and PKU President Gong Qihuang, at the University's Chengze Garden, where the NSD is located.

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A discussion session with NSD professors

In a discussion with NSD professors shortly after she arrived at the school, Yellen recalled her 1998 visit to NSD and acknowledged Peking University and NSD's significant roles in China's development.

"I know that Peking University has played a pivotal role at key moments in China's history," she said, "And I understand that the National School of Development is not only one of the top places to study public policy and economics, it also serves as a think tank, producing work on pressing and important economic issues."

While voicing her hopes to hear more from NSD professors, the U.S. Treasury Secretary stressed the necessity of enhancing mutual understanding. "I believe that better understanding of each other's macroeconomic situations and policy intentions can contribute to further progress in working toward a healthy economic relationship," she said.

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Prof. Huang Yiping speaks with Yellen

The 40-minute dialogue was presided over by Prof. Huang Yiping, the dean of NSD, who introduced the background, development visions, and achievements of NSD, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.

A thought-provoking dialogue between Yellen and NSD students followed afterward, with Yellen commencing the segment with a reminiscence of her teaching career, which ran intermittently from the early 1970s to the early 2000s.

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The Q&A session, hosted by Prof. Lei Xiaoyan

"Throughout my time in academia, I really valued frequent exchanges with fellow faculty members and teaching and learning from my students," said Yellen, who encouraged the students to consider new ideas and take pragmatic and well-reasoned approaches when dealing with difficult problems in their careers.

Yellen believed that it was the same case for deepening economic understanding between the U.S. and China, which "is key to building a healthy U.S.-China economic relationship."

"Over the past two years, the United States and China have been focused on strengthening our communications and deepening our understanding of each other's economic policies," highlighted Yellen, who added that she had been able to "deepen her understandings" through meetings with Chinese officials, business leaders, and academics.

Yellen then exchanged views with students about a range of issues. When talking about women empowerment, Yellen dredged up gender inequality problems she faced early in her career, during which female economists were underrepresented. She added that she had seen some "healthy development" in recent years with an increase in women's voices in the economic fields, including Claudia Goldin, who won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on women’s participation in the workforce.

During the discussion, Yellen also touched upon the U.S.'s fiscal policy as well as bilateral relations and trade. In talks over bilateral relations and trade, Yellen emphasized that both U.S. President Joe Biden and she "reject" the notion of decoupling as it is "impractical and bad" for both countries.

"Bottom line is we have a strong relationship when it comes to trade and investment, [which] we need to discuss constructively and practically to make sure we keep that relationship strong," Yellen told the students.

As the dialogue drew to a close, Yellen accentuated the importance of cooperation in coping with "a whole array of different issues" of global concern such as climate change and financial troubles, an imperative that she believed not only calls for "working together" between the U.S. and China at the government level but also relies on devotion and efforts from the youth.

"We need you to devote your efforts to things that concern and affect all of humanity and issues where you can make a real contribution, and we need to have a peaceful and productive relationship," she said.

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A group photo

Wrapping up her trip to the University, Secretary Yellen walked into an elegant courtyard facing the NSD building, where she posed for pictures with NSD professors and students, notably for a group photo with women representatives. "I appreciate the hospitality of the school," reiterated Yellen, before leaving the campus.

Reported and written by: Dennis Meng
Photos by: Song Mengli