Memorable Moments in US-China Relations from 2015

Happy New Year, Pengyous!

2015 has been a very exciting year in US-China relations! Historic meetings were held and momentum gathered across sectors, from business, to the environment, to the military, and more. To ring in the new year, we’ve put together a short list of moments we found most memorable in 2015 to reflect on important developments and think about how to build on that progress in the future!

1. Breakthroughs in Public Awareness of Pollution


February 2015 – Chinese journalist Chai Jing’s documentary, “Under the Dome”, went massively viral, changing the way that Chinese citizens think and talk about environmental degradation. Before it was pulled off of Youku (the Chinese equivalent to Youtube,) it had more than 300 million views (The Guardian). The documentary, which is over an hour long, was largely successful due to its focus on emotionally stirring individual stories and the toll that pollution takes on human life. Although the effect of pollution in China has long been on the radar of those in the West, this was a key moment in opening the discussion up to Chinese citizens as well. In December, we even saw the implementation of a “red alert” system to notify citizens in Beijing of hazardous air quality.

2. Heartwarming Stories of International Friendships

tandem bike

April 2015 – The epic story of international friendship between “Brother Orange” and Matt Stopera went viral, and somehow the collision of New York City millenial and rural Chinese family man turned into a touching story of international friendship. Americans and Chinese alike loved the story of Matt and Brother Orange for its serendipity, its authenticity, and most of all for the fact that despite cultural and linguistic barriers and despite all odds, the two became good friends. We hope their story will inspire others to be brave and make cross-cultural friendships as well.

3. Improvements in Military-to-Military Relations


August 2015 – Although there has been a lot of buzz (mostly negative) surrounding maritime relations in the South China Sea, there have been a few notable positive encounters in the US and Chinese military-to-military relations. The most mention-worthy point being the increased frequency of interactions and co-led drills. There was even a moment when an American warship in the South China Sea offered pizza and wings to a Chinese warship!

4. E-Commerce Exchanges Heated up


September 2015 – Alibaba and Jack Ma have had a lot of publicity this year, but perhaps they made the biggest waves by going public with the largest Initial Public Offering on record. Jack Ma has made a name for himself in the West, largely recognizable by his animated expressions, quirky English, and upbeat eccentricity in large international gatherings.

5. Historic Meetings Held

Xi, Obama agree to reduce military risks

September 2015 – This year, there was a notable thawing of chilly relations between several influential countries. Not only did Chinese President Xi Jinping meet with President Obama, there was also a trilateral meeting between the leaders of China, Japan, and South Korea, and a historic meeting between Xi Jinping and the President of Taiwan. Although the results of the meetings were incremental on paper, the fact that all of these countries seem committed to bettering relations and cooperating is a huge accomplishment.

6. Growing Exchange of American Sports in China


November 2015 – Joining the ranks of the Gridiron Leaders Foundation, an organization that recruits American college football players to build cultural bridges and teach football in China, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is now bringing college basketball games to China! Young Chinese are more and more interested in Western sports, especially basketball and football, and it’s great that American athletes are also being exposed to Chinese culture as well.

7. Success at the Paris Climate Talks

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal (L), French Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius (2ndL), Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate change Christiana Figueres(3rdL) and French President Francois Hollande (3rdR) , welcomes Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrives for the opening day of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann - RTX1WFVF

December 2015 – The cherry on top of this year has got to be the success of the global Climate Summit in Paris. Building on the momentum of the agreement between President Obama and Xi Jinping, this landmark agreement brought together 195 countries around the globe in a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and alleviate pollution. After a disappointing conclusion to the summit in Copenhagen 6 years earlier, these accords are truly worthy of celebration.

Did we miss anything? What moments in 2015 US-China relations did you think were memorable? Leave a comment below and let us know! We’re looking forward to even more progress in 2016. 加油 Pengyous!