China Rising | Institute of Politics | Summary and Q&A

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April 5, 2013
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Harvard University
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China Rising | Institute of Politics

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Summary

In this forum, the topic of discussion is the rise of China and the potential for conflict in its relationship with the US. The moderator poses the question of whether there can be a cooperative relationship between the two countries, to which both John Huntsman Jr. and Kevin Rudd respond positively. They argue that the future of the relationship will depend on how both countries respond to the changing world order, and emphasize the need for high-level, sustained engagement and trust-building between the leaders of the US and China. They also discuss the areas of potential cooperation, such as climate change and cybersecurity, and highlight the importance of thinking big and having an aspirational goal for the relationship.

Questions & Answers

Q: Is the US-China relationship destined for conflict or can it be cooperative?

The relationship between the US and China is 40+ years old and has always had its challenges. The future of the relationship will depend on how both countries respond to the changing world order. It will also require proper articulation and explanation of why things are happening and why the relationship is important. It is both competitive and cooperative, and divorce is not an option. Leaders need to focus on making the relationship work for the well-being of the world.

Q: Can the US and China work together on specific issues?

The US and China should focus on areas of common interest, such as nuclearization, economic issues, and the South China Sea. However, there are also missed opportunities in areas like science, environmental collaboration, and basic research. The current modes of interaction are ineffective and need to be reoriented to a more focused and dedicated level of interaction at the highest level of government. This will require regular, task-oriented summit meetings between the leaders.

Q: Would China be receptive to a high-level engagement from the US?

China would welcome sustained, high-level engagement from the US, but it would need to be structured properly and based on trust and confidentiality. China understands the challenges it faces as it rises to great power status, and it needs strategic ballast in its relationship with the US. The Chinese bureaucratic establishment may be suspicious of greater engagement, but senior leaders would likely welcome it.

Q: Can the US and China collaborate on climate change?

China has made significant progress on climate change since the Copenhagen summit in 2009. They recognize the need to address pollution problems and the economic and strategic importance of acting on climate change. The US, on the other hand, needs to get its act together on this issue and should not be the odd one out. Cooperation on climate change would bring enormous international pressure on the US to act.

Q: Are the US and China already engaged in a cyber war?

There is a cyber conflict between the US and China, and it is a disabling element of their relationship. Both countries need to work on building strategic trust in this domain and define the rules of the road and red lines around cyber intrusion. The issue of cyber security is complex and requires high-level engagement and solutions from both sides.

Q: Can Chinese investment be in the national interest of Australia or the US?

Chinese investment can be in the national interest of Australia or the US, as long as it aligns with their respective priorities and regulations. In Australia, Chinese investment has been significant, especially in the resources industry. The approval of Chinese investment applications has been high, and Australia has been the largest destination for Chinese foreign investment. The argument that Australia should shut its doors to Chinese investment is not supported by empirical evidence.

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