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Biden’s China Policy | Munk Debates

SEASON TWO - EPISODE #4

Biden’s China Policy

Be it resolved, it's in America’s interest for Joe Biden to continue Trump’s China policy

Guests
Michael Pillsbury
Kishore Mahbubani

About this episode

Tough talk on China helped Trump win the presidency in 2016 and over the last four years the U.S. has taken a markedly more assertive approach to confronting the rise of its first major geopolitical competitor since the Soviet Union. Critics of Trump’s approach say his China policy is based on flawed assumptions - the key one being the jingostic assumption that China aspires to be an expansionist power rather than a regional broker primarily focused on protecting its sphere of influence. These same critics argue that American’s decline, relative to China’s rise, is inevitable and America should be preparing now for an era of increased cooperation with Beijing to tackle the world’s big problems from climate to the next pandemic. China hawks respond that a naive American policy prior to Trump paved the way for China to become the world’s second largest economy and chief geopolitical rival. Trump deserves credit for reversing this complacency. China skeptics argue that America must continue to be vigilant and suspicious of Chinese intentions in Asia and beyond. To ensure the preservation of the liberal international order in the 21st century, the U.S. must confront and contain China across a spectrum of flash points including the South China Sea, Taiwan, trade, space, high tech, and human rights.

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Guests

Michael Pillsbury

President Trump was trying to guide Xi Jinping toward a China that plays by the rules. It's shocking how far China has exceeded the U.S. When Biden inherits this diagnosis, he's not going to say Trump did his best. He'll demonize him. But he will pursue these very same policies.

Michael Pillsbury

President Trump was trying to guide Xi Jinping toward a China that plays by the rules. It's shocking how far China has exceeded the U.S. When Biden inherits this diagnosis, he's not going to say Trump did his best. He'll demonize him. But he will pursue these very same policies.

Michael Pillsbury is one of the world’s foremost China strategists. Called a “hawk” by the New York Times and “the leading authority on China” by President Donald Trump, he is a senior fellow and the director for Chinese strategy at the D.C.-based Hudson Institute think tank.
 
Pillsbury was born in California in 1945, earned his undergraduate arts degree from Stanford University and his masters and doctorate degrees from Columbia University. After graduating, he was the assistant political affairs officer at the United Nations and, later, an analyst at RAND Corporation, a U.S. non-profit think tank created to bolster research analysis for the U.S. armed forces. It was there that he began advocating for the United States to create intelligence and military bonds with China, which became U.S. policy during the Carter and Reagan administrations.
 
A staff member for four U.S. Senate Committees from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, Pillsbury also served as special assistant for Asian affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, under President George H. W. Bush. In December 2020 he was appointed Chairman of the U.S. Department of Defence policy advisory board.

Pillsbury is the author most recently of The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, published in 2015.

Kishore Mahbubani

We need Biden to work with other G20 leaders, including China, on a coordinated, multilateral push to revive the global economy. That would be a major U-turn away from a Trump policy and the best way to constrain China.

Kishore Mahbubani

We need Biden to work with other G20 leaders, including China, on a coordinated, multilateral push to revive the global economy. That would be a major U-turn away from a Trump policy and the best way to constrain China.

A veteran diplomat, student of philosophy, and author of eight books, Kishore Mahbubani is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. His careers in diplomacy and academia have taken him from Singapore’s Chargé d'Affaires to wartime Cambodia (1973-74) and President of the UN Security Council (Jan 2001, May 2002) to the Founding Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (2004-2017).  

Mahbubani writes and speaks prolifically on the rise of Asia, geopolitics and global governance. He has also been a prolific author, having published eight books: Can Asians Think?, Beyond The Age Of Innocence, The New Asian Hemisphere, The Great Convergence, Can Singapore Survive?, The ASEAN Miracle (co-authored with Jeffery Sng) and Has the West Lost It?. His latest book, Has China Won?, was released on 31st March 2020. His articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times and Foreign Affairs have earned him global recognition as “the muse of the Asian century.” Since his 1998 debut Can Asians Think?, he has challenged conventional wisdom on the big questions of our time.  

Mahbubani has been listed among the world’s top 100 public intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines and among the Top 50 individuals who would shape the debate on the future of capitalism by the Financial Times. He was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in October 2019.

Show Notes

Kishore Mahbubani is the author of Has China Won? The Chinese Challenge to American Primacy. In this recent Economist article Kishore shares his view that we are watching “the dawn of the Asian century.”

Michael Pillsbury is the author of The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower. During the debate Michael refers to the Hudson Institute’s “A Guide to the Trump Administration’s China Policy Statements”, which provides insights into Trump’s China strategy.

During the debate Kishore refers to the legendary American diplomat, George Kennan, and his rules of thumb for winning a geopolitical contest, none of which Kishore believes have been heeded in the current effort to constrain China. You can learn more about Kennan, who is credited with masterminding the American cold war containment of the Soviet Union, here.

Michael credits President Trump with exposing China’s unfair practice of purchasing American companies to acquire their advanced technology. You can learn more about how this “stealth transfer of technology” might be happening in the Politico article “How China Acquires the ‘Crown Jewels’ of US Technology.”

During the debate both Kishore and Michael describe the extraordinary economic growth that China has experienced over the last few decades. Michael points out that China now  claims more “top 100”  companies by value than any other country. This article in the South China Morning Post reports that in 2019, for the first time, China had more companies on the Fortune 500 than the US.

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