- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Belfer and Ash Centers Expand U.S.-China Bridge-Building

Spring 2013

The following article builds on the cover story of this issue, titled "Belfer Center Intensifies Focus on China."

Sponsored by the Institute for China-U.S. People-to-People Exchange and by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer and Ash Centers, the “Challenge and Cooperation” conference at Peking University in January explored the implications of China’s new leadership and President Obama’s second term. Participants examined the roles the two countries should play in international security and in trade and investment issues. In addition to Graham Allison and Richard Rosecrance, Belfer Center participants included Nicholas Burns, Joseph Nye, David Sanger, William Tobey, and Stephen Walt, as well as International Council member David Richards.

Rosecrance: The two countries, have, in fact, been “moving farther apart” since the U.S.-China program began in 2006.

At the conclusion of the conference, Rosecrance noted that “despite the cordial personal relations on both sides, no agreements were reached on short - and long-term policy.” He added that the two countries, have, in fact, been “moving farther apart” since the U.S.- China program began in 2006.

Points of divergence, Rosecrance said, included the Chinese representatives’ declaration that the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” had begun a policy of balancing against China, while Joseph Nye observed that China was creating its own “self-containment” by insisting on territorial claims to island groups in East Asia, thus alienating Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and South Korea. At Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s request, Nye met in October with prime ministers of Japan and China to discuss the American position on their dispute over the Senkaku/Daioyu Islands. The United States had taken no position on these claims and was if anything encouraging China’s rise and influence. It was, however, worried that popular nationalism in China was making these conflicts worse.

Allison: Beware the “Thucydides’ Trap”

Graham Allison noted that the “Thucydides’ trap” suggests that status quo countries “fear the growing power” of rising claimants and react accordingly. No one could predict a peaceful outcome.

Rosecrance suggested that China and the U.S. might consider a “differentiation of function,” as Bismarck and Disraeli in the 1870s—with Germany the land power and Britain the sea power.

Jia Qingguo, the local conference host, claimed that China had two identities, one pacific (international) and one more assertive (domestic) and it needed American understanding to move to a more consistent position. Tony Saich, however, believed that domestic influences would become even more important in Chinese policy.

Nye: The world’s two largest economies have “much to gain” from cooperation.

In a New York Times oped published soon after the conference, Joseph Nye argued that “the world’s two largest economies have much to gain from cooperation on fighting climate change, pandemics, cyberterrorism, and nuclear proliferation.”

At the end of the conference Wang Jisi, dean of International Studies at Beijing University, raised the conferees’ sights by observing that the United States and China were more likely to reach a global deal than one limited to the Pacific and East Asia.

Conference details provided by Richard Rosecrance. For complete Rosecrance conference summary, see http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/publication/22891/dialogue_of_the_deaf.html?breadcrumb=%2Fexperts%2F100%2Frichard_n_rosecrance

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Belfer and Ash Centers Expand U.S.-China Bridge-Building.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2013).