The US Embassy in Beijing (Photo: IC)
The US Embassy in China confirmed on Wednesday that a US scholar's speech on economic matters to a think tank in Beijing was canceled due to the incorrect description of his title, while Chinese observers called for stable and continuous non-official ties in times of tensions.
Apichai W. Shipper, who "serves as the Asia Regional Chair at the Foreign Service Institute of the US Department of State," was scheduled to give a keynote speech on comparative political economic systems on Tuesday at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies of Renmin University of China (RDCY), according to a poster on RDCY's website.
However, the lecture was canceled that day due to "a ban from the US Embassy in China," according to a photo of a notice released by RDCY, which was uploaded online.
RDCY refused to comment on the incident when reached by the Global Times on Wednesday.
The US Embassy said in an email to the Global Times on Wednesday that "We understand that a talk was canceled due [to] the inaccuracy of the advertisement which incorrectly described Dr. Shipper as a 'senior state department official' who planned to address economic matters in a public discussion."
Wang Yiwei, a professor at Renmin University of China (RUC)'s School of International Relations, told the Global Times that he is unsure whether Shipper is a "senior state department official" in the US sense.
"But even if the description is inaccurate, a better choice is to revise the materials rather than cancel the lecture, which made the situation worse," Wang said.
Diao Daming, an assistant professor from RUC, told the Global Times that the speech's cancelation shows that "The US Embassy is very sensitive" and they worry that some US scholars may share opinions which are different from the current US government's policies toward China and may affect public opinion in the US.
Wang Yue, Vice Secretary-General of the Pangoal Institute, a Beijing-based think tank, told the Global Times that scholars from the US have visited China less frequently since last year, although no scheduled event had faced such a suspension or cancelation.
Wang Yue noted that "bilateral relations have their ups and downs. But people-to-people communication and non-official ties are more crucial in times of tensions."
The US is also considering tightening visas for Chinese students and researchers, Reuters reported.
In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a routine press conference on Wednesday that some US agencies have set up obstacles for normal bilateral cultural exchanges.
Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Beijing-based independent think tank Center for China and Globalization, told the Global Times on Wednesday that visa bans and restrictions on scholars and students create a negative atmosphere and have a serious psychological impact, which will make Chinese people think twice before visiting the US.