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tv   After Words Kevin Rudd The Avoidable War  CSPAN  April 10, 2022 1:01pm-2:03pm EDT

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commonwealth clubs efforts and making in-person and virtual programming possible, please visit commonwealth club dot org slash events. i'm raj mathai. take good care. you're watching book tv with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend book tv television for serious readers. now on book tvs author interview program afterwards former prime minister of australia kevin rudd offers his thoughts on how the us and china can coexist and avoid war in the future. he's interviewed by united states institute of peace senior expert on china carla freeman. afterwards is a weekly interview program with relevant guest hosts interviewing top nonfiction authors about their latest work. kevin rudd it's my honor and my pleasure to talk to you today about your important new book.
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if it's you in it you take on what you describe as a world views that have become dominant in both the united states and china that you see as pushing the two countries toward war. this would be of course a war that given the capabilities for lethal force that the united states and china would bring to a conflict. would not just be costly it would be as you say catastrophic. as australia's former prime minister twice. it's foreign minister and diplomat china scholar in your own right and in the last few years in 18 and and in and engaged observer of us policy and politics. you're quite uniquely capable of helping united americans think through what the trip wires are and other issues that could cause the two countries to go to war but what i really like about this book is that you try to do much more than that. you're pushing back against the
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idea that conflict between the united states and china is inevitable you argue that this isn't avoidable war. so, let me start by asking you why it is that so many policy observers many smart people believe that what war is likely if not inevitable and why you although actually a lot of your book is about exploring scenarios where the us and china do engage in conflict in the coming decade you call. decade the decade of living dangerously why you think war between the united states and china can be avoided? well, thank you color until about friends at c-span for engaging in this conversation about the book which i've been laboring on for a while now. i called it the affordable war for a very direct reason friend and colleague of mine harvard university graham allison several years ago produced a book called destined for war. and graham and i worked together
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at harvard at the belfast center at the kennedy school. for some time but i was always concerned and that there would be a predisposition in the united states. with xi jinping's rise to see this is simply a timetable where eventually these two giant powers would be drawn into crisis conflict and war and secondly as you've just indicated. this is not just any old war. i use the term catastrophic on the cover because ukraine would be a sideshow. compared with what this would be. and in my judgment it would rapidly move from being regional to becoming global. and if the chinese communist party was to do badly in a conflict. existential survival questions take over for the party in which
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case? escalation even to involve weapons of mass destruction would enter into the equation. so the idea this is a limited conventional conflict on the high seas and the south china sea the taiwan straits or wherever is i think a logical nonsense the prospects of escalation are real. so why avoidable? i think it's intellectually lazy for the commentariat including the policy commentariat to simply describe to people as a catastrophe coming. i'm not into that business which is why i oppose, you know, meersheimer's view of the world, which is hyperrealism and and therefore we're kind of locked into the chariots of history here. not my view and there is reason for that which is that it's political leaders have agency. they have an ability to make decisions which actually change the course of history. it was not for mao or not for
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nixon and it wasn't for joan lyon wasn't for kissing you. guess what last 50 years would have been radically different. it wasn't for bridgeneer if it wasn't for reagan if it wasn't for gorbachev, what would have happened in terms of us rush relations or soviet relations back then so political leaders have agency. so what the book seeks to do is to say if you think that we're just on railroad tracks determined by some hegelian force that we can't do anything about. well, this is what crisis conflict and war could look like in material terms, but if you think we can make a difference here's a framework, which is not just the united states, but i argue a joint strategic framework between china and the united states and the leadership of both countries during the decade of living dangerously. which recognizes the absolute
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complexity of strategic competition? but rather than being unmanaged strategic competition that there are strategic guardrails around it, which i call managed strategic competition and that's what the book seeks to elaborate. well, i do want to explore that concept of managed strategic competition in a moment, but i want to get to this issue of core interests because one of the elements of this this framework that you propose is that that these the two countries can coexist and yet stay true to their core interests, so i wanted to just start by asking what those core interests are and for most of us observing the us-china relationship. it seems that some of these core interests are intractable and major sources of tension and could end up. causing conflict. so why do you think that these two countries can coexist while upholding these core interests?
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it's it's the great and fundamental question, which the book seeks to respond to. within the framework of managed strategic competition, of course, i divided into three categories. what i described as strategic red lines, which arise from each country's core interest both united states and china. secondly a much broader category of what i describe as open almost rambunctious strategic competition everywhere from technology through to ideology and then a third category which is defined areas of continued strategic cooperation where it's in both sides national interests not in some handholding sort of way to work together and climate of course being the the centerpiece of that third category, but let's go to your first category, which you you legitimately raise as the question. defining the core interest to the united states. far be it from me as a former australian prime minister to tell you as an american and an
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american public policy network what america's core national interest should be but i would hazard a guest that it's along these lines one the united states to remain the preominant preeminent global power. 2 for the united states to remain as it were the strategic mainstay of what we call the liberal international order, which is comprised not just to the un system but a series of other relationships anchored in the britain woods institutions and beyond that again underpinned by a network of global alliances of which the united states and its military remained the fulcrum. and thirdly that the united states has a deep and abiding national interest in continuing to be the how do i put it in a roosevelty in turn the arsenal of democracy? given the democracy in the democratic project is under such challenge around the world.
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now there are a range of sub-national interests which proceed from those three overarching interests, which we can come to but if i was trying to summarize it it's in those terms. what are the chinese core national interests? to supplant the united states as the preeminent global power militarily and economically and in that score. it's not just a regional ambition by the chinese. i do believe they have a global ambition. secondly to begin to change the nature of the international rules-based system in a manner which becomes much more conducive to the interests and values of authoritarian states whether it's russia china or whomever. and thirdly to challenge therefore fundamentally the notion that there is to use fukuyama's notion and end of history point, which is about liberal democracy that the chinese revolution is in fact,
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not just a stepping stone to ultimate liberal democracy, but a stepping stone to marxism and socialism and that that's now under direct ideological challenge in terms of a chinese core interest. there's a final one which really does bring the the electric nodes together, which is the future of taiwan and the future of the unresolved territorial issues in both the east china sea and the south china sea and in a different context on the sino-indian border. so are these reconcilable well in the basic question of logic? no. but what is manageable and what i think is therefore doable is a series of mutual understandings. perhaps reached to internally and diplomatically about what constitutes the red lines in the mind of each government in each system, which cannot be crossed
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unless you want to risk a moving across that tripwire into the real risk of crisis conflict and war. and that can only be done with a level of what i describe as kissingerie and clarity between the two sides. as to what that is and for it to be therefore not just policed episodically and accidentally by a mood in the congress this day or or a crazy opinion piece in the global times in beijing the next day, it should be the business of the national security advised the united states and his or her chinese counterpart to be the rolling policeman of those red lines. because if you breach them. operationally then there'll be an opportunity at that level to challenge to say a use seriously doing this in order to invite an opportunity to rectify or in the alternative to ensure that basically those guard rails
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remain in place. well speaking of kissing jerry and clarity the relationship really has been for the last 50 years. it's rested on this notion of strategic ambiguity, and i thought maybe i just ask you push a little bit and ask you how this is different from the the framework that was used in devised at the end of president nixon's 1972 trip to china and articulated in the shanghai communicate which really moved very hostile relationship forward by focusing on what the two countries could do together, but setting aside a whole lot of difficult issues and then moving forward leaving the issue of taiwan one that was ambiguous and to be resolved later. let's go to the core of the let's call it to ambiguity, which is the taiwan question itself as we can't just sweep that to one side as if it's a matter for the future.
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unfortunately pushing questions into the future, which is what henry and joe and lie did in those critical discussions back in 72. there's no longer possible because china's now bigger more powerful more and assertive than it was back then and secondly as you know as a china scholarly yourself color, this is an unresolved question for the chinese communist party in terms of its internal party legitimacy quite apart from international political legitimacy to reunite the motherland. so it's there it's real and it has moved from as it were the marginalia of the relationship into frankly the middle pages now of the relationship. so i think on this question xi jinping has a timetable. it's unfashionable to talk about defining the timetable, but my own judgment and i reflect this in the book is that he's moving
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towards timetable in the 2030s if you if he succeeds in being reappointed as general secretary of the 20th party congress in november this year then my analysis and many shared us is that we're likely to see xi jinping and offers through to at least 2035. it'd be then 82 years old. be almost young enough to run to be president the united states by then the but the bottom line is in chinese historical terms. this is not impossible for being in office and he has reasonable longevity on his side. so i think we need to have therefore this very realistic framework of the next. 10 to 15 years when this is likely to come to the boil the united states in my judgment cannot sustain itself as a credible as the credible global power in the if it was to allow
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china to militarily take taiwan. because at that point the confidence in america's strategic guarantees to its allies in asia and by extension in europe would collapse that's an unfashionable thing to say, but i think it's the realistic thing to say. so in terms of navigating this particular strategic red line it is not simply having a series of mutual understandings about what canon should not be done in terms of bringing the taiwan issue to the boil. parallel to it is an active series of american countermeasures to restore the military balance in the taiwan straits in a manner, which is more favorable the united states and is currently the case. but critically in parallel to that is to ensure that the taiwanese engage in much more effective levels of national self-defense. who collectively create the deterrence necessary to push the chinese timetable out further?
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now the chinese will be bridling against that and seeking to subvert that but that's the hard business of managed strategic competition. you want to come back to taiwan a little bit later in our conversation, but i don't want to leave out the attention that you give to national perceptions or world views chinese in chinese silly as key factors in the relationship between the two countries. so two questions here first. why do you play so much emphasis on what you call the prism of accumulated national perceptions in the us china relationship, and then secondly, i thought that among the many important discussions in your book your sections on the views from beijing of the united states and the views from washington did an excellent job of conveying these two sets of views and you articulate some of this at the beginning of our conversation, but could you highlight some of the gaps in perception that you see between washington and beijing and how they specifically add to the risk of
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bilateral conflict? up. the reason i spent so long on strategic perceptions is partly the product of my own experience as a practitioner. if you sit down opposite xi jinping, which i've done. for and whojin, tau and to some extent jungs them in and as a kid diplomat sitting in a room with with dongsiaoping back in the mesolithic period of my career. you any objective analysis of an exchange? is that well beyond the talking points of the meeting? that is simply the tip of the iceberg most of which lies beneath the surface and what lies beneath the surface is an accumulated set not just of national interests and national values but deep perceptions of the other side. and it's quite critical we unpack that to each other so that we actually understand what's driving the broader political establishments in both countries. so in the case of the chinese, i
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mean their deep perceptions are shaped by both the reality and the propaganda manipulation of the century of national humiliation from the opium wars through the end of the japanese occupation 45 but associated with that is a great sense of china have having not been treated with respect by the collective west for a long period of time. and there is a sense of trying to finally being able to get its come up and and we can't just wish that away. that's just a reality and if there's a culture in a civilization you've been an experienced the rape of nanjing and if and as a culture and a civilization, you've suffered the humiliation the british during the first and second opium wars which no one frankly in the collective west could remotely morally justify in the 21st century. then we can't just wish that away and say it's not a
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legitimate part of chinese political consciousness. it's it's there. it's a reality. and there's an associated one too, which is the question of race. hard to discuss in this country, but i'm a i'm a a a bluntly spoken australian and among friends in the united states. i can say that in what he look at the accumulation of racist immigration laws in this country and my own australia by the way towards chinese immigration in the 19th century and 20th century. this has left an accumulated set of perceptions in china that the united states racially has looked down the note. it's nose at china for a long period of time. it's an uncomfortable reality, but it's true. of course in the in the reverse direction chinese communist parties do perceptions of the united states. is a deeply challenged
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institution which has long seen it's ideological nemesis lying in american liberal democracy, you know the history as well as i the early experiments were liberalism in china liang chi chow hoosier the entire shebang in the 20s and 30s in particular. and if you look at the history the chinese communist party, there's deep paranoia about the ultimate ideological adversary being liberal democratic freedom and time and time again in the party's history through to tiananmen and through to what's called these days the propaganda documents of the chinese communist party railing still in the in recent years about the existential threat posed by these ideas to the chinese communist party notion of of the legitimacy of political power and how power should be distributed within societies.
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so that's part of the deep perceptions as well. so these things in my view need to be in the minds of public policy makers rather than simply thinking it's all tabular rasa. it's all just a blank sheet of paper and that's all sit down and just deal rationally with the issues of the day. no one in politics is like that domestically or internationally. well some of the points you made make me want to ask you this question. looking at china as a foreign policy actor one of the challenges in dealing with china internationally that you you really address head-on is what you call a leninist predisposition to maintain secrecy at all costs and this propensity you suggest reinforces a view that china is untrustworthy and the idea is if it's not truthful with its own people. it can't be trusted and i would add that. and we see china's comfort with straddling what looked to the west is some very divergent even
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contradictory international positions contributes to a view that china prefers ambiguity or dissembling a lot of people policy makers might even label this opportunism on the part of china in your book you you make mention the case of scarborough shoal where after chinese vessels crowded around a philippine controlled disputed shoal that created a dangerous standoff and and the with the us allies the philippines navy over the show in the united states negotiated a withdrawal the philippines navy dutifully with drew in china remained others might point to hong kong and in an assessment that china failed to uphold the terms of its return to china china's governance from britain and then there are many other examples that raise concerns. among western policymakers in particular about negotiated agreements with beijing.
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so what do you say to those concerns? that leninists ultimately respect what you do not what you say. and in responding to lennelists, we should be deeply conscious of what we do and frankly. make sure that what we say is reflected in that which we do. furthermore what i'd say is chinese leninists deeply respectful of strength and our institutionally and culturally contemptuous of weakness. both domestically and internationally if you look at the history of the chinese communist party in the civil war from 21 to 49. this is a bunch of deep strategic realists in their execution of a marxist leninist revolution malnu into retreat when he was in deep trouble and went to fight for example in the period after 45 with the defeat of the japanese based on the military possibilities of the
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time. so my argument to the united states is in order to sustain american national interest as we discussed before this level of absolute clarity of what you articulate to the chinese in your operational behavior. on the high seas in the air what you do in terms of economic activity limitations sanctions and those things you choose not to sanction. i often think in the united states. and particularly in united states congress. there is a confusion between operational and declaratory strategy. um, we would be a lot more advanced both the united states and as us allies in our dealings with the people's republic of china if 95% of the focus was on the clarity and consistency of our operational behavior and its cont and its and it's
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consistency with the coherent strategy. of deterrence as opposed to what i would describe as this continued rhetorical attraction to what we put into our declaratory strategy about the chinese on every and every day of the week. furthermore if you're emphasis is on the declaratory side rather than the operational side, then you create all sorts of opportunities to cause a fence cultural offense and and the rest which frankly clouds out your ability to deal with the substantive issues of the day. so i have a deeply realist view of how you deal with leninists those of us who come from social democratic parties like i do by the way for a hundred years since the second international in the 1880s, we've dealt with the problem of communist parties challenging center left parties, whether it's in europe or the united states from own country, australia, so we have some familiarity of what actually needs to be done in terms of firmness and clarity. i think it would be good if that
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was reflected in the way in which foreign security policy is articulated as well. guess i have to ask is that possible in the american system where we have you know a whole lot of policymakers in congress and in the senate all with a platform and and i know the chinese watch their statements very very carefully and often attribute to them policy weight because they may presage legislative action. well, i think it's it's own way the chinese a certain diversity of its own position take for example what the people's daily says as opposed to what global times says. people's daily is one of the four organs of the chinese communist parties. so we all assiduously carla you and me we read the opinion pieces. we we read the editorials. we know what the line is. and then of course we have the chinese think tanks who will say things which are maybe invariants with the line and
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then you have global times, which is frankly in your face. knock them down punch them out. let's kick the americans in the guts and their allies what we really do think about the attitudes of the collective west which the party in the government can formally disown, so we shouldn't say that the chinese are completely pristine on this question. they're not certainly in the divided government of the united states between the legislative branch the executive and the judiciary the chinese are sophisticated and understand the difference here my comments about the discipline necessary between operational strategy and declaratory strategy applies to the executive branch. under the biden administration. what i do see is infinitely greater levels of discipline about what it says and what it does the trump administration to be honest was like this wild roller coaster ride. that's as an ally before you
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even try to make sense of it at the beijing end as you had the president saying quite different things to the secretary of state the secretary of commerce and you had an executive divided between hawks and doves in everything. they said on a given day and that led to i think a high degree of incoherence as perceived by allies, but also perceived a strategic weakness by the chinese themselves, very interesting. well, i want to pivot to a discussion of what makes up a considerable part of your book. china's top party state military leader. she jinping and i know you've given a great deal of time to studying him as a figure and i think you are about to get your defilt at oxford on the see if i passed my bible monday writing you will be writing. you've written a thesis on xi jinping and he of course came to power in china and 2012-2013 and followed quite a less charismatic leader jin tao, so i wanted to give you a chance to
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talk about she and his role in the current state of us china relations and indeed. maybe china's international role more broadly, but one point that you make in your book that i wanted to you to address because i think it will be of great interest to the audience. is that under xi jinping the chinese communist party decided that china had more in common with russia than with the united states and wanted you to help. understand why that is how does it relate to xi jinping's leadership and the impact that she has had on the direction of chinese policy and because we're focusing on us-china relations in foreign and security policy and my dad that you described she i think this is wonderful as a marxist nationalist. that is the term i use and that's the term i advance in my thesis if i was trying to synthesize. how i see xi jinping's ideological worldview. it is as a marxist nationalist if i was to unpack that one
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stage further would be. when i look at shea on the economy, i see a marxist shift to the left. away from student enterprises. so towards state enterprises away from the private sector and in the direction of a greater equalitarian distribution of wealth. i see she is leninist on the party moving again politics to the left. straining the the political space available for individuals or ngos or even the professional apparatus of the chinese state in favor of this central leninous discipline of a part of the chinese communist party. but i also see in the legitimacy stakes. xi jinping moving chinese nationalism to the right. that is a much more assertive chinese foreign and security policy. much more seeking to advance
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china's national interest internationally and and deep appeals to nationalist sentiment in a way in which he's predecessors by and large did much less of so when i use the term marxist nationalism, i don't use it. casually i seek to reflect what i had deduced from she's writings. and he's ideological pronouncements over the 10 years that he's been in office. so that marxist nationalism, i think we see permit permeating the policy actions also of the chinese party state in pure politics and economic policy, but frankly how we encounter it now around the rest of the world. as a personality xi jinping therefore is formidable. just formidable if i look at his machiavellian skillcraft domestically and how he's managed political opposition. this has been brutal.
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anti-corruption campaign, which is not just about corruption. it's about knocking on the head a range of your political opponents. taking out previous standing committee members serving poly bureau members the leadership of the central military commission. this guy is is not, you know, an attender of your average sunday school. he's in the business of leninist politics. but it creates color i think vulnerabilities for xi jinping on the russia question. because of that world view if you look at the evolution particularly of russia china relations since the russian occupation of crimea in 2014 through to the present this is being a radical as we're acceleration. of a renormalization of that relationship almost back to the period i would just say of sonos
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soviet condominium in 4959. to the point where if you look at the the architecture the formal documents of the relationship today, it's tantamount to a common security arrangement short of a just short of a mutual defense act. and this very much reflects the authoritarian worldviews of she and putin. and for the future, i think creates a genuine challenge for the united states and the rest of the world, but the vulnerability is this when you've seen a putin overreach so much on ukraine. and the chinese position consistent with this normalization and radicalization if you like of the russia china relationship to the point where the chinese have informally locked in behind the the russian position whatever they may say publicly about their neutrality.
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this is a degree of overreach by xi jinping on foreign policy, which has got some of the comrades feeling quite uncertain and i think creates one of a number of vulnerabilities which are now alive in chinese politics for xi jinping's own future. could you talk a little bit about more about that while i have you? well, most of us who follow chinese politburo politics closely. and regrettably i have to confess i've done so for 40 years since i was a junior woodchuck and the australian embassy in beijing back in the neolithic period of my career. we understand the ebbs and flows of chinese polypereopolitics internal communist party politics, and we're always handicapped by the opacity of the system. and very few of us have ever got in predictively in either big
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calls, right? you know, what would have happened after the purge of mao what would happen after the death of dung? what would happen to who we are bang and jazzy young. these are very difficult things. because a leninous party is deeply committed to the secrecy which we spoke about before. but i think objectively i could say xi jinping right now faces three or four sets of core vulnerabilities. one abolition of term limits for the presidency and therefore creating once again the potentiality of being leader for life. really rubs up the wrong way with many within the chinese communist party and not just young zamin and who gintao both of them are still alive and those around them. but others who do have legitimate fears about the return of the second mal. second the a movement to the general left in chinese politics which constrains the space of
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normally strongly party supporting academics non-government organizations etc. or an ability to have just an open political discourse within the system. that creates its own reaction as well as the discipline of the party and upholding as a chinese documents of said in recent years the core leadership of xi jinping as the new helmsman of the chinese political system. that rubs people up the wrong way and creates its own enmities and and concerns. the overreach on the economy in pushing the center of gravity of chinese economic policy back towards the left. and in my view being one of the causative factors of what we've seen as a deer acceleration of chinese growth numbers. that's creating a bigger reaction particularly in the corporate sector in china and the private sector which generates 60% of gdb and frankly a large very large proportion of chinese economic growth. final vulnerability the pandemic
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remember, we've had two years of the chinese system and xi jinping. we've saved china from this pandemic while all those crazy liberal capitalists led by the united states have just let it rip look at the rest of the democratic world. they let it rip. they went able to bring in the social disciplines necessary to control it like we could communists problem. it's now spilled over the border from hong kong schengen's in lockdown. geelin and chung twin and parts of manchuria in the northeast. similarly. and so this is a conundrum for the year ahead. he's a real wild card for you. the year ahead who knows how ukraine ultimately will play out? who knows what will happen in the case of president putin. but if things went really bad on ukraine for the russians. and you begin to see putin's position challenge domestically or even putin falling.
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you as a china scholar yourself know that events in moscow when they involve the most senior leaders do have their reverberations within chinese domestic politics as well. if xi jinping as poor all of his eggs in the vladimir putin basket, and putin was not a durable proposition and even fell put all those factors together in the admixture of the beta her meetings of august this year in the lead up to the 20th party congress in november. suddenly what i've always assumed to be the inevitability of a xi jinping rear point because he's such a formidable machiavellian politician looks more contested. that's the more that's the most i could say more contested fascinating you talk in your book about she's priorities for china and you you give us an image of 10. circles maybe comment on why you chose the image of circles to capture.
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she's relative priorities. and which ones maybe the top three or four do you see is having the most impact on the us china relationship or maybe because of your comments just now that you you may see she reassessing perhaps the reason i've chosen a series of concentric circles as the metaphor for trying to make sense of let's call it xi jinping's worldview and the priorities within it. is to enable the general readership of books like the one i've written. to have a an easier analytical hand. on making sense of what china is doing on a given day of the week as you know those of us in the cyanological world. sometimes speaker dialect which the intelligent public policy, you know audience of the united states or other countries to find baffling. so our job is to de-baffle it, you know what i mean? and so that's why i've tried to
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list it almost just what i describe as if you're familiar with maslov and the hierarchy of needs is what's the chinese as mazloffian a hierarchy of needs or masloe and i'm never quite sure what the adjective from maslow might be. not my fear. your guess is as good as mine. so i essentially say very quickly keeping the party in power and the leader in power is always number one. the center of everything marx's leninists will like that number two unity the motherland. so it's part of the religion xinjiang tibet taiwan number three. growing the economy in order to ensure that that part of the legitimacy equation remains in place. for ensuring that you now do so in a manner which is environmentally sustainable because it's not just feeling good about it. it's just about not having dirty water polluted land and polluted air which kills you too early in
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life five ensuring that the neighboring states are under control. there's 14 neighboring states. that's a lot. six make sure that you've got a robust and growing military in order to provide security not just for the party but for security in your immediate neighborhood. seven of course is ensuring that in the maritime periphery, which is looking towards the united states and it's treaty allies that you've got that maximally under control and that's where of course the theaters that we've spoken about with. taiwan and with southeast asian, sorry with the south china sea and the east china sea remains so significant 8 the continental periphery belton road initiative to give china greatest strategic depth all the way to europe and turn that into a theater of
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economic opportunity and therefore ultimate foreign policy compliance with the interests of the chinese system. 9 the row the rest of the world china is the traditional champion of the g77 in both africa and latin america and the rest of asia and hence why the belton road initiative again, but china's new posture in terms of international development assistance is seen as enhancing china's ultimate global numbers if you like which brings us to 10, which is changing the rules of the international system itself in a manner more compatible as we discussed before with chinese authoritarian values and and chinese national interests, but through the institutions of global governance. which china then through a second diplomacy has much greater levels of diplomatic support in in individual votes in the united nations. and in securing and the candidatures to take control over international institutions a machinery, which is now able
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to deliver those changes on the ground from the position on the the imf through to who runs the international civilization civil aviation organization who's now setting the industry's standards for internet governance in the world and the product standards in 5g and the rest. so the reason i use concentric circles from the most important shall i say to the least important is the wrong term but but extensions of the central principle of party control is that that's the prism in my judgment. true which the chinese view reality and prioritize their actions. a couple of thoughts here i'm i'm wondering which where is china looks out to this complicated international regional environment it sees the biggest threats it has xi
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jinping and putin's relationship that has certainly helped make that important bilateral relationship that long border which used to be such a problem a lot a lot less of a problem and also helped the two countries work out their mutual interests and different interests in central asia. when when she looks out to the to the region, what are his main concerns? is it japan? is it taiwan? i think your right call it a point to the russian stabilization factor as in a huge chinese enduring strategic interest. given the complex 400 year history of the russia china relationship zarist expansion loss of the russian loss of the chinese territory as the to what became known as the soviet and then russian far east. russian soviet than russian far east true to sonos soviet confrontation and a highly
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contested border with border crises and conflicts throughout the 60s. through to where we are now. so when people think that um, the china's lens for looking at ukraine for example is does china get a bad reputation or good reputation in the the rest of the world. course of where it stands with putin the invasion of ukraine, they need to understand the much deeper and broader historical and strategic context which the chinese bring to bear with the russia relationship. there's no way in the world the chinese want to return to a period where they face strategic adversaries given the size of the russian nuclear arsenal across the border. so it's a very important strategic consideration. i think across the rest of their international landscape. their principal concern remains so the future of taiwan the next
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principle concern is in a future taiwan scenario. what will japan do because japanese posture and taiwan is changing. you have to look carefully at the statements of prime minister kishida. prime minister suga even prime minister abey and abey now from retirement. which is a dramatic hardening in the japanese position on defense of taiwan. i am surprised by it. i follow japanese politics reasonably. so that i think is what they see the quad worries them because suddenly at the chinese view that these four could never agree with each other that the indians were sui generous and and the australians would always in the chinese view do what the americans told them to do in the japanese most of the time but now you have this strategic arrangement with the four. surprised beijing and even with
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orcas involving australian united kingdom united states and the extension of american nuclear propulsion technology to the australians. this creates a further level of complexity. so i think russia keeping it under control the taiwan japan scenario because that's where a crisis would erupt and the and the capabilities which would be deployed apart from those united states itself. then broadly now with india and the quad and then these nuclear questions associated with orcas. well, i think we have to talk a little bit more about taiwan because it's the place and the issue that as you you say really represents the greatest threat to peace between the united states and china and then your book you boldly a lay out 10
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alternative futures for us china relations during this decade of living dangerously and you note that there are some fixed factors one of them being the continuing growth of china's military capabilities, but there are a lot of other unknowns and many many variables. but many of the scenarios that you work through consider conflict between the us and china over taiwan and generally the united states doesn't fare terribly well in those scenarios you explore what you call a munich moment where the us doesn't respond to an effort by she to effect a military solution to the taiwan question. you consider an american waterloo where a war fought so close to china, of course taiwan is only about a hundred miles or so across the taiwan strait china not only takes taiwan, but by so doing likely through a much more expensive conflict. it decisively ends the american
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century and then you also consider what you call an american midway, but i that that if i recall creates a stalemate allah korean peninsula over taiwan, so i wanted you to talk a little bit more about those scenarios and because of the russia's aggression toward, ukraine. be contemplate whether that has changed any of the alternative futures that you lay out. yeah, i've because taiwan is central as you pose the question legitimately. i've had to probe what it would look like. it's an uncomfortable thing to do, but you need to and i'll then throw around the terms munich moment and waterloo moment. or midway moment or frankly korean moment idly because i think it's important for us to conceptualize we can only often
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envisage the future by drawing on references from the past which we have some familiarity. what american allies around the world of caused fear most is munich moments? and quite interesting visibly the ukraine that you've just referenced. that as it evolves has thus far? not become a munich moment not withstanding the fact that the united states and its noto partners have been very cautious about direct military engagement using indirect and military means the midway moment actually is about american victory that is that the communist party leadership radically miscalculate over taiwan that american does intervene with the taiwanese and the americans than
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taiwanese managed to prevail in one form or another and as we know midway wasn't the end of the pacific war, but it was a significant turning point. coral scene midway and then eventually the the campaign back to okonara and and to japan itself. um the untaughtiness of korean outcome is what shape that would look like in terms of taiwan given its one island that's much untidier, but we reflect on what has happened to ukraine, which is a country now effectively with russian dominated areas and not just in don bass and not just crimea, but other pockets of the country as well. it's worth thinking through. but i think you're right to pose this question against all those scenarios and sub scenarios for a future taiwan crisis. china strategic landscape is now somewhat more complicated
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because of oh, let's call it russian excess over ukraine. my argument is that it will not fundamentally derail. china's own sense of its own timetables for dealing with taiwan the principle factor. there will be the ongoing deterrent or non deterrent effect of american and taiwanese military preparedness. but the second deterrent effect is the one where i think the russian example becomes most acute and that is the risk of financial economic sanctions. my argument is long been that we will not face a taiwan crisis this decade. but i'm much less certain about the 2030s. why do i say that? it's not just changing the military balance of power much more decisively in beijing's favor during the course of the 2020s and the absence of an effective american and taiwanese response. it's actually how china
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eventually insulates itself against financial and economic damage. and the parallel economic strategy in china is to national self-sufficiency as you know, silicon technological self-sufficiency so much of what xi jinping's new development concept is on about plus in terms of his financial measures to get the chinese financial system to be big enough bold enough and ugly enough by the end of the decade. to then cross the rubicon of liberalizing the chinese capital account floating the chinese yuan and then be confident enough that a sanctions regime in a dollar denominated world would no longer pose the threats that they now see being meted out to the russians and which they've theoretically always feared themselves. so when they've seen the collective west and beyond the west impose such hard sanctions
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against moscow i think it has an effect in the chinese internal discourse on this about how well insulated they will need to be on that front before pulling any military leaders. and that is very much an equation again for the late 20s. well that suggests some additional momentum toward more decoupling perhaps between the western and chinese economies, which has its own. because you know factors that could contribute to further destabilization. i would think i agree with that. i think one of the miscalculations or in misconceived analyzes in the united states is should we americans decouple from china or not? my judgment and i may be proven wrong. is that as of about 2019 xi jinping ridge to conclusion that the americans were going to
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decouple so why not china decouple from the united states on china's terms as early as possible in order to reduce china's vulnerability the supply chain disruption to financial disruptions / sanctions. and technology disruption by achieving a higher and higher levels of national self-sufficiency. so when i look at the the wellsprings underpinning. she's an quote new development concept as the replacement to the deng xiaoping concept of reform and opening. i see a lot of shall i say national security related strategic logic in it separate from what i describe as the productivity based efficiency based international economic competitiveness-based logic of of the reform and opening period well, we just have a few minutes left but you address some of the steps that the united states
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needs to do to shift the trend lines in the relationship. some of those things require strengthening the united states. how does the united states take steps without then triggering a competitive or adversarial response from china? i've personally felt that the united states china relationship might get worse if beijing no longer saw the united states as a declining power. it's a it's a it's a deep and probing question that you ask. we almost always when we pose those questions consider the alternative which is as britain gently slid from its dominant global position. prior to the first world war into semi retirement in the interwar period and unfortunately that producing the
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strategic circumstances where others saw opportunities rising. 30s and isolationist americas still and through the 20s prior to that and then of course the strategic opportunities created for the rise of fascism in europe. so i think in terms of the preservation of the liberal international order. there is no other. fundamental underpinning which exist other than american strategic and economic power. it can be an expanded concept whereby. what is the critical mass of the american? let's call it economic and military reality. is augmented by a much more cohesive set of relationships with its major? i say there's major european and asian allies. for example just on the economic
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argument. though. i'm not a member of the united states congress, and i'm unlikely to become one the rather than this crazy debate you have in this country about nafta and i still cannot pronounce the acronym which replaced nafta whatever it is the united states, canada, mexico. if this became frankly a north american economic union and to that you added let's call it the principally economies of asia. pan india australia the rok and you added? germany france the united kingdom as we say in australia you be cooking with gas because this is a very big combined economic entity if it was effectively over time a single market for goods for capital the technology. population people often assume
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of china is one huge critical mass of 1.4 billion which you and i both know is now in state of decline and rapid aging. the united states it's becoming frankly the age demographic is reversed by migration. but if you would have aggregate 300 million americans with a hundred million mexicans and say 50 million canadians you're looking at an entity of around about 600 million people with hyper capital income levels against a china which by mid-century would be about 1.2 billion people of a rapidly aging population and that's just a middle-income middle to upper middle income levels. it's not necessary therefore written in the stars that america becomes the second largest economy in the world, depending on how you manage it fascinating well, thank you for
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this wonderful conversation about your important book. pleasure to talk with you today. well, thanks so much for the opportunity to be on c-span and i hope people buy the book and read it and tell me what they think. afterwards is available as a podcast to listen visit c-span.org slash podcasts or search c-span your podcast app. and watch this in all previous afterwards interviews at booktv.org. just click the afterwards button near the top of the page. up next on book tv. we bring you coverage of the 2022 new orleans book festival held it to lane university. you'll hear a discussion on the future of the american south bestselling author malcolm gladwell on his writing process
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discussions on women in politics and more visit booktv.org for a full schedule. and starting now. it's a conversation on social movements that shaped america with historians walter isaacson. john meacham and john barry. so we have a very modest subject america. and we have some people that know a lot about it. so i why don't we just start on my far right with the co-chair or the chair or the new orleans book festival. your co-chair always be co-chair never chair. so walter in your observation of all the people you have written about. and all the other people you've you've read about over the years who would you say is the greatest american we've ever had. benjam, look i mean besides david present company excluded. it changes depending on the moments of history, but at

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