April 2019: PUSHBACK – The hardening U.S. Policy against China’s challenges: status, outlook and implications

April 24, 2019

Speaker: Dr. Robert Sutter

   About the Speaker:   

Robert Sutter is Professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of George Washington University. He also is Director of the School’s main undergraduate program involving over 1,000 students. Earlier he was Visiting Professor of Asian Studies at Georgetown University (2001-2011).

A Ph.D. graduate in History and East Asian Languages from Harvard University, Sutter has published 22 books, over 300 articles and several hundred government reports dealing with contemporary East Asian and Pacific countries and their relations with the United States. His most recent book (with Richard Ellings): Axis of Authoritarians: Implications of China-Russia Cooperation (NBAR 2018).

Sutter’s government career (1968-2001) saw service as the director of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division of the Congressional Research Service, the National Intelligence Officer for East Asia and the Pacific at the US Government’s National Intelligence Council, and the China division director at the Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

   Program Recording:   

A recording of the Program by NPR Radio is available in the WCVE Forum archives.

   Event Review:    

Cold War Antics – How China is the new USSR

After World War II, the United State’s greatest enemy was unarguably the Soviet Russians.
According to Robert Sutter, Professor of Practice of International Affairs at George Washington University, there’s a new public enemy number one: China.

This high technology competition…the influence operations, and the size of China now suggests that if we don’t do something, we will be dominated,” he said, to a crowd of 170 people.

Sutter was the presenter du jour for the Richmond World Affairs Council’s monthly global politics event. His presentation centered on the growing threat of China, and he began by pointing out the anxieties U.S. government officials were having over China’s technological advancements, and its growing global influence.

China is winning the technology race in the minds of some…The logic is that, if they dominate American technology, they will dominate the military situation,” Sutter said. He then explained how American officials see China using soft-power techniques against the American public.

The other issue has to do with Chinese influence operations,” Sutter said. “The sense that China has penetrated the United States, and uses theses penetrations for…seemingly benign ways, [but] at the same time spying and [conducting] influence operations trying to change opinions, trying to lull the Americans.”

The current president of China, Xi Jinping, has deviated completely from his predecessors more passive approach to foreign policy, Sutter said. Xi Jinping saw the 2008 financial crisis as a sign of an America in decline, and decided to capitalize on the moment and act bolder toward the U.S.

Would you consider the…posture of China in the East and South China Seas as a strategic blunder,” Richmond native Ted Brown asked. “Because seemingly, it has caused other straits in the region to move against China.

Rather than a blunder, Sutter saw China’s assertive foreign policy as beneficial to the country. The Obama administration was not tough enough on China, he said, and this allowed China to grow stronger. While China’s neighbors may not enjoy the country’s growing presence, there’s not much they can do because China is too strong.

Today, President Donald Trump’s strategic plan to combat China has been seemingly tougher, Sutter said. In 2017, the U.S. imposed tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods launching the country into a trade war with China.

With both nations disputing tariffs…does this trade war and Trump’s goals on China’s unfair practices have a significant negative impact on the U.S. and global economy and if so, is it worth it,” Virginia Commonwealth University student Nira Harikrishnan asked.

While the trade war will have an effect on the U.S. economy, it is Xinping who should be more concerned, Sutter said. He mentioned that big U.S. companies, such as Google, will need to relocate and cut highly beneficial ties with China if the relationship between the two nations continued to sour.

In the end, the trade war, and the resulting negotiations, has done little to truly benefit the U.S.

China’s presence continues to sweep the world like a tsunami, and the U.S. could drown under its wave if it does not take the proper precautions.

While Congress has been united in its efforts to block China’s growing influence, Sutter said that it would amount to nothing if the American public did not join in the effort.

The American public doesn’t understand the urgency here,” Sutter said. “We need a whole of society effort to counter the Chinese.” #

– Author: Joshua Kim, Student at the University of Richmond

   Additional Resources:    

  • You did not get the handout to Dr. Sutter’s presentation? You can find it here.
  • You can also read a short op-ed by Dr. Sutter which summarizes the material covered in the presentation.

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