Relations between the United States and China are the worst in years, Wilson Center researchers warn
Relations between the United States and China are the worst in years, Wilson Center researchers warn

Relations between the United States and China are the worst in years, Wilson Center researchers warn

David M. Lampton, Professor Emeritus of China Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS, speaks during an online panel on Feb. 14 sponsored by the Wilson Center.

While European diplomats race to avert war between Russia and Ukraine, one country stands out for its refusal to condemn the Kremlin’s military threats against Russia’s neighbor: China.

In fact, the Chinese government views the United States and its NATO partners as “provocateurs in a hybrid war against Russia,” reports New York Timesciting state media in a Feb. 15 analysis about how far Xi Jinping is willing to go to help Vladimir Putin in the current crisis.

And that says a lot about how bad bilateral ties have become in recent years, suggests David M. Lampton, professor emeritus of China Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS.

“The current state of US-China relations is the worst since before Nixon and Kissinger went to China in the early 1970s,” he said. “Even during the June 1989 tragedy, we got both George Herbert Walker Bush and Deng Xiaoping to push to keep things on track because they both considered Sino-American ties to be strategically critical. To put it mildly, neither is The national leaders today in far from the same state of mind. “

Lampton, who is also a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute, made his comments during a Feb. 14 meeting. online panel which launched the 2nd annual Wilson China Fellowship Conference – an academic event with groundbreaking political research taken by the 2021-22 class of Wilson China Fellows.

“Over the past year, our 25 fellows have conducted groundbreaking research into the development of China-US-China relations,” said Mark Green, president and CEO of the Wilson Center. “China has emerged as the primary rival to the United States and perhaps our biggest foreign policy challenge of the 21st century. Everyone understands that.”

Mark Green, President and CEO of Wilson Center.

But that’s the easy part, Green said.

“The rest – understanding China itself, its interests and ambitions – is harder, and that’s where we are still missing,” he said. “Veritable armies of American scholars devoted their careers to understanding the Soviet Union during the Cold War and translating that knowledge into action-oriented ideas for political decision-makers. On the other hand, the size of American scholarships in China is relatively limited and too often isolated from the political decision-making process. “

China’s research presents enormous challenges

That’s why this community is so important, said Green, who was the U.S. ambassador to Tanzania from 2007 to 2009 and later served four terms in the House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 8th District. Green headed the International Republican Institute from 2014 to 2017 and took over the leadership of the Wilson Center in January 2021.

Lampton, author of the 2008 book “The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money, and Minds,” said that research today is certainly different from when he entered the field of China in 1969.

“There was significant interaction between scientists and the intelligence community in those days. And that raised its own questions of intellectual integrity,” Lampton said. and archival research in the People’s Republic. “

Yet China’s view of the West has changed significantly in the last half century.

Stephen Del Rosso, Program Director for International Peace and Security at Carnegie Corp.

“Today, in the context of the Ukraine crisis, both China and Russia say that there are no boundaries to their strategic partnership. In contrast, in 2008, China leaned towards Georgia to divide Georgia, towards the West in order to “Today we see a very different behavior on the part of Beijing,” said Lampton, adding that the Chinese and Russians appear to be reinforcing each other in the UN Security Council – not in the Ukraine issue, but also in North Korea.

The panel, moderated by Abraham Denmark, Wilson’s Vice President of Programs and Director of Studies, also had Stephen Del Rosso, Program Director for International Peace and Security in New York-based. Carnegie Corp.

“Even though many of us have been hunched over in our homes during a time of COVID, Sino-American tensions have only increased during this period, as the war drums sound in Eastern Europe and the relationship between China and Russia grows closer, with implications, is still unfolding, ”said Del Rosso, noting that Carnegie remains the largest private financier of China studies in the United States.

The future of US-China relations

In fact, Carnegie’s latest report, China’s new direction: challenges and opportunities for US policy, reaffirmed the continuing relevance as well as the urgent need for more research into the role of new technology in China, human rights issues among China’s ethnic minorities and unconventional issues such as the environment, public health and relations with third countries.

“The study also deplores the increasingly restrictive political environment in China under President Xi, which has limited the ability of American and other scholars and journalists to work in the country and interact safely with their Chinese sources,” Del Rosso said.

“All of this, of course, has been exacerbated by visa and COVID restrictions and a security-heavy discourse in China and the United States that has politicized research and contributed to an environment of mutual mistrust and suspicion,” he added. “We are painfully aware of these new challenges, but also believe that now, more than ever, there is a need for a nuanced understanding of this rising power, despite the headwinds.”

Laura Rosenberger, Senior Director of China and Taiwan at the National Security Council.

Laura Rosenberger, senior director of China and Taiwan at the National Security Council, suggested that the Washington-Beijing rivalry has only just begun.

“We are in the early stages of a long-term and intense competition between the United States and China, a competition that truly crosses the military, economic and political domains. It takes place in virtually every region of the world, especially in the Indo-Pacific. “The region where the United States has deep and lasting interests. This competition will in many ways determine the rules of the road in the 21st century. The next decade will be crucial.”

Yet the Biden administration also realizes that it is limited in its ability to change China, she said.

“Therefore, the purpose of our policy is to shape the environment around China” for the benefit of the United States and its allies, “Rosenberger said. coalition. I would argue that it misses the point. So much of the work we do is, in fact, about putting forward our common vision for the future. ”

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