The Common Ground Committee resumes its free public forums dedicated to civil discourse on fractious public policy issues with a roundtable June 7 at the Darien Town Hall Auditorium to consider "China: Threat or Opportunity."

Two widely recognized authorities on world trade and China's escalating global influence, Alan Tonelson and John Rutledge, will serve on the panel; others will be added in the coming weeks.

Tonelson is a research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council Educational Foundation in Washington, D.C., and an advocate for a more aggressive position in economic relations with China.

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Rutledge, his co-panelist, is a global economist and visiting professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. He advises governments and the private sector on how to create wealth and to understand the financial and political forces that shape lives and determine the value of homes.

The moderator is John Yemma, editor of The Christian Science Monitor and the moderator at the first forum which was held last October in Greenwich. A video report of that presentation -- addressing the role of government in the U.S. economy -- is available online at

In an auditorium that accommodates 350 with seating on a first-come, first-served basis, the 7:30 p.m. forum focuses on such issues as competition with China, balancing trade, the disparities in the labor market, the environmental threat, human rights considerations, currency exchange rates and the impact of China's expanding acquisition of U.S. debt and collateral.

Under the format, the give-and-take is followed by a Q&A with written questions submitted by the audience.

The committee was established as an apolitical nonprofit committed to "Bringing Light Not Heat to Public Discourse." Bruce Bond, a group vice president with the Stamford-based Gartner Group, is the committee's president. The other founding members of the board are Judy Kudlow of Redding, Erik Olsen of Wilton, Martin Skala of Darien and Cherie Burton of Rowayton.

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"Too often, discussions on matters that affect the lives of Americans take place in a vitriolic style that seeks to score points rather than enlighten the public," Bond said. "We hope to counter this trend by presenting a series of discussions on a variety of topics aimed at presenting the light of truth rather than the heat of anger. It is our expectation that this light might stimulate progress toward finding the common ground on which citizens can make informed decisions and take intelligent action."