Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s address and fourth visit to Beijing quickly put Pyongyang back in the spotlight in 2019. His meeting with Xi Jinping also likely foreshadowed a meeting with President Trump in the near future. On this episode of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, on the implications of Kim’s New Year’s address and meeting with Xi Jinping, as well as the outlook for North Korea’s relations with China and the United States in 2019.
Zhao said Kim’s threats to take a “new path” if the U.S. does not lift sanctions does not mean a return to nuclear and missile tests. Instead, Pyongyang will likely strengthen ties with Beijing, departing from its focus on balancing relations between the United States and China. Zhao agreed with Haenle that the North Korea nuclear problem is not solved, as President Trump has claimed. North Korea appears committed to maintaining its intercontinental ballistic missile and nuclear programs. The fundamental barrier preventing progress on denuclearization is that Pyongyang will not trust any U.S. security guarantees, as such commitments are reversible. Instead, Zhao pushed for a long-term process that builds trust and transforms the relationship from hostile to friendly. The Kim-Xi relationship is one of convenience, rather than actual friendship, Zhao said. As Kim prepares for a second summit with Trump, he is not confident he can secure sanctions relief and is more willing to cozy up to Beijing. However, building a long-term relationship with the United States remains Kim’s priority. Washington’s support is key to lifting UN sanctions that prevent the North Korean economy from developing quickly. Zhao said China supports a second meeting between Trump and Kim because there is real hope that it could lead to actual progress on a deal. However, if the meeting does not go well, China is likely to blame the United States for not accommodating North Korean demands, widening the gap between Washington and Beijing during a delicate period in the relationship. If the situation on the Korean Peninsula deteriorates, China might even accuse the United States of deliberately precipitating a crisis to advance its own interests in the region.
How can the United States and China peacefully manage growing bilateral competition? In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University, on the concept of the Thucydides Trap and its relevance to the U.S.-China relationship.
Allison said the Thucydides Trap is the best framework to understand why there is potential for conflict between the United States and China. As China grew stronger, the U.S. failed to recognize Beijing would increasingly assert its own vision for the international order, thereby challenging the American-led global system. China now represents both a strategic rival and partner for the United States. The bilateral relationship needs a new framework that accounts for significant areas of competition and cooperation. Allison said the United States and China share vital national interests in ensuring the survival of their respective nations and must work to resolve issues clouding the economic relationship. This includes devising a new set of rules that accounts for China’s unprecedented economic development and status as a global power. For guidance, policymakers should look to John F. Kennedy’s post-Cuban Missile Crisis call for a world “safe for diversity.” This would allow nations with different political systems, economic development models, and ideologies to compete in peaceful co-existence.
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most respected Chinese international affairs scholars to discuss this important inflection point in U.S.-China relations. For the fourth episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Shi Yinhong, Director of the American Studies Institute at Renmin University and Director of the Academic Committee of the School of International Relations.
Shi pointed to two important turning points in China’s foreign policy shift to a more assertive international approach. The first was the global financial crisis stressed the importance of China’s economic development as an engine for global growt. The second was Xi’s rise to power and a more ambitious international approach. Shi said China undertook a number of new foreign policy initiative in the South China Sea, relations with Russia, and the Belt and Road Initiative. China is now at a stage where it should assess the successes and failures of its recent foreign policies. Beijing must be willing to be flexible and adjust its future international engagement to reflect the realities of the evolving geopolitical environment. At home, Chinese policymakers should implement much more broad and deep reforms to ensure stable economic and financial systems. This includes areas increasing market access, giving equal treatment to private and state owned enterprises, and addressing core demands laid out in the USTR section 301 report. Time is running out, Shi argued, and China needs to act quickly before implementing further economic reforms becomes too difficult. In the current contentious US-China relationship, Shi said prudent pessimists are needed to think through urgent resolutions and save the bilateral relationship from continuing down a dangerous path.
To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most respected Chinese international affairs scholars to discuss this important inflection point in U.S.-China relations. For the third episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Yan Xuetong, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University and secretary general of the World Peace Forum.
Yan asserted the U.S.-China relationship is experiencing structural disruptions, the resolution of which will have a lasting impact on the two countries. China’s economic achievements over the past 40 years are based on market economy reforms and the development of the private sector, Yan argued. He said the tensions in the U.S.-China relationship are primarily due to the narrowing gap between the two countries’ national strength. Going forward, the United States and China need to address their own domestic problems related to economic growth and technological development before resolving foreign policy issues. Beijing was right to shift from its past policy of keeping a low international profile, Yan said. However, China should focus on strengthening its regional position before moving too quickly into other parts of the globe. The Trump administration has made clear that it will forsake traditional U.S. global leadership roles, Yan said, but China does not yet have the capacity to supplant the United States in the international arena. This new dynamic stresses the need for the two countries to establish a framework that allows for joint leadership, as neither is willing or able to lead unilaterally.
To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most respected Chinese international affairs scholars to discuss this important inflection point in U.S.-China relations. For the second episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Wang Jisi, professor in the School of International Studies and president of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University.
To commemorate the 5th anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most respected Chinese international affairs scholars to discuss U.S.-China relations at an important inflection point. For the first episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Cui Liru, former president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. During the episode, Haenle and Cui discussed lessons from the past 40 years of the bilateral relationship, central areas of cooperation and competition, and a future framework that will allow the U.S. and China to avoid conflict. Cui asserted that U.S. and Chinese interests are not fundamentally incompatible, but that the relationship is in a fragile transition period that will require each country to work harder to better understand the other side’s common and diverging interests.
Do the U.S. midterm election results have implications for the U.S.-China relationship? In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, about the midterm elections and the status of pressing security issues impacting the bilateral relationship, including Taiwan, North Korea, and the South China Sea.
In this episode, Tong Zhao spoke with Richard Weitz, senior fellow and director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, about U.S., Chinese and Russian perspectives on nuclear arms control and its relevance to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
As U.S. relations with China and Russia deteriorate under the Trump administration, bilateral relations between Moscow and Beijing grow stronger. In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Dmitri Trenin and Alexander Gabuev, director of and senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center, respectively, about dynamics between the three countries and whether U.S. policy is driving China and Russia closer together.
Disagreements between the U.S. and China have the potential to reshape the long-term trajectory of the bilateral relationship. In this podcast, Paul Haenle spoke with Daniel Russel, former assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, on the future prospects for U.S.-China relations and the potential for significant and long-lasting structural shifts in the relationship.