WASHINGTON, DC – On Friday, April 24th, the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs held a Zoom webinar featuring expert speakers Yukon Huang, Senior Fellow on the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (and former World Bank Country Director for China), and Jeffrey Stacey, New York Times contributor and United Nations consultant (and former State Department Official). The discussion was moderated by Alyssa Bonk, Program Director for the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs. The discussion topic was the state of U.S. and China relations amid COVID-19. Both speakers brought unique aspects of the U.S and China relationship focusing on the economic and geo-political aspects affected by the pandemic.
Yukon Huang brought his wealth of knowledge from decades of working on China, and studying international economic systems. He began the discussion with a presentation speaking on the current status of Sino-American relations calling it the lowest in three decades, possibly since the Tiananmen Square uprising. Huang stated that currently, three-quarters of Americans have a negative view of China building up for more than a decade, and increased with the election of the United States President Trump and under China’s President Xi Jinping, the most ambitious Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping. He further went on to explore the intertwined relationship between the two largest economies in the world, and the consequences of the tension caused by the trade wars. Huang added that it is no surprise that tensions rose, and that actually, many economists see the trade wars leading up to the coronavirus pandemic as illogical and counterproductive, but inevitable. From that perspective, both sides lose with China losing in the short-term and the United States losing in the long term.
Huang concluded that there are three potential options for the United States and China: 1) continued stalemate 2) compromise (though it is unlikely) and 3) status quo (which will draw in Europe and Asia and be a worst case scenario).
Continuing the discussion, Jeff Stacey put the complicated relationship in the context of geo-political effects and international security. Stacey explored the question that has been on many policymakers minds – is China a viable super power capable of challenging the United States?
In many ways, all signs point to no – at least not if being measured by their assistance and response to the coronavirus pandemic. Though China has been making an aggressive play to stand out as a world leader by offering support and aid to the western world, their efforts have been seriously flawed. First, with their mishandling of the virus, and secondly with the distribution of faulty medical aid to western countries, for example the one million masks sent to Canada that were deemed unusable. Stacey also pointed to the very active disinformation campaign being waged by China pointing out the use of social media and use of mass text messages to disseminate false information to American citizens.
Also affecting the relationship are China’s national security activities. Stacey pointed out the security exercises China have been pursuing for example: in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Taiwan, ramming of ships, Vietnamese and Malaysian ships sunk, and naval pressure that China is putting on countries that rim the East and South China Seas (most of whom are American allies). Other contributing hurdles in the U.S-China relationship include the expulsion of democratic voices and intellectual property theft all throughout the Obama Administration. 15 top pro-democracy leaders have been jailed, and long time news correspondents from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal were expelled. Lastly, Chinese intelligence officers have stolen commercial and military secrets of a gargantuan magnitude.
The presentations were followed by a number of questions by Hill staffers, students, and policy professionals, alike. Questions ranged from the origin of COVID-19 to economic implications to whether or not we are seeing the beginnings of a Cold War.
If you were unable to attend this event, you can watch a recording of the webinar here. The next Zoom webinar for the New York Center for Foreign Policy Affairs will be in May, and will cover Yemen and human rights. For updates on future event updates, please visit nycfpa.org or e-mail [email protected].