On March 12, 2019, the University of Minnesota China Center welcomed Kaiser Kuo, host and founder of the Sinica Podcast, to deliver the keynote at the 18th Annual Bob and Kim Griffin Building U.S.-China Bridges Lecture. Mr. Kuo presented on the topic, “Technology Tensions in the U.S.-China Relationship.”

Joan Brzezinski, executive director of the China Center at the University of Minnesota, welcomed Mr. Kuo and more than 250 guests in attendance. Chang Wang, attorney at Kingsfield Law, spoke about his own experience listening to Kaiser Kuo’s music while in college, and how Mr. Kuo’s Chinese-American identity enables him to see both perspectives when analyzing issues in U.S.-China relations. Mr. Wang introduced Mr. Kuo as a musician, author, commentator, correspondent, podcast host, and business executive who is “too talented to be defined or categorized.”

In his relevant and insightful lecture, Mr. Kuo discussed the importance of technology in the bilateral trade issues within the U.S.-China relationship. He explored the shifting narratives on the impact of technology emerging from China and the U.S.: On the one hand, the relatively pessimistic, “dystopian” narratives coming from the United States, and the buoyant “techno-optimism” often found in China on the other.

Mr. Kuo analyzed how narratives about China’s technological rise intersect with political concerns. He called for “clear-eyed and sober thinking” to illuminate the issues at hand. Mr. Kuo warned against an “innovation winter” that could result if China and the United States cease to cooperate. Instead, Mr. Kuo recommended keeping a “small yard with a high fence,” protecting select information while participating in the exchange of ideas.

An engaging question-and-answer session followed Mr. Kuo’s presentation, which was moderated by Mr. Wang. The discussion spanned from China’s soft power, to the policy “Made in China 2025,” to examples of joint U.S.-China technological development, such as artificial intelligence.

About the Speaker

Kaiser Kuo is host and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast, the most popular English-language podcast on current affairs in China. Until April 2016, Kaiser served as director of international communications for Baidu, China’s leading search engine. In 2016, Kaiser returned to the U.S. after a 20-year stint in Beijing, where his career spanned the gamut from music to journalism to technology. Kaiser also spent a year in Beijing from 1988 to 1989, when he co-founded the seminal Chinese heavy metal band Tang Dynasty as lead guitarist. He speaks frequently on topics related to politics, international relations, and technology in China. 

About the Lecture

The lecture series is endowed through a generous gift from Bob and Kim Griffin.  The Griffins are committed to promoting mutual respect between U.S. and Chinese cultures and are passionate about connecting people with China.