The much-anticipated debate between a Chinese anchorwoman and an American counterpart on a prime-time TV show Wednesday night turned out to be more like a Q&A session, with the host and her guest disputing everything from tariffs to China's developing nation status.
But Trish Regan, host of Trish Regan Primetimeon the Fox Business Network, and Liu Xin, who anchors The Pointon China Global Television Network, or CGTN, seemed to agree that something must be done to break the impasse between China and the US, which are embroiled in a protracted trade dispute with the Trump administration escalating tariffs and Beijing retaliating.
The two TV anchorwomen met "face to face" for the first time after exchanging a flurry of Twitter messages over the past week, in which one challenged the other, and both agreed, to have an "honest debate" and "meaningful discussion" on the trade issues that are perplexing their countries.
Liu joined Regan's show at Fox's studio in New York via satellite from CGTN's studio in Beijing.
"I would stress that trade wars are never good. They're not good for anyone," Regan said on the show. "So I want to believe, Xin, I want to believe that something can get done."
Regan, who addressed Liu on a first-name basis, contrasted what she said on her show two weeks ago, when she said that US tariffs were a "necessary response" to China "stealing" billions worth of intellectual property a year.
Liu told Regan that China has made its position very clear that if the US treats the Chinese negotiating team with respect and shows the willingness to talk without using outside pressure, there is a high possibility that there could be a productive trade deal.
"Otherwise, I think we might be facing a prolonged period of problems for both sides," she said.
Regan, at the close of their 15-minute talk, said again, "No one wants trade wars. But we have to think long hard about the right next steps."
Liu, however, did counter an assertion by Regan that China's government controls its entire economy.
"Everybody thinks that China's economy is state-owned, state-controlled, everything is state, state, state. Let me tell you that is not the true picture," Liu said. "We are a socialist economy with Chinese characteristics … we are quite mixed, very dynamic and very open as well."
Liu said that according to statistics, about 80 percent of Chinese employees were employed by private enterprises, and 80 percent of Chinese exports were done by private companies.
Asked how the US businesses operate in China with the risk of their intellectual property rights being stolen, Liu said many American companies have been established in China and they're very profitable.
"The great majority of them, I believe, plan to continue to invest in China and explore the Chinese market as well," Liu said. "Now, US President Donald Trump's tariff makes it a little bit more difficult — makes the future a little bit uncertain."
Liu said that there is consensus among Chinese people that no country or individual "can be stronger" and "develop itself" without intellectual property protection, and that isolated cases do not mean that America is stealing or Chinese people are stealing.
The Global Times called the face-off of the two anchorwomen "friendly, meaningful talks. Both agreed: trade war is bad! (For Trish, that's a change of heart, since she had tried to justify the US trade war against China.)", it said on its Twitter account.
A Twitter user, Ryan Bryant @RayCaiYan, said in a reply to Regan's tweet, "That was not even a DEBATE, more like a Q&A session. I thought Trish could leverage some of Liu's answers to discuss the issues further, but sadly she couldn't."
FionaXu tweeted: The American hostess is talking about free market. Tell me how American market is "free" under Trump's government? You mean protectionism equals free market???"
Jon Taylor, a professor of political science of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, said that while they pretty much disagreed on everything, it offered US viewers the chance to actually hear the Chinese side of the issues.
"I think that Liu Xin did a very good job by demonstrating great confidence in both her questions and answers," Taylor said.
The debate idea came about after the two newswomen clashed earlier this month after Regan said Beijing stole "$600 billion worth of intellectual property a year", leading to the Trump administration tariffs.
The debate ended cordially with Liu inviting Regan to China.
Heng Weili in New York contributed to this story.