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Unresolved September 13, 2017
Unresolved: Face-Off with China
Face-off with China

Against the backdrop of North Korea's nuclear advances and escalating regional tensions, we ask: How should the U.S. respond to its most urgent national security threats?

In a wide-ranging evening of debate, General David Petraeus joins military historian Max Boot for a keynote conversation and broad look into the most pressing global challenges of the Trump era. Once the stage is set, four of the world's most prominent foreign policy voices will zero in on the most important strategic relationship of the twenty-first century: the United States and China. Staged with our new "Unresolved" debate format, these debaters will argue for or against a number of motions including: Is Donald Trump making China great again? Is China destined for regional dominance?  And can we strike a deal with Beijing to contain North Korea’s nuclear program? 

  • 00:00:00
    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Let’s begin with a proverb from China that is centered on questions of power. It goes like this: It is easy to find a thousand soldiers, but it’s hard to find one good general. Welcome, I’m John Donvan, host of Intelligence Squared U.S., and that proverb coming from China helps set up this program tonight not only because we are going to be debating Chinese power and what America’s response should be to it, but also because to launch this particular season we are headlining this program with a conversation -- a conversation with, as the proverb from China recommends, one good general. Get ready for a strategic discussion of America’s challenges around the globe, really around the world, led by General David Petraeus, who will be in conversation with Max Boot, the noted military historian, and also a good friend of Intelligence Squared U.S., whose upcoming book is called “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.” Please welcome David Petraeus and Max Boot.
  • 00:01:13
    [applause]

    Hi, Max, General. Thank you very much. Gentlemen, you have 30 minutes for this fascinating conversation. I will be back when the clock runs out. Thank you.

    Max Boot:
    Thank you.

    General Petraeus:
    Max, it really is a privilege to be here with you on stage, once again.

    [laughter]

    Congratulations on -- congratulations on the new book.

    Max Boot:
    Well, I was just going to very briefly say that, you know, General Petraeus is really one of the people I admire most in the world. And I think, you know, out of all of the Americans who have served in uniform, and served so valiantly, I think very few have managed to combine the technical side of warfare, tactics and operations, with a broader grand strategy and diplomacy and communications and all of those other higher elements of command. And I think really nobody in American uniform has done that better since the days of Dwight D. Eisenhower than the man who I am privileged to interview here tonight.
  • 00:02:06
    General Petraeus:
    Thank you. It was a privilege, thank you.

    [applause]

    Max Boot:
    Okay. So with that, let’s jump into our conversation. The topic here tonight is China. But before we get to China, I’m going to ask General Petraeus a few questions about the broader foreign policy world, starting with the most obvious question in the universe, which is: What do you think about the Trump foreign policy, and is there a distinctive Trump policy? Is there a distinctive Trump doctrine?

    General Petraeus:
    Well, I think it’s still emerging, obviously. And you have to keep in mind that in the United States the foreign policy is made, not just contributed or influenced by but made not just by the president and the executive branch, but unlike a parliamentary system, the legislative branch here really can affect it. And you saw that with the sanctions on Russia, which the president didn't really want, but did sign, ultimately.
  • 00:03:01
    So, you -- what you're seeing is, for six months -- and perhaps, interesting to some, I would contend that we're -- he would characterize this more as continuity than change, with three specific exceptions to that -- again, possibly because it's still emerging -- and then one quite significant one. But let's just review. You know, he criticized the relationship with China, took a call from the Taiwanese president for the first time in decades, Tweeted about it afterwards -- and then, ultimately called President Xi, embraced the One China policy, had the Mar-a-Lago summit, and has engaged in fairly strategic dialogue between several different groups that were established as an outcome of that. He sort of said, "Well, one state, two state, whatever they want." When President Netanyahu was sitting next to him in the Oval Office the next day, Ambassador Haley says this -- the policy of the United States is the two-state solution.
  • 00:04:02
    And again, you've had this on and on, with -- you know -- the Iran nuclear agreement has grudgingly, perhaps, but has continued to certify that. We'll see what happens in the next round. But you can go down issue after issue -- NATO, whatever -- critical at times during the campaign, not unlike some other candidates in some other campaigns, but perhaps a bit more so here. But ultimately, coming back to the norm, with the exception of trade -- of course, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a very, very big deal, as Joe Biden might have said. And then also, with immigration, perhaps there is -- we -- you know, you had the Mexican ban certainly softened -- halted by the courts. We'll see if there's any lasting implication of that, whether there really is a limitation on the number of immigrants that can come in, what happens with H-1B visa, what happens with unskilled labor -- still to be seen. And by the way, back to trade. NAFTA -- the negotiations are going on, and I think in quite a sensible way so far.
  • 00:05:00
    And then, finally, you also have one other issue, and that's climate. Pulled out of the Paris Accord -- or will pull out in 2020. That is very significant symbolically, that the United States will not continue to exercise leadership in the world on a very important issue -- but substantively probably not a huge difference. The -- what we committed to, frankly, was quite achievable. It's part of -- you know, every country was able to design its own commitment. And frankly, it's going to be achieved because of businesses, because of states, because of local communities that realize that this is the smart thing to do as well as the right thing to do. There is one big issue that I think actually is, again, still emerging, and that is the seeming ambivalence, at times, from the president -- but sometimes also not -- about whether or not to have the U.S. continue to lead the rules-based international system that we helped bring into existence in the wake of a 50-year period that included two ruinous world wars and the Great Depression.
  • 00:06:06
    That system, frankly, for all of its shortcomings -- the international organization, the Bretton-Woods financial institutions, and all the rest -- lots to criticize, lots to complain about -- but generally has served the world pretty good, pretty well in the intervening period. And in fact, it has not only just helped us and our allies and partners; it's actually helped China. Arguably, no country has benefited more from it, because no country has ever achieved what China did over a two-decade period of double digit GDP growth year on year, every year in that roughly 20-year period, with maybe one exception. So, again, I think, still very much emerging. That last issue that I talked about is a very, very big deal, and we'll have to see –

    Max Boot:That’s a big exception to the trend of continuity potentially.

    General Petraeus:
    It is, except that you have McMaster and Cohn writing op-eds, saying that the U.S. will continue to lead.
  • 00:07:05
    You have advisors all around him who very much are continued -- committed to continue to lead. And so, we'll have to see, again, how this does evolve. The president, I think, has shown a commendable willingness to acknowledge that he was unfavorable towards certain recommendations. But ultimately, over time -- as most recently with the Afghanistan policy -- I think has been quite good, frankly, on the ISIS and anti-extremist endeavor. The Syrians -- Bashar Al-Assad's forces used chemical weapons on his people, and, you know, there's no ambivalence there. 36 hours later, 50 cruise missiles hit the air base from which those were launched. So, again, some areas have changed, one potentially very significant one, depending on how it evolves. But, actually, if you tick down all of the different issues, probably more continuity than change.
  • 00:08:03
    Max Boot:
    What do you think is the impact abroad of some of the president's, let's say, unusual behavior at home? And I'm thinking, you know, the kind of uninhibited Tweeting, the attacks on the press, which he calls the enemy of the American people, the hesitation to condemn white supremacists, the pardon of Sheriff Arpaio. Some of these other things that cause so much controversy at home, what impact, if any, does that have abroad on the U.S. role?

    General Petraeus:
    Well, it -- obviously, it causes people to question, again, consistency, commitment to values that we have long promoted for the rest of the world and the rest of this, keeping in mind that this is a president who truly actually believes in doing what he wrote in his book about doing, which is before you negotiate with somebody else, you punch the other guy in the nose before you even sit down. And you seize value in, in some cases, the lack of consistency who wants the other side off balance. So -- and there is some merit to this.
  • 00:09:01
    You can actually argue, perhaps you can argue, that there's some merit to that business. You can argue perhaps there is some merit to it in international relations, although it obviously can go too far. My concern there with the so-called -- you know, there is this madman theory that actually Nixon put forward through Kissinger where he had Kissinger tell the Soviets, "You know, Nixon's under a lot of pressure right now and, you know, he drinks at night sometimes, so you guys ought to be real careful." Don't -- don't push this --

    Max Boot:
    Nixon thought that -- Nixon thought that the mad --

    General Petraeus:
    -- into a crisis.

    Max Boot:
    I mean, Nixon thought the madman theory would scare North Vietnam into making peace, and it did not work.

    General Petraeus:
    Yeah, and what I was about to say is that there may, again, be some merit into the madman theory until you get in a crisis. But you do not want the other side thinking you are irrational in a crisis. This is called crisis instability as opposed to pre-crisis situations. You do not want the other side thinking that you might be sufficiently irrational to conduct a first strike or to do something, you know, so-called unthinkable.
  • 00:10:05
    So, again, there are some benefits to some of this. There are certainly some drawbacks as well. And I think consistency in messaging has not been a distinguishing feature, so far. In fact, there has been a little bit of message discipline issue from time to time.

    Max Boot:
    Nicely understated.

    [laughter]

    I mean, it does seem like the president believes in basically the art of the bluff. I mean, he --

    General Petraeus:
    No, it's not question, yeah.

    Max Boot:
    -- does a lot of things that are kind of over the top.

    General Petraeus:
    Yeah.

    Max Boot:
    "We're going to rain fire and fury on North Korea and so forth."

    General Petraeus:
    Yeah.

    Max Boot:
    And I guess the issue is whether that's helpful or ultimately it's going to undermine our credibility.

    General Petraeus:
    Yeah, that's exactly right, and then also in individual relationships, you know, how far can you push somebody else? You -- again, perhaps his work to some degree, and his career apparently, again is something he wrote about, and he does believe in doing it. And, again, there are some arguments that can be made for some of this.
  • 00:11:00
    The question is, "When do you do something that is non-biodegradable, as we used to say, in a personal relationship with another leader?" By the way, he has been very assiduous in reaching out to -- he loves working the phones. And there's some merit in that. If you're the president of the United States and you're willing to call a lot of these different leaders around the world -- I can tell you I've seen different situations. I've served presidents from both parties. I'm truly apolitical, don't vote, been confirmed in political appointee positions, or at least confirmed in positions under presidents of both parties.

    Max Boot:
    What do you think about the fact that, you know, this is truly unprecedented that we've actually been able to read the transcripts of some of his phone calls with the prime minister of Australia or the president of the Philippines? I mean, certainly the amount of information we're getting, a lot of which is not very flattering to him --

    General Petraeus:
    The ship of state is leaky, although I think with General Kelly there, that there has already been a notable level of discipline to processes, to again, consistency of message, message discipline, if you will, and a variety of other activities in the White House.
  • 00:12:09
    Max Boot:
    There's been some concern raised including by some former military folks about how many retired generals are in such prominent positions in this administration including, of course, Jim Mattis at the fence, H.R. McMaster at the NSC, John Kelly as the White House chief of staff. I mean, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    General Petraeus:
    Depends on the generals and the truth is that we have seen this over time. We have had generals who have been secretaries of state, and some of them pretty exceptional, like George C. Marshal. We've had some others that didn't last a full term, in fact, maybe lasted a year or so. The same with national security advisors, great ones. Brent Scowcroft would come to mind and then some others that, again, have moved through the revolving door pretty rapidly. I think the key is to recognize that this generation of general officers -- and, look, every single one of them, you know, we served together on the battlefield.
  • 00:13:02
    Many of them worked directly for me. HR McMaster and his deputy, Rickey Waddell, who is not only a Rhodes Scholar, top of his class from West Point, Columbia Ph.D. and successful businessman, but a major general in the U.S. Army Reserve, and we brought him on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer. In fact, you generally need a stiletto and a comprehensive approach. Among the many lessons of the last 15 years -- which I’d like to recount very, very quickly -- is one that requires a comprehensive approach. This is -- fighting Islamist extremists, I think there’s five lessons we should have learned. One is that ungoverned spaces in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. The second is that you have to do something about it, because Las Vegas rules don’t apply in these areas. What happens there does not stay there. The third is that in doing something, the U.S. has to lead because we uniquely have the assets that are proving to be revolutionary in enabling us to fight extremists using other countries’ troops on the frontlines.
  • 00:14:11
    We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of through Secretary Gates, who was very supportive -- and we now have those, and they’re extraordinary. But it’s not just the platform, by the way. It’s the 150 people per each of the Predators and Reapers in the Air Force that make them so capable. The industrial strength fusion of intelligence, hugely important, and then the precision strike assets. The fourth is that in taking action, you have to recognize the paradox that you cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaida with just counterterrorist force operations. You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach. And that’s what these generals very much know. It takes all of the above, not just military but diplomatic and development and Homeland Security folks for a whole variety of different tasks.
  • 00:15:09
    Again, the FBI, the intelligence Committee, all of these have to be pulled together for a comprehensive approach. As you know well, the surge in Iraq that mattered most is the surge of ideas, the change in strategy. It was how were we going to squeeze the life out of al-Qaida in Iraq and the Sunni insurgents. And we did it with everything, including political initiatives, reconciliation, rule of law, hearts and minds, but also more bombs and more raids than before as well. It takes all of that. These generals know that. The fifth one, by the way, is pretty important. That is that we are engaged in a generational struggle, and that means not something going to be solved in a year or even a decade. It’s going to require a sustained commitment. And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment. I think we are actually proving to be able to do some of that by the use of these different assets that I mentioned, and that is, again, quite a revolutionary development.
  • 00:16:08
    Max Boot:
    Well, given the emphasis that I think you rightly put on nonmilitary lines of operations, how concerned are you about the fact that so many of the posts at the State Department are currently unfilled, that we don’t have the frontline diplomats there?

    General Petraeus:
    That is a concern, sure. No, that -- I think that’s a big concern. Again, we’ve got a difference out -- quite a significant difference, as an example, between the Saudis and the Emiratis on one side and the Qataris on the other. Whose our assistant secretary of state for the Near East? Actually, he’s not -- he’s an acting. In fact, he just replaced the guy who was the acting who actually retired from the position. Actually David Satterfield is now in position. Superb diplomat. But he needs to be confirmed. He needs to have the authority that goes along with the position he’s in. The same is true of all of these other locations. Serious differences, obviously, out in the Far East: the challenge of North Korea and its nuclear program.
  • 00:17:03
    Do we have an assistant secretary of state for the Far East? No, we do not. Again, an acting -- and they’re doing what they can. But again, it carries much more weight if the Senate has actually confirmed your appointment, if you’ve actually been nominated and they know you’re going to be in that job for some period of time. So I know there’s a push on to do that now. They did the look at, you know, how can we save resources and all the rest. And certainly, I mean, even serving ambassador would tell you there’s a lot that could be done to achieve efficiency, but some of these central positions -- I don’t care what reform you have -- they need to be filled, and they will remain in position. So, yes, we need to get on with that.

    Max Boot:
    All right. Let’s segue to the Far East, and let me ask you kind of a very broad question, which is which country do you think is going to be more powerful in the 21st century: China, or India?

    General Petraeus:
    Well as, you know, a good former economics professor, I would have to say, it depends.
  • 00:18:01
    And what it depends on -- certainly, you know, the bet would be on China in the near-term. I mean, they've done something truly revolutionary. No other country ever achieved the level of economic growth. That model appears to continue to work, although it doesn't quite get the same bang for the buck with infrastructure investment that drove GDP, because you've done so much of it. Moving from the country to the city -- a little bit more difficult if you don't have all the additional jobs for unskilled labor. Some of the other initiatives that they have had -- but really, you know, there's a great headline to an analytical piece I saw some months ago, and it said China's great problems -- dot, dot, dot -- and China's great leaders. Now, don't mistake me. There's some legitimate differences that we might about the state of various freedoms, the economic system, even the political system and the ability of people to choose their own leaders or not. But the fact is that they have done something that is absolutely extraordinary, and that's going to carry them all the way through the midterm without question.
  • 00:19:05
    At some point, India is going to rise. It may be beginning now with the Modi reforms. This may be the Modi moment that has arrived. Right now, they've done the goods and services tax, which is a very significant reform of how they do business between their own states. They earlier demonetized the economy. You know, just an incredible action. And by the way, he survived it politically. In fact, he did even better. The state of Gujarat, his own, he -- they prevailed very significantly. So, he is riding quite a wave. It's a, you know, very famously fractious, difficult bureaucracy. But that has great potential if they can get that momentum. And it's interesting to see them now working with Japan, as we mentioned backstage, because of course, of the mutual concern about the rise of China.

    Max Boot:
    Well, one obvious and vast difference between India and China is that India is a democracy, China is not.
  • 00:20:03
    How significant do you think that is? Has that been an advantage or disadvantage for China, and what is it going to be, going forward?

    General Petraeus:
    Again, keep in mind that the system that China has is somewhat unique in the sense that for an authoritarian system -- which, at the end of the day, I think they would even acknowledge it is, they have nonetheless had a change of leadership on a schedule. It's -- and it's been peaceful. It's been consensual, by and large. Certainly there are moves to consolidate power. I think President Xi has been particularly impressive in doing that. The Party Congress is coming up. We'll see if they continue to go along with the scheduled transition that would take place at the end of his 10 years or whether there is some maneuver, or mechanism, or whatever to, again, to prolong his time as the president.

    But at the end of the day, their system has worked exceedingly well.
  • 00:21:00
    By the way, I was just back up at the Department of Social Sciences, where I taught when I was in uniform for a period of time --

    Max Boot:
    This was at West Point?

    General Petraeus:
    -- and -- at West Point. And was there any other Department of Social Sciences? Please.

    Max Boot:
    I hear there might be a couple --

    General Petraeus:
    I --

    Max Boot:
    -- out there somewhere. Yeah.

    General Petraeus:
    Maybe Princeton, you know. I mean –

    [laughter]

    -- and thank God for Harvard. I mean, everybody can't get into Princeton, so --

    [laughter]

    I think there should be a resurrection of the study of comparative politics. You know, that course went away. I mean, we won. 1991, the wall came down. We turned the second largest army in the world into the fifth largest overnight in Operation Desert Storm, and we stood on top of that hill. And that -- we stayed -- we retained that position for a good 25 or more years until, gradually, we have seen the return of great power rivalries, or what Ian Bremmer talks about, the G-0 world, where you don't have this one colossus astride the globe the way we were -- preeminent economically, politically, with our system, and clearly militarily.
  • 00:22:07
    And now that is all being challenged to varying degrees. And again, I think it is worth studying the Chinese system. I'm not advocating adopting it, but I can assure you there's a lot of other
    countries around the world that are studying it and saying, "You know, maybe this is not all that bad." And --

    Max Boot:
    It's probably looking better all the time with the domestic chaos that we have in this country.

    General Petraeus:
    I would remind the audience, as always, that, you know, our country has been through a little bit of adversity before. There have been some sectarian -- or some very, very partisan times, if you will. I mean, the civil war was, after all, a four-year endeavor --

    Max Boot:
    That was a bit of an unpleasant affair, yes.

    General Petraeus:
    -- fought between North and South. I mean, let's not forget that not too far -- well, I guess it wasn't too far from here. The sitting vice president of the United States shot and killed the first secretary of the treasury. So, we've been through some tough periods before.
  • 00:23:00
    I think it is the strength of our country, and actually you can chronicle many others as you well know. And, again, out of this inevitably is validation of Churchill's observation that you can always count on the Americans to get it right after, you know, doing everything wrong. So we'll see -- or words to that effect.

    Max Boot:
    [unintelligible]We’re exhausting all the alternatives, right. Do you think that the -- I mean, you've been fairly bullish on China. Do you think that the 21st century is destined to be the Chinese century? Are they going to overtake us and become the dominant power?

    General Petraeus:
    Well, I think inevitably they're going -- you know, a country of 1.3 billion people inevitably will have a larger economy than we do. Their per capita income may still be one seventh or so. I mean, there's a real question, actually, "Does China get rich before it gets old the way Japan did or does it get old before it gets rich?" Because, again, their per capita income is still vastly lower than ours.
  • 00:24:00
    But, clearly, that economy is going to surpass ours at some point. It may not come quite so soon to a theater near us, as they say, but we'll see. By the way, in real terms, a dollar -- in real terms, in nominal growth, in each of the last three years, I believe it is, the U.S. actually outgrew China. Now, some of that is obviously because of currency fluctuations. It's going back the other way this year. The political system -- again, this is a renewal of great power rivalries, and there will be comparisons of our two systems. And there certainly will be cases of countries that are either bandwagoning with or, again, balancing against China in the balancing category, perhaps, with us. By the way, let's make very clear that China is our number one training partner, but I -- they also acknowledge it's also our number one strategic rival. I would contend, by the way, as you know in the title of the course that I taught for three and a half years at the City University in New York Honors College was the North American decades which I would still contend is where we are right now.
  • 00:25:05
    But those are probably coming to an end unless we can really get our GDP growth substantially higher in the next few years. Will they top us militarily? Look -- that is going to be a pretty steep climb. They spend one quarter of what we spend right now or less. You take all of the aircraft carriers of the world, and flat-deck and amphibs and we have more of them than all the rest of the world together. That's not to say they don't have near-peer capabilities and space and cyberspace, certainly, in area -- anti-access area denial capabilities in the south and east China sea, and their Air Force is -- a lot of rapid improvement and very much on the cutting edge of technology. I mean, those people that said a closed society, society which is cutting off now their VPN access to the Internet and so forth can't innovate have obviously never been to Hangzhou and seen Alibaba or been in Beijing with Schowme [spelled phonetically] or Baidu or some of these others.
  • 00:26:09
    These are serious innovators and we should never get complacent about that.

    Max Boot:
    And of course they don't have to overtake us across the entire globe because we have a global military. All their concerned about is regional predominance.

    General Petraeus:
    Well, regional predominance right now, but already the belt and road strategy includes the string of pearls, as they're called. These are the ports that go from Southeast Asia all the way across, all the way now to Djibouti in Africa and others. They don't do underway provisioning yet. They're not that kind of deployable naval maritime expeditionary force, but they're getting there. And, again, first aircraft carry, yes, it's a hand-me-down, yes it broke down I think on its maiden voyage, but the second keel is already laid and they're going to do that. By the way, anybody who has not seen the video of a bridge being erected in China within a 24-hour period, and I see some nods in the audience, it is unbelievable.
  • 00:27:09
    That's -- 41 hours? Incredible to watch this and contrast that. Actually, I was just up at Harvard on Monday. Contrast that with that bridge that connects Harvard main campus with the Harvard business school which I tell you is almost done. I think there's just a few orange cones left, but it's been there for five years or so.

    Max Boot:
    Well, I will say one thing on behalf of the U.S., just based on a personal observation because I happened to land a few weeks ago on the USS Nimitz in the Persian Gulf, and it was just such an amazing experience and not --

    General Petraeus:
    It's unbelievable.

    Max Boot:
    -- just for their technology, which of course is awe inspiring, but what really struck me was talking to the crewmen, 4,800 personnel aboard that ship, and the incredible know-how and skills they have to keep this little airport going in the middle of the water with these planes taking off and landing, where there’s always a high risk of disaster, but they do it safely time and again.
  • 00:28:04
    And it just seems like this is a skillset and a knowledge base that the U.S. Navy has developed over decades, where the Chinese can certainly build aircraft carriers. Much harder to replicate the knowledge that makes them run.

    General Petraeus:
    This is a generational task, to build maritime aviation capability, and you should do it in an F/A-18. I assume you were in the propeller thing that sort of drifted down instead of what a manly way of slamming into the deck with the front --

    Max Boot:
    The Macaw [spelled phonetically], yeah, yeah. It was still like a roller coaster ride, though.

    General Petraeus:
    It is quite a roller coaster ride. It is extraordinary what we do have. And of course, the Chinese are very keenly aware that they have had no real combat experience, and any of our leaders have had numerous tours in combat, albeit not against peer competitors but against -- but certainly very fierce and tough combat.

    Max Boot:
    What do you think of the Graham Allison pieces? And Graham Allison is the professor at the Harvard Kennedy School who just published a book called “Destined for War” in which he suggests that based on his historical study, that when you have a rising great power and an existing great power, that in more cases than not the result is a conflict.
  • 00:29:09
    So, are we destined for war with China?

    General Petraeus:
    I don’t think so, but we certainly ought to take steps to prevent that. Some of those steps should be to maintain and indeed improve our capability and our military readiness and all the rest of that as a deterrent force, and to exercise it and ensure that there’s no ambiguity about understanding of our capabilities, but also strategic dialogue. I’m very much from the Henry Kissinger school, believing that it really does pay to sit down with a very significant, high-level interlocutor, one from our side, one from theirs, develop trust in each other, even if, again, the objectives are -- can maybe diametrically opposed in some cases, but common objectives in others and understanding their redlines, they understand ours, and again, you have that level of communication.
  • 00:30:00
    Look, we’re in a different age from any of those case studies that Graham Allison’s book studies, which note that I think it’s three-quarters of the time that you have a rising power and an established power, Spartan and Athens, that ultimately, as they chronicled in the Peloponnesian Wars, Eluclides wrote: and inevitably, they went to war -- as if this is an inevitability. Look, we’re in the nuclear age, and war as an inevitability I think should give us all a great deal of pause.

    Max Boot:
    We’re running low on time. Let me just ask you a question that’s much in the news, which is North Korea and the relationship to China. Is China going to help solve North Korea for us, or are they an obstacle in the way of solving it, meaning, i.e., lessening the danger from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which combined are going to put American cities at risk very shortly?

    General Petraeus:
    Yeah, look, I mean, they obviously have to be part of the solution, and all of the efforts of South Korea -- Japan, by the way, I was in Tokyo the day that we had the missile fly over.
  • 00:31:02
    It was our first day over there. I thought it was welcome back to the Far East, General Petraeus -- or a salute. You know, it was a fireworks, flyover.

    Max Boot:
    Fireworks.

    General Petraeus:
    Look, they have to be part of the solution. And again, those two countries and the United States and other countries that are involved in that region are all in the process of taking steps to both defend more effectively against possible threats from North Korea, but also to send signals to China that this really is serious and we really do need them to enforce the sanctions. And we’re going to have to do the same thing with Russia, because that can be a sanctions buster or a workaround for some of those items that China will prevent from going into their country, such as coal, perhaps textiles now, some petroleum products. So this -- again, this is the threat of the day. I think it’s valid for the administration to look at this differently than any other administration, because on his watch, a mad man, who I don’t think is suicidal, but some may, will have a capability to hold that risk, an American city, at least on the West Coast and maybe all the way into the Midwest of the United States.
  • 00:32:14
    And the size of that last explosion, the nuclear test, was -- now it may have been as much as 20 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. Earlier it was assessed to be eight to 10 times. They’re revising that upward. That’s a very scary prospect. And again, we’re going to have to bring everything to bear to get China to realize that it’s in their interest to force him to come to the table. And when there were really effective sanctions in the past at one point in time, they did come to the table. Sanctions do work. We saw Iran come to the table as well because of sanctions --

    Max Boot:
    They came to the table, but --

    General Petraeus:
    -- [inaudible] --

    Max Boot:
    -- can't necessarily keep their commitments. Yes, we could sit here all day, but I think --

    General Petraeus:
    Max, I thank you --

    Max Boot:
    -- time is out --

    General Petraeus:
    -- as always.

    Max Boot:
    Yeah. I think --

    General Petraeus:
    It's always a pleasure.
  • 00:33:01
    John Donvan:
    General George Washington had a thing about punctuality. And apparently, one time his secretary showed up late and explained that his watch wasn't working, and General Washington said, "Well, you're either going to have to get a new watch or I'm going to have a new secretary." And what I don't want to have us do is get a new host. So, I'm going to thank you both for your time --

    Max Boot:
    All right. Thanks very much.

    John Donvan:
    -- and thank you very much.

    General Petraeus:
    Thank you.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    We want to move on to the next round. So, let's please welcome our debaters to the stage.

    [applause]

    And now, onto our debate about China -- a country which you just heard David Petraeus explain -- is a country that's done extraordinary things in the past 25 years. And they also mentioned Graham Allison, the Harvard Historian. And if you were a student in Graham Allison's class, you would get a quiz on your first day of class, asking you to guess this -- in what year did -- will China overtake the United States as the world's largest auto market?
  • 00:34:08
    A second question -- in what year will China become the number one market for luxury goods? And in what year will it become the world's leading market for all goods overall? The correct answer to all three questions -- to the shock of most students -- is that China is already first in all of these categories and has been for years. And if you didn't know that, then welcome to this club of underpaid attention. But boy, is attention being paid now as China gets bigger, not just economically, but also in significant ways -- militarily as well. Soft power and hard power -- China is growing them both, which means what for the U.S.? That is a complicated question or set of questions which we will be debating tonight. Our theme: Unresolved: Face-Off with China. We have four debaters. They will each be flying solo, taking stands for and against the positions in our stated resolutions to see how far we can get in resolving the unresolved.
  • 00:35:04
    Let's please meet our debaters. Please welcome first Ian Bremmer.

    [applause]

    Ian, welcome back to Intelligence Squared. You are the president and founder of the Eurasia Group. That's a global risk and consulting firm. And Ian, you have famously predicted that Donald Trump will get the full eight years in office. And yet, Donald Trump called you "fake news."

    [laughter]

    So, I guess it's fake, except for the eight years part? Is that how it works?

    Ian Bremmer:
    I suspect he's forgotten about that one comment, but you know, if you ask me, is an incumbent going to come in again on balance, I think that's a good bet.

    John Donvan:
    All right. Ladies and gentlemen, Ian Bremmer.

    [applause]

    Our next debater, please welcome Elizabeth Economy. Elizabeth, you have a book coming out. It's called "The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the Rise of the Chinese State."
  • 00:36:02
    Not only are you the director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the C.V. Starr senior fellow, but you were decades ahead of most of the field when you began focusing on China as an environmental story, way, way back. And how has the story changed since you first got interested in it?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Well, I guess, if I were going to title my book on the environment now, I probably would title it, "The River Runs Black." I might title it, "The River Doesn't Run Anymore," because China has lost more than half of its 50,000 odd rivers over the past few decades. But I will say that I think, for the first time maybe, the Chinese leadership has the understanding and the capacity and the will to make a difference. So I am, for the first time in all those decades, pretty optimistic.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, thanks, Elizabeth Economy.

    [applause]

    Our next debater, please welcome Noah Feldman.
  • 00:37:01
    [applause]

    For you, too, Noah, welcome back to Intelligence Squared. You are a professor at Harvard Law and you're a contributing writer for Bloomberg View. You have titled your book about global competition, "Cool War." So we all know what a hot war is and we're familiar with the Cold War. Define cool war for us.

    Noah Feldman:
    Well, a cool war is when you have a geopolitical struggle as does exist between the U.S. and China, but at the same time, you have deep cooperation and mutual dependence on the economic front. So when you've got both of those things happening at the same time, you need to be somewhere in the middle between hot and cold, and I settled on cool.

    John Donvan:
    Like frenemies kind of thing?

    Noah Feldman:
    Yeah, it's a bit like frenemies or imagine a relationship you just can't get out of.

    John Donvan:
    Ladies and gentlemen, Noah Feldman.

    [applause]

    And our fourth debater, please welcome David Shambaugh.

    [applause]

    David, welcome to Intelligence Squared. You are the guest and secret professor of Asian studies, political science, and international affairs, and director of the China policy program at George Washington University.
  • 00:38:07
    You've written a lot about contemporary China including your most recent book, China's future. We learned that you and your wife Ingrid are both nonnative Chinese speakers and you met her when you were both actually learning the language together and now Ingrid teaches Chinese. So do you two find occasion to speak Chinese at home together?

    David Shambaugh:
    Not too much. As you just mentioned, she teaches Chinese five days a week. I use it in my research and when I meet my Chinese colleagues. So by the time we come home, I think that's the last language we really want to speak. But I must say that, when we did use it, it's when we didn't want our two boys to understand us. And then the younger son started studying Chinese, and now he understands us.

    John Donvan:
    Oh, there goes that. All right, ladies and gentlemen, David Shambaugh and our panel of debaters.

    [applause]
  • 00:39:00
    And to remind you of how this is going to work, we will be working through a series of resolutions one at a time. For each motion, the debaters will declare yes or no to the statement and they will have one minute to tell you where they stand. Our first speaker will be Ian Bremmer and then the order will go clockwise. Let's move to our first resolution inspired by the man who Tweets from the White House, the Chinese government has labeled emotional venting that should stop.

    Those Tweets are not stopping. Our first motion declares, "Trump is making China great again." Ian Bremmer on that motion. How do you declare? Yes or no? You're a no?

    Ian Bremmer:
    I'm a no.

    John Donvan:
    You have one minute to explain your point.

    Ian Bremmer:
    I think China's making China great again. I think that's very clear, certainly in terms of the relative stability that we have under Xi Jinping, the comparative happiness of the average Chinese in support for their government, which I think is higher than the average American for the American government these days. But Trump himself is not making China great again.
  • 00:40:01
    The Chinese really want stability. And there's no question it's true that, because the Americans are leaving the Transpacific Partnership and the Americans are leaving the Paris Climate Accord, that creates some space for China, but China would much rather have stability and also have more time to keep their head low, just keep building, focus on stability, spend the money with one belt, one road, all the rest. With the concerns around North Korea, with all the allies wondering what's going to happen in their future, they're thinking about alternatives, hence Japan and India increasingly together, hence concerns that the North Koreans are going to blow things up, driving South Korea into focusing on more security, Japan, too.

    John Donvan:
    That's your time.

    Ian Bremmer:
    None of that is good for China.

    John Donvan:
    Ian, that's your time. Thank you very much. The motion -- the resolution again --

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    -- "Trump is making China great again." Liz Economy, how do you declare? Yes or no?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    I am also a no, but for very different reasons. I think that this is a popular notion that is fundamentally flawed.
  • 00:41:01
    President Trump may be crippling U.S. prestige an influence globally, maybe diminishing U.S. greatness, but this doesn't make China great. Greatness is not a zero-sum game. There's not a definable quality or quantity of greatness that can shift from one country to another. It’s not like U.S. greatness goes down and Chinese greatness goes up. Greatness has to be earned. As Winston Churchill said, the price of greatness is responsibility. And that means that China needs to be able to look beyond its narrow self-interest to embrace and address the needs of others. It needs to be ready to step up to the plate, to forge an international agreement when you’re faced with a global threat or a global challenge. Thus far we haven’t seen China do much of this. So President Trump can’t make China great again. Only China can make it great again.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    And thus far China hasn’t done that.
  • 00:42:00
    John Donvan:
    Let’s move on to Noah Feldman. On the motion Trump is making China great again, Noah Feldman, how do you declare, yes or no?

    Noah Feldman:
    I declare yes. When you walk away from global leadership in a very open and public way, i.e., you tell people I’m not interested in leading you, I want to make my own country great again, you create a huge vacuum, and there’s pressure on somebody else to step into that vacuum, especially if like China that entity would benefit from stability. So that means there’s a stability gap. China is obligated, whether they would like to or not, to step into that gap. And we see that with the way that Xi Jinping has been taking global leadership on a range of issues, or at least presenting himself as taking global leadership.

    Second, and even more concretely, when it comes to our historic allies in Asia, in the Pacific who rely on us for security, our current president has, unfortunately, sent a message to them that our guarantees of security are not as strong as they have been in the past. And they hear that loud and clear, and they, too, are obligated to react to that. And so they have to look, inevitably, at closer relations with China -- perhaps economically -- in order to try to assure their stability that way. So a gap will be a filled.
  • 00:43:08
    John Donvan:
    There’s that beep. Very effective. Very -- it silenced you, didn’t it?

    [laughter]

    David Shambaugh, on the motion Trump is making China great again, how do you declare, yes or no?

    David Shambaugh:
    I’m also a no. Trump could help for the reasons that Noah just indicated. I agree with him there. But it’s up to China to make itself great again, as Ian said. This is a long-term project for the Chinese, a 200-year project, really, or since the 1870s is when they began their effort to rejuvenate themselves after a couple hundred bad years. They’re called the centuries of shame and humiliation. But greatness, I would just note, is measured not just by capabilities but by attraction and whether others seek to emulate you. This is Joseph Nye’s concept of soft power, of course. So I would like at China and ask, is China a model for others?
  • 00:44:00
    And I find that it is not a model for others. It is a sui generis country, very much out for itself. The question is, if you’re going to be a great power, you have to be magnanimous, amongst other things. And it’s an open question whether China can be magnanimous.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you. And time is up. All right. Now we’re going to chat for about 14 to 15 minutes on this. We have three no’s and one yes. Noah Feldman, as the yes, you’re going to find yourself probably going to make a little bit more time than the others because you’ll be in a responsive position. But I want to take to you the question that all three of your no opponents in this particular round take the position that greatness is something, as Liz Economy said, needs to be earned. And David Shambaugh said greatness is something whose -- that is signaled when there are attempts to emulate it, and there is very little attempt to emulate China, therefore there is no greatness even in play here whether Trump’s involved or not. Can you take that on?

    Noah Feldman:
    Yeah, I mean, sometimes Shakespeare put it best. This is one of those examples: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. It’s not true that global greatness is totally an internal product.
  • 00:45:02
    It involves, unquestionably, internal action. You need to be stable. You need to at least appear to be magnanimous. You need to not pretend not to be. But under circumstances where the world is looking for stability, where the region as well is looking for stability, there will be an impulse from outside to demand some forms of leadership. And China may find itself with little choice but to adopt a position that we associate with greatness with a great power simply because of our self-conscious attempt to absent ourselves from that space. So I’m not disagreeing that a country, to be great, must do things on its own, but I’m making the point that greatness is not only what you do. It’s also what happens around you.

    John Donvan:
    Ian Bremmer to respond?

    Ian Bremmer:
    It’s too early to have greatness thrust upon China. America remains the world’s only super power. China is not close. Economically, certainly they have cash and they’re spending it, and
    they can direct it.
  • 00:46:00
    But in terms of the diplomatic capabilities, you watch them in the G-20 when they're kind of sitting by themselves, and everyone else knows each other -- they're not even close. You talk about their military capabilities -- they're just a regional power. You talk about the technological capabilities, they're investing. They will get there over the long-term, I believe, but they are not there yet. Anyone that saw Xi Jinping giving the big keynote at Davos this last year, where he was the one saying, "We support free trade and globalization," the people in the audience were, like, "Well, that's new." But it doesn't in any way reflect the China we know, that doesn't have rule of law, that doesn't actually have an independent judiciary, and it doesn't actually practice what they preach. So, this is a very serious problem, and I would argue that, yes, Shakespeare is correct -- if you're actually the man with the plan and just waiting, and there it is. This is far too early for China to have great expectations.

    John Donvan:
    Elizabeth Economy?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah. Let me just point out that if we look back pre-Trump, to China's reaction to the Ebola crisis or even to global climate change, it did not step up to the plate.
  • 00:47:01
    It had to be cajoled. It had to be berated into doing more. We look now, post-Trump, and see that when the U.S. stepped back in the face of the Muslim refugee crisis, you know, Canada stepped up. Germany stepped up. But China was nowhere to be seen. So, it's not as though -- China has the opportunity now. There are many opportunities for China to step up. But what we see is that other countries are stepping into the breach. Other countries are being the responsible powers, the great powers, to some respect. It's not China.

    John Donvan:
    All right. I'm going to go to Noah, and then come to you, David -- so, Noah, to respond to what you've heard, since your position is being hit.

    Noah Feldman:
    Well, I don't disagree that it's too soon, as Ian says. But sometimes, a country is not completely prepared for the stance that it's nevertheless obligated to take on. Arguably, World War I was too soon for the United States to have to get involved in Europe to try to resolve the war towards its end. But there was little choice but to do so. And so, I think, you know, great powers say this can be achieved slowly, and it can be achieved step by step. Was the United States a great power after World War I?
  • 00:48:02
    I mean, in some sense, we as Americans imagine that the answer must be yes. But globally, arguably, that wasn't yet true. Maybe we -- they were a regional power. Our economy was not well developed. Were a world leader with respect to humanitarianism at the time? No. Were we anywhere close to Britain? No. But we were on a trajectory that led us into a position of greatness -- again, not entirely of our own choosing, although partly of our own choosing. And so, to Liz's point, I agree that it will be issue-by-issue. I agree that China will not follow our playbook for what a great country is. They will follow their own playbook for what that is. And they will do it on a slower, and I think more openly self-interested basis.

    John Donvan:
    Let me bring in David Shambaugh. And David, to a degree, Noah is arguing that vacuums have been created by the Trump administration -- withdrawal from, say TPP, on Paris Accords. Ian has already quoted the Chinese president at Davos, talking about "We are going to lead on free trade." Are those things relatively meaningless in terms of China having an opportunity to move into the position of greatness?
  • 00:49:02
    David Shambaugh:
    Well, vacuums can perhaps offer opportunities for them to be filled. "Nature abhors vacuums," I think it's said. China is filling the vacuum in Southeast Asia. But again, I come back to my point about greatness. Greatness, to me, has to do with influence. It's not just based on a country's capabilities. And Ian has already indicated where China is a what I used to call a partial power in one of my books. It's not there yet except in the economic side. It's a work-in-progress and it's going to be some time before they reach that. But my real point is, are others gravitating towards China because they wish to emulate China or they simply wish to benefit from China's economic largess? Okay, that's different. Nobody seems to be queuing up to model their political systems on China's political systems. As Liz just said, diplomatically, the Chinese are not in the middle of any crisis voluntarily.
  • 00:50:00
    They're thrust into it as we see with North Korea right now. But if you're a great power, you get in the middle of difficult situations, you forge coalitions, you bring others together, you lead. China puts its head in the sand and hides whenever there's a crisis.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, Ian Bremmer, do you want to join in?

    Ian Bremmer:
    Well, yeah, I mean, I think that Noah's point, that greatness is being thrust upon China and Southeast Asia, to the extent that it's happening anywhere, it probably is happening there. But in Japan, which is, you know, arguably strategically more important than Southeast Asia, actually Abe's first trip after Trump was elected, he was the first guy to come in and see him even before he was president. And this was because Abe was concerned that if the Americans were slipping, they needed to double down and make sure that they had a strong security relationship with the U.S., even after the Americans pulled out of CPB. I think that, despite all the problems between Trump and South Korea, the North Korean conflict has driven South Korea much more towards the United States than Trump has driven South Korea towards Beijing, and that's going to be a problem for South Korea economically but also for the Chinese.
  • 00:51:00
    I see Germany now worried that the United States isn't doing as much coordination on global trade between the Americans and the Europeans. So, the Germans are now trying to lead, along with other Europeans, a CFIUS style policy that will actually make it harder for the Chinese to invest in Europe. Again, on all of these points, I would say that in 10 years' time, China might be capable of breaking through this and forcing countries towards them. I think now it's more likely to hurt them. Final point here, this meeting between Abe and Modi, the Indians have not wanted to play geopolitics at all, but now they see that China, because of the vacuum, is playing a bigger role in the region, and certainly in Southeast Asia. Now the Indians are saying, "We need to spend money, coordinate with the Japanese," and we need to show that China's not the only ballgame. All of that stuff is ultimately causing a bunch of bumps in the road that the Chinese really are in no stage in their development to handle right now.

    John Donvan:
    Liz Economy, you can finish this round.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah, I would just say it's probably not fair to say that China's having greatness thrust upon it.
  • 00:52:00
    The truth is that Xi Jinping walked in the door and said, "I am committed to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation," right? And he has done everything but step up and say, as Ian said in Davos, right? We are a leader in globalization, you know, stood by Angela Merkel and said, you know, "We are the leader on climate change," without actually backing that up with significant action. So, I think the -- he's put himself out there as a leader, but he hasn't actually led.

    Ian Bremmer:
    Well, he's just lucky that Trump's leaving the stage to him, then.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    But he's not leaving the stage to him because he's not prepared to do anything.

    John Donvan:
    That concludes this round. Thank you, everybody.

    [applause]

    We move onto the second resolution. The resolution is, "The U.S. should Play Hardball with China on Trade." First to respond on this resolution, Elizabeth Economy. Do you declare yes or no?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    I declare, "Yes, game on."

    John Donvan:
    You have one minute.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    I think trade is a competitive game and, frankly, we should play hardball with every country.
  • 00:53:00
    We want U.S. companies to win. But we also understand that, as long as the field is basically open and fair, that everybody's generally playing by the same rules that U.S. companies are sometimes, perhaps even often, going to lose. The problem with China is that it's constructed its own set of rules and its own game. And in this game, there is rampant intellectual property theft from U.S. companies. China forces technology transfer from U.S. companies as a price of doing business in China. It massively distorts trade through subsidies and it restricts or blocks U.S. companies and others from investing in core sectors of the Chinese economy. And China joined the WTO in 2001. It's been more than 15 years that the United States and the rest of the world has waited for China to learn the rules of the game. But if China's not going to play fair, then we have to play hardball.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Liz Economy.

    [applause]
  • 00:54:00
    And I just want to clarify, this resolution is about China using trade as a weapon, tactics like stopping imports of salmon from Norway, and bananas from the Philippines to settle scores and political quarrels. So big is China’s economy that these tactics often work and countries often cave. But should they be emulated? Again, the resolution the U.S. should play hardball with China on trade, Noah Feldman, do you declare yes or no?

    Noah Feldman:
    I declare no. The time to play hardball -- and of course, there are times for that -- it requires two conditions. One, you have to be very confident that you know what you’re doing and that the people in charge on your side know what they’re doing. Because if you go too far, you could escalate to difficult circumstances. The second requirement is you have to have leverage. I don’t think we qualify under either of these circumstances at present with respect to China. I don’t frankly trust the Trump administration to escalate tensions with China over questions of trade. Trump knows that will play well to his base. His instincts are towards protectionism. In the long run, in my view, a closer trade relationship with China is a valuable thing for the United States for reasons that I’ll get to in just a moment.
  • 00:55:06
    And risking that, I think is real under the conditions of Trump’s presidency.

    Second, we need leverage. And there, of course we have leverage at the trade level, at the economic level, but we have less leverage with respect to geopolitics. Right now the U.S. really needs China’s help on a wide range of security issues, North Korea most significantly amongst them. And I really think that’s a substantial lack of leverage.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Noah Feldman.

    [applause]

    David Shambaugh, the U.S. should play hardball with China on trade. Do you declare yes, or no?

    David Shambaugh:
    I am also a no for some of the reasons that Noah just indicated, mainly the one about escalation. That would result in what’s known as mutual assured destruction in the Cold War, in nuclear terms. This would result in mutual assured economic destruction. We are so interdependent economically, and we depend on and need various Chinese goods in our country, and they to a lesser extent ours in their country.
  • 00:56:08
    So -- and we believe in open borders and open trade. At least we did until the Trump administration. Where I would play hardball, though, is on investment. It may be a fine distinction, so I’m not -- I don’t think we should play hardball on trade because of the escalation, but for reasons Liz has indicated, China’s market is closed -- relatively -- overwhelmingly, I’ll say, closed to American investors. Here we are 30 years on, and if you look at the American Chamber of Commerce quarterly surveys in Beijing, 81 percent of American companies say they feel unwelcome in China.

    [applause]

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, David Shambaugh. The U.S. should play hardball with China on trade, Ian Bremmer, are you yes, or no?

    Ian Bremmer:
    Yes. This is the one that’s toughest for me of the four. I’m kind of on the fence, but if you make me I’ll say yes. One reason is because on North Korea, the Chinese were not going to move until the Americans really pushed.
  • 00:57:08
    Yes, even Trump with the potential of being a little unhinged, it got them to much harder sanctions than they otherwise would have supported. The U.S. economy is much bigger than China’s economy today. That will not be true in five or 10 years’ time. There is more leverage in that. If there were a trade war, we would win it, though both would take damage. That would be much more challenging in five or 10 years’ time. Finally, Bannon, Gorka, others are gone. So the people that are most likely to do something that would truly cause conformation aren’t making the decisions. Trump may say stuff, but people like Lighthizer, frankly, Wilbur Ross, Mattis, others that are managing the China relationship are adults, and so ultimately, I do think we’re going to have to be a little tougher on the Chinese.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Ian Bremmer.

    [applause]

    So, we have two yeses and two no’s.
  • 00:58:00
    And the name Steve Bannon has come up, and I want to mention -- I want to remind everybody of the interview he gave Charlie before departing his position in the White House to the American Prospect, where he told Robert Kuttner that we are at economic war with China already, that we need to be quote “manically focused on this” because China is quote “cutting out the heart of American innovation” and that we are five years away from losing that war. Noah Feldman, your response to that declaration of war already happening?

    Noah Feldman:
    Fortunately, I think it’s not yet the case. I think, though, that notwithstanding the presence of the grownups that Ian mentioned, there is still one other person he didn’t mention, and that is the person who’s going to make the decision ultimately. And, you know, I think that it’s entirely possible that the view that Steve Bannon expressed there is still believed in some form by relevant decision-makers in the White House, primarily the president. So, you know, that’s a description of where we could end up. That’s Bannon playing the political game of describing something as the case, In hopes of making it the case.

    John Donvan:
    Liz Economy, your now opponent -- temporary opponent, David Shambaugh -- has argued that if we were to engage in the sorts of practices that China is engaged in now, that we wouldn't be doing what Americans do, which is stand up for free trade.
  • 00:59:08
    That is -- in a sense -- to play hardball with China would be getting down in mud that we don't get down into.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah. I mean, I think that's what we've argued for 15 years -- that we should be a model for China, and that they will learn from us and gradually we're going to see the Chinese economy evolve into one that looks like ours. But that's not what's happened, right? You look back to, you know, 2012, Chinese -- six Chinese solar companies dominated the global market. Why? Because they had huge subsidies from the Chinese government. If they didn't have those companies -- those subsidies, they would have been bankrupt, right? They completely flooded our markets with their products. You know, we do have leverage. I mean, U.S. exports to China equal about two-thirds of 1 percent of our GDP. In contrast, Chinese exports to the U.S. equal about 4 percent of their GDP. You know, we have a lot of leverage with China right now. We can do things, and we should do things.
  • 01:00:01
    John Donvan:
    Do you agree with Ian Bremmer, who's arguing the same side as you on this one, that the leverage will be running out -- that it's temporary leverage?

    Ian Bremmer:
    Well, I don't know why we have temporary leverage. I do think, to the other point that you were making, about the attack on the United States, in terms of, you know, our technology and our future, that it is a significant issue already, and it will only grow. I mean, they've made huge inroads into our semiconductor industry. They're pouring $100 billion to go in and acquire firms from the U.S. -- and I think, as Ian mentioned, from Germany. There's an enormous amount of concern in Europe as well. So, I think that it's not just about the U.S.; it's about a lot of countries standing up and saying, "This is how we do business. And China, you're too big at this point" -- the second or the first largest economy in the world, depending on how you evaluate it. "You have to play by the rules that everybody else is playing by, or you're going to suffer the consequences." And I think reciprocity, right, saying, "Our market -- your market is closed in these areas. Well, maybe we're not going to let you invest either" is the way to go.
  • 01:01:01
    John Donvan:
    David Shambaugh, the response to that -- the reciprocity theory.

    David Shambaugh:
    Well, just to finish my point about reciprocity on investment, there is where we have leverage. And Liz just made the point -- or maybe it was you, John -- that China is trying to become an innovative power, to, you know, add value and get out of the middle income trap and become a fully developed economy. Well, what it's trying to do is acquire certain niche technologies in some very specifically designated fields, both in Europe and here in the United States. We can vet that and we can prevent that, and we need to strengthen our U.S. government -- it's called the CFUIS Process, I think it was raised -- not just over national security concerns, but over technology and our comparative advantages. And we can leverage that against China for access for -- for American companies in China.

    John Donvan:
    Noah Feldman?

    Noah Feldman:
    I just want to remind everybody that the trade discussion does not happen in isolation. And the fact that we -- I totally agree -- have economic leverage, as I think I acknowledged from the start, doesn't mean that in the crossover linkage to the geopolitical situation, our leverage is very great at the moment.
  • 01:02:04
    We are coming to -- cap-in-hand -- to the Chinese on issue after issue, and most notably, again, North Korea. You're right that pressure is necessary, but there's a translatability, as it were, of what you can get. And so, you're picking and choosing with respect to what you can do with the leverage that you have. And my argument is simply that at present, our needs are so great, our wants are so great with respect to geopolitical cooperation that those ought to outweigh, in the short-term, taking a hard line on China.

    John Donvan:
    Ian Bremmer.

    Ian Bremmer:
    And here, I just -- I really quite disagree. I don't believe the Americans are going cap-in-hand on geopolitical cooperation. The United States has vastly more geopolitical power and influence than the Chinese do. As I already mentioned, it's driving the Japanese and the South Koreans to work much more closely, and the Chinese are deeply unhappy about it. Look, the fact is that America's North Korea policy is perhaps one of the best emblematic policies of America First. It's certainly not South Korea First. It's certainly not Japan First.
  • 01:03:00
    It's kind of a "Hey, we're going to make this a problem before it comes to the American shores." In other words, North Korea is far away. And if there's anything that really blows up there, China's going to have to deal with it much more than the United States. We actually have more leverage. Another point that's gotten more controversial is -- to what extent, as Bush would say, is Trump actually the decider? I mean, he's the queen, right, in the sense that --

    [laughter]

    -- we must show deference and put him on television and have him -- all of that. But in terms -- he's wanted -- he's been saying, "I want tariffs, where are my tariffs?" They're not giving him tariffs. It's insubordination, right?

    [laughter]

    I mean, in -- on many of these cases, it does seem, on national security issues and big international trade issues, that Trump does seem to recognize that actually the generals know a lot more than him -- even though he says a lot of stuff, that actually implementation of policy is a bit more mature than the headlines in the mainstream media might lead us to believe. So I'm a little less worried about that.

    John Donvan:
    Liz Economy?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah, I'll just say I think it's a --
  • 01:04:00
    [applause]

    Elizabeth Economy:
    I'll let Ian get his applause, but I think it's a mistake to look at this issue linkage all the time. I think you end up in a very slippery slope. There will always be something that can Trump something else. I think China has its own reasons for wanting to make progress on the North Korea issue increasingly. I know we're going to have a discussion about North Korea and I don't want to go too far down that path, but the Chinese leadership is under enormous pressure domestically to take a tougher line. So I think we shouldn't be so concerned about the North Korea going to China about North Korea cap-in-hand. We're not doing that. China has its own reasons for taking action. I don't think we should be linking the two issues. We should be pushing back on the trade issue and pushing back hard.

    John Donvan:
    David Shambaugh, let's talk a little bit about what constitutes hardball, where you would draw the line. What's not hardball in terms of just and justified response of China's tactics?

    David Shambaugh:
    I would vet every merger and acquisition attempt by a Chinese company towards and to American technology companies.
  • 01:05:02
    John Donvan:
    That's not hardball.

    David Shambaugh:
    That is hardball.

    John Donvan:
    That is hardball, okay, sorry.

    David Shambaugh:
    I would look very toughly at any investments by China in our energy sector, near national security locations around the country, and I would just sort of hold back the approval process, you know, the way the Chinese do with us all the time. They just keep you hanging and you never get your approval unless you're President or Ivanka Trump, and then you get 60 patents overnight. So, you know, we just have to play the game the way they play -- they've been playing it with us.

    Noah Feldman:
    That doesn't mean -- so here we have an internal disagreement because you're taking -- you are arguing for hardball but only on investment, not on trade. But I want to, you know, just respond to that by saying, you know, "That is not in fact how investment in the United States has historically worked and has meant to work." And that's not because we're so open-minded and we're trying to improve the wealth of people over the world. It's that we’ve actually believed that it is in our national interest to attract capital from abroad, right?
  • 01:06:00
    That has always been one of our goals and it remains one of our goals. It's one of the commitments to free trade. So I agree that you can situationally deploy something like that to try to get something in return. I don't dispute that.

    David Shambaugh:
    So-called greenfield investment is fine. Let them build factories. China employs 94,000 Americans right now, according to the Rhodium Group. That's great, or maybe it's up to 120. That sort of investment is not what I'm talking about. It's the targeted technology acquisition to fulfill their maiden China 2025 program. That's where we and the Germans and the British and the Japanese, the global leaders -- they're after us and we've got to be awake, first of all, and put up barriers to prevent that acquisition.

    John Donvan:
    Ian Bremmer, what does winning or losing a trade war look like?

    Ian Bremmer:
    Look, I do agree with Xi Jinping, that everyone is a loser in a trade war because, ultimately, there is a mutually assured economic destruction between the two countries. But I don't think playing hardball with the Chinese on trade leads you to a trade war.
  • 01:07:03
    And, in that regard, it's not mutually assured economic destruction. With nukes, mutually assured destruction, you hit someone with a nuke, it's really hard to imagine that doesn't continue to escalate. On trade, we hit the Chinese with a tariff, they hit us back usually with a tariff that is calculated very clearly to cause exactly the same amount of economic damage, but with a bunch of stuff that doesn't bother them as much. I think they have to see that we're serious, especially because, as Liz said, multinational corporations based in the U.S. that are worth the most, the IT firms -- look at China today and say, "They don't think they have a future. Facebook can't get in." Even though Mark Zuckerberg learned Chinese, said that he would give a symbolic Chinese name to his child and Xi Jinping said, "That's nice. I'm not letting you in." Google, same problem. Apple's fine for now, but down the road I think experiencing it. These companies will not coordinate because they're competitors with each other. It's not like China. The United States government is going to have to actually provide a little bit of strategic engagement here.
  • 01:08:01
    John Donvan:
    And that concludes debate on this resolution.

    [applause]

    Onto our next resolution, North Korea has one powerful ally, and it is China. If any country can influence North Korean Kim Jong Un, again, it is China. Our resolution for this round: The U.S. and China can forge a grand bargain to contain North Korea. Our first debater on this, Noah Feldman, do you declare yes, or no?

    Noah Feldman:
    I’m going to say no. I don’t think that, in the end, there’s a picture of Chinese national interests in which steps would be taken that would put North Korea in a situation where it was actually vulnerable to regime collapse. Now, containment is a -- it’s a tricky word. And so if the resolution were to be interpreted to say, well, to hold North Korea back from using nuclear weapons I would be inclined to say yes. But containment suggests something other than that. Containment suggests non-expansion.
  • 01:09:00
    And I think for the moment, the risk to China of South Korea and North Korea potentially unifying in a way that leaves a hostile power on its border is so great that China will have to keep North Korea in place. And to keep North Korea in place at this point seems to require accepting its nuclear program at least as strongly as it presently is. So I don’t see a containment strategy in that sense.

    John Donvan:
    David Shambaugh, again, this resolution, the U.S. and China can forge a grand bargain to contain North Korea. Are you yes, or no?

    David Shambaugh:
    I’m tempted to leave my marker like that because I’m ambivalent to answer.

    John Donvan:
    You want to be a maybe on this?

    David Shambaugh:
    I was going to be a no, but I’m actually going to change my vote and be a little provocative and vote yes. The problem --

    John Donvan:
    We appreciate that, since you voted no. That gives us a debate.

    David Shambaugh:
    This is -- we all know this is a real conundrum. There are no good resolutions or solutions, or they would have been used and discovered already on North Korea. But what we haven’t talked about with the Chinese, as far as I know, is a post-unification scenario.
  • 01:10:03
    If we can persuade the Chinese about a unified Korean Peninsula with essentially a South Korea regime that does not have American forces on it and does not necessarily have an American alliance with it, that would alleviate their neuralgic national security concerns considerably. They can’t stand the North Korea regime. They’ve had problems with the North Korean regime since June 1950, when the North attacked the South and they didn’t know. It’s been 50 years of hell for the Chinese with North Korea. They don’t like the regime. So we have to bring them somehow to a regime transition perspective together.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you. Time is up on that. And now Ian Bremmer, the motion -- the resolution the U.S. and China can forge a grand bargain to contain North Korea, are you yes or no, Ian Bremmer?

    Ian Bremmer:
    I’m going to say no, in large part because I want to be with Noah on one of these.

    [laughter]

    And I think that’s true.
  • 01:11:00
    I think containing implies that we can keep them sort of where they are. And, you know, I look at what the North Koreans are now doing on cyber, right? The WannaCry virus hit not just the U.S. but actually hit the Chinese harder. The attacks against the central bank in Bangladesh, the swift codes. I don’t see anything that looks like containment there. And the fact that we’re talking about nukes and ICBMs in the United States and not talking about cyber from North Korea doesn’t mean that this isn’t a very serious problem. I agree completely with David that the North Koreans are a very serious problem for China, but also the Chinese themselves seem to be losing influencing. Remember, they had -- he had the half-brother assassinated while he was under Chinese protection. I just don’t think the Chinese believe they can do it, so they won’t try.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Ian Bremmer.

    [applause]

    Liz Economy, once again stating the resolution, the U.S. and China can forge a grand bargain to contain North Korea.
  • 01:12:01
    Do you declare yes, or no?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    So, Yes. In the immortal words of Bob the Builder, can we fix it? Yes, we can. So I think China and the U.S. are closer to being able to forge an agreement on North Korea than at any time in the past decade. In part, I think it’s because Kim Jong Un has changed the facts on the ground, now can launch a missile strike, and perhaps a nuclear warhead in the near future that can hit the United States. And that’s changed the calculus here, and the Chinese understand that. In part, it’s because we have a new president for whom conventional wisdom and historical knowledge do not pose any restrictions and also, he wants all options on the table and wants an agreement, wants to make a deal. And in part, it’s because, as I mentioned earlier, the Chinese leadership itself is under enormous pressure. Its foreign policy elite wants the government to take a tougher line.
  • 01:13:00
    The Chinese public are concerned about things like nuclear -- radioactive fallout. And it's -- and there's a fear that President Trump might go rogue and leave China to pick up the pieces. So, what an agreement might look like is a different issue --

    John Donvan:
    Thank you.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    -- but can we fix it? Yes, we can.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Liz Economy.

    [applause]

    So, let me take this first to Noah Feldman. You know, we have just come to a period where the United Nations Security Council passed -- for the ninth time, since 2006 -- they've passed sanctions against North Korea. The U.S. wanted some very, very tough sanctions. They wanted to freeze the leaders' international assets. They wanted to stop all imports of petroleum products. They didn't get that, because China and Russia insisted on making it softer. What's the implication of that action by China and Russia? But right now let's make it China -- in terms of this question, of being able to forge a grand bargain.

    Noah Feldman:
    To me, the implication is that China was willing to do the initial round of sanctions, just thus far, and no further. They're not willing to undertake steps that might actually put sufficient pressure on North Korea to make the regime tauter.
  • 01:14:01
    And that's, I think, a very significant moment for them. It's their way of saying that, "Yes, we're annoyed with the North Koreans" -- maybe more than annoyed. "Yes, we're worried. Yes, we don't want regional destabilization. But we actually aren't prepared to do anything about it because fixing the problem would require steps that contradict our national interest." And you know, we have allies like that too -- not to put too fine a point on it -- where we might want them to do things that we would be able to -- you'd think, given our level of support and commitment -- require them or obligate them to do. And sometimes those allies say to us, "No." You know, what's your point of leverage again? And I think this is exactly what's happening to the Chinese and North Korea.

    John Donvan:
    David Shambaugh, you're arguing that the bargain is doable.

    David Shambaugh:
    Hm --

    John Donvan:
    You're changing your mind now?

    [laughter]

    David Shambaugh:
    Well, the problem is the North Koreans won't go peacefully into the night, you know? So, even if the Americans and the Chinese could come -- and the South Koreans, and Japan, and the other actors could come to an agreement about regime transition, the North Koreans aren't going to go along with it.
  • 01:15:02
    So, that brings us back to square one -- or Intelligence Squared -- with containment and sanctions and --

    John Donvan:
    We love that --

    David Shambaugh:
    So --

    John Donvan:
    -- cross-promotion. Thank you.

    David Shambaugh:
    But I'm just trying to put on the table that we haven't at least had the conversation with the Chinese whereby there could be a post-unification Korea that was not threatening to China. That's what they worry about. They don't want regime collapse -- A, because of the humanitarian dimension, B, the economic dimension -- having picked up the pieces. It costs 12 times, apparently, the amount of money to rebuild the north as it did West Germany to absorb the former East Germany. And they don't, you know, obviously want a Communist state on their periphery -- one of the four remaining Communist states on the planet -- to go down. But if there are ways to sort of figure out some broader transition and a coalition government, or a phase transition between North and South -- we haven't had these conversations.
  • 01:16:00
    John Donvan:
    All right. Let's bring in Liz Economy. You're also a yes on this.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah. David is absolutely right. And it's interesting that a noted Chinese scholar -- who is a friend of both of ours -- has just published an article talking about the need for China to have this kind of contingency planning take place, Chiang Ching. So, it's an example of how -- yes, the Chinese went so far and not that far with this set of negotiations. But this far is further than they went in the last round of sanctions. So, you see the Chinese progressing over time, in terms of the severity of the sanctions that they're willing to implement on North Korea. Let's not forget that in five years of Xi Jinping's presidency, he has not met once with Kim Jong Un. There is no love lost between this Chinese leader and Kim Jong Un. And while it's true that, you know -- it's not clear that Kim Jong Un will go peacefully into the night, there are other options, right? There's the decapitation option -- and I'm not suggesting that China's there yet. But you know, it took a long time –
  • 01:17:01
    John Donvan:
    Could you de-euphemize that word, decapitation?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Decapitation?

    Noah Feldman:
    She meant it literally.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    I was -- it kind of – hoping not to

    Noah Feldman:
    It's not an euphemism at all.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    -- was. It kind of was.

    [laughter]

    Thank you. Yeah. So, it would mean the elimination of Kim Jong Un -- or perhaps we just send him to Switzerland with a billion dollars, and that would be a better way to go. But I do think that the Chinese are increasingly open to tougher actions against North Korea for their own reasons.

    John Donvan:
    Ian Bremmer -- your response?

    Ian Bremmer:
    I think the Rodman plan is as likely to work --

    [laughter] -- as what we just heard.

    [applause]

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Wait a minute.

    Ian Bremmer:
    What?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Ping-pong diplomacy goes to basketball diplomacy. Don't laugh.

    Ian Bremmer:
    Yeah, look --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    It's real.

    Ian Bremmer:
    If you want to go there, feel free. I don't think that's your yes vote. But my no vote is the fact that the North Koreans understand that Qaddafi didn't have nukes. Dead. Hussein, no nukes. Dead. Kim Jong Un, not dead. And --

    [laughter]

    -- you know, I look at what's in front of them. I see a guy that wants to develop an ICBM with reentry capabilities.
  • 01:18:05
    Wants to develop a miniaturized set of nuclear warheads, wants to be in a position where, truly, the decapitation option is truly not on the table, and then we can do the deal, and that's after containment. In other words, that's containing from a bigger place. America has history with that. We told the Indians and Pakistanis, "No nukes. You do nukes, we're going to have a problem with you." They do the nukes, they do the tests, we sanction them. We put serious sanctions. After, you know, 10 plus years, we pull the sanctions back. Why, because they behaved? No, because they didn't. They broke through the containment. We're like, "Well, shit, we lost on that one, so I guess we got to deal with you guys now."

    John Donvan:
    Wait, did you just use profanity?

    Ian Bremmer:
    No.

    John Donvan:
    Oh, okay, good, good.

    Ian Bremmer:
    So this is after-hours HBO-like stuff, right? So my point is that there is absolutely -- I can see into the future. Once the North Koreans develop a nuclear program that they consider is sufficiently robust to avoid the decapitation, we could absolutely with the Chinese get to a deal. We are not there yet.
  • 01:19:05
    John Donvan:
    David Shambaugh. I'll come to you after him.

    [applause]

    David Shambaugh:
    War is not an option. Some sort of discussions need to take place directly with the north, multi-partied discussions. And, again, I come back to the sort of unification dimension of all this. It's the one thing all parties agree on. North wants to unify. South wants to unify. Americans are not opposed to it. The Chinese are not opposed to it. I think we need to kind of think beyond nukes, first of all. That's the American obsession, and for good reason. That's not the Chinese obsession. So there is a different set -- there are kind of apples and oranges, and two ships sort of passing in the night, and they're not really talking beyond the immediate.

    John Donvan:
    Noah Feldman.

    Noah Feldman:
    I just wanted to point out directly in response to David's really important point, that there's a structural problem with a demilitarized unified Korea that the U.S. wouldn't be defending, and that is China, right?
  • 01:20:02
    So, whatever this entity would be, for South Korea to agree to enter it, no matter how idealistic they might be feeling that day, they're going to be aware that their entity will not be bordering China directly and they will need a security guarantor and that's only us. You know, there isn't another credible -- and, you know, no degree of self-protection is going to suffice against China. So, to me, there's a structural problem with even beginning to imagine what a, I think you said, quasi-demilitarized unified Korea would look like.

    David Shambaugh:
    You're assuming that South Korea would not want to live in a Chinese sphere of influence.

    Noah Feldman:
    No, I think they would fully accept living in a Chinese sphere of influence.

    David Shambaugh:
    I think they would.

    Noah Feldman:
    I think they're already in a Chinese sphere of influence in economic terms. I think what they have wanted thus far, and to my mind, this is the current conundrum of the Pacific, generally, countries are living under the Chinese economic sphere of influence while depending on the U.S. as a security guarantor. They're playing both ends against the middle and that has worked for those countries.

    John Donvan:
    Liz Economy, you're again arguing, "Yes," you think that a grand bargain can be forged to contain North Korea.
  • 01:21:01
    What does this bargain look like in such a way that Kim Jong Un would actually be willing to comply with it?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Well, first of all, I'm not sure there is a bargain that Kim Jong Un is willing to comply with, but I do think that we have to --

    John Donvan:
    That's back to decapitation, right?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Right, that's back to decapitation, but I do think, you know, we --

    Noah Feldman:
    So that's a grand bargain for --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    It may -- hey, it may well be.

    Noah Feldman:
    Clever redefinition.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Nobody limited the sort of scope of options moving forward. So, no, I think, look, the Chinese have put on the table the freeze and freeze. It doesn't seem as though the North Koreans have even picked up on that yet, right? So, Kim Jong Un would freeze sort of the development of nuclear weapons and we would not have any more military exercises in South Korea for the time being. I think David's right. We have to get back to the table. You may laugh at the idea of basketball diplomacy, but actually, you know, that is what broke through with the Chinese, right? The ping-ping diplomacy was the first thing. Maybe we have a round robin tournament with North Korea, China, the United States, and South Korea and we begin to break the ice.
  • 01:22:07
    And then we go into more formal talks with North Korea. So, you know -- and then we move into, you know, United States, you know, formed some sort of peace treaty, right? And then we moved to the United States establishing a representative office. I mean, there are many -- one of the interesting things about this conundrum is that there are so many different elements to it. There are so many different things that could come into play. And I think we're finally at a point where the Chinese are actually desiring to do something.

    John Donvan:
    And that concludes debate on this resolution.

    [applause]

    And now the future, given everything that we have heard so far tonight, the question the demand's asking is contained in this resolution, "China is destined for regional dominance." First to debate this is David Shambaugh. China is destined for regional dominance. David Shambaugh, do you declare yes, or no?
  • 01:23:01
    David Shambaugh:
    I’ll turn it around and say no this time, and for two essential reasons: first, that others in the region wouldn’t stand for Chinese regional dominance. This is not the Ming Dynasty or the Sung Dynasty or the tribute system obtained and existed and others dutifully fell into the Chinese hierarchy. The Chinese may want that, but I can tell you with the exception of South Korea, not many in Asia want to go down that path. And secondly, there are -- well, there are other actors of significance in the region: Japan, India, Indonesia, and indeed, the United States. So they would balance against China: the iron law of international relations. So I don’t foresee it for that reason. The second reason I don’t foresee Chinese dominance is because the Chinese are very capable of overstepping and overreaching economically and in other ways. They are -- like many other great powers, they are oftentimes bullying and intimidating and --
  • 01:24:03
    John Donvan:
    Sorry, time is up on you. Thanks very much.

    David Shambaugh:
    I’m going to have to stop there.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you.

    [applause]

    China is destined for regional dominance, Ian Bremmer, do you declare yes, or no?

    Ian Bremmer:
    I declare no. So I agree very much with what David had to say. I would also focus not just on East Asia, Southeast Asia but Central Asia, focus on Russia. The fact that the Chinese are increasingly just dominated places like Kazakhstan, as well as economically East Siberia and the Russians are deeply uncomfortable with it. They don’t have the population, but they have the military capability. And the Chinese don’t know how to manage it. One belt, one road: They’re putting all this money in a lot of countries, but Russia not so much. I think --

    John Donvan:
    Just remind people one belt, one road, what that --

    Ian Bremmer:
    Well, it’s this, you know, trillion dollars that the Chinese are putting. It’s kind of like their Marshall Plan but without liberal democracy at the end. And that’s a short definition. The -- but I will tell you that while I don’t think they’re destined for regional dominance, I think it’s quite possible they’re destined for global dominance, and that really depends on whether or not, as Elon Musk says, they get AI right before other people do.
  • 01:25:05
    That, for me, is the big question.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Ian Bremmer.

    [applause]

    Liz Economy, on the resolution China is destined for regional dominance, do you declare yes or no?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    No surprise, I’m a no. I think destined is a big word, and it demands a big commitment, and I’m not prepared to make that commitment. I see three significant impediments to China becoming the dominant regional power. First, right now the U.S. is the dominant military power, as General Petraeus said, by an order of magnitude. And it has no -- it’s demonstrated no indication of being interested in abdicating that position. Second, in economic terms, although China is a very important player in the region, and indeed the largest trading partner for most of the countries, it is an inconsequential source of foreign direct investment for all the countries in the region except for Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar which I think many people would find surprising. And then third goes back to exactly what David said, and that is that nobody else in the region wants China to be the dominant regional power.
  • 01:26:08
    And so, you have India and Japan and Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, all working together and in concert with the United States on occasion to make sure that that does not happen.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you, Liz Economy.

    [applause]

    The resolution, "China is Destined for regional Dominance," Noah Feldman, are you yes or no?

    Noah Feldman:
    You know, on the one hand, you have three brilliant area experts, and on the other hand, you have the possibility of a real conversation. So I'm going to go with yes. And I'll --

    [laughter]

    John Donvan:
    Noah Feldman, we are very grateful.

    Noah Feldman:
    Oh, well, you can take the law professor out of the law school, but -- so, look, global dominance I do not think is the inevitable destiny for China because, for all the reasons that we've discussed, it is not yet in a position to achieve that. It may never be in a position to achieve that.
  • 01:27:00
    China already has regional economic dominance on issue after issue after issue on country after country after country. Over a long period of time, other countries in the region will still have a desire. There's no question they have a desire to retain a close strategic relationship with the U.S. to protect themselves against China. But thatwill become increasingly difficult as the U.S. is less and less willing to provide that and no longer sees the benefits of doing that. I would say the Trump Administration's policy here is the leading edge of what may be a 50 or 75-year change in American attitude. Take the question of whether the U.S. would, at present, use military force to defend Taiwan. If, in your hearts, you think the answer to that question is no, then the answer to this question is yes.

    John Donvan:
    Thank you very much, Noah Feldman.

    [applause]

    And, you know, Noah, because you're such a good sport to take the other side on this one --solo. I'm going to -- if you'd like to continue your thought, I'm going to give you another minute to go, and then give us -- your opponent something to chew on.
  • 01:28:01
    Elizabeth Economy:
    Can I ask a question?

    John Donvan:
    Yeah. Please do.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Oh, no? Okay. So, we'll go back to Noah in a second. What does it mean to say that China has regional economic dominance? What does that mean in your mind?

    Noah Feldman:
    It means that China is the largest and most significant trading partner of every country in the region, broadly defined. That means that its economic leverage over those countries is enormous. It means that capital flows in both directions are great and growing. It means that the cultural influences that come with greater economic exchange are also going to grow over time. And with respect to forms of governance, which we touched on a bit earlier -- but I would have loved for us to have a chance to say more about -- even though it's true that none of those countries are trying to govern the way that China does, it's also true that the bloom is off the rose of the idea that democracy on the U.S. model is the best way to govern your country. And in that sense, that can be seen as Chinese influence insofar as there's increasing recognition that countries actually can get away with dis-aggregating political reform from economic reform.
  • 01:29:06
    I know we would like to say -- and David's written a book saying that that's a short-term thing; in the long run, we'll all see that they are linked. But I -- you know, I'm not so sure about it.

    John Donvan:
    You're getting lots of looks of skepticism from Liz Economy in particular.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Well, I just wanted to know, you know, because we can never agree, basically -- not on any one of these points. So --

    Noah Feldman:
    Well, that's fine. It makes it fun.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Interesting, right? So, no. I think -- you know, I make two points, I guess. First, whatever China's regional economic power is, it's not enough to persuade the Philippines to change course with regard to the South China Sea, right? So, five years or so worth of boycotting Philippine exports -- some exports. It's not enough to make South Korea change course THAAD, right, as they're boycotting Lottethe major South Korean department store.

    And again, China is a very distant third to the European Union and Japan when it comes to investment in Southeast Asia.
  • 01:30:04
    So, and it's not clear to me at all that China's cultural and political influence is going to flow out of its being a large trading partner -- not to mention the fact that with many, many of these countries, it's running a trade surplus, which irritates a lot of these countries.

    Noah Feldman:
    Well --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    So, I'm not sure that it --

    Noah Feldman:
    -- I want to respond --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    -- endears the countries to China in a way that is going to grant China greater influence.

    Noah Feldman:
    So, if there's one lesson, to my mind, of the last century, it's of the U.S. and its dominance -- is that dominance does not lead -- you can dominate people without endearing yourself to them. And in fact, to the contrary. Dominating people never makes you feel endeared to them. My point is not -- I completely agree with you that it will always be in the geostrategic interest of the Philippines to protect the South China Sea or of South Korea to try to maintain aerial defenses. My point is they can only do that because of us. Those are only credible positions -- the Philippines can only stand up, quote unquote, to China -- South Korea can only stand up, quote unquote, to China, if they have us behind them.
  • 01:31:00
    And if the U.S. over time -- this is really my key point -- if the U.S., over time, ceases to think -- and I mean the U.S. as a people -- I don't mean foreign policy experts like, you know, people around the table -- if ordinary people think that it's not in the U.S. interest to put a huge part of our military budget into constructing a military that enables us to defend, you know, the
    Pacific States --

    John Donvan:
    Yeah --

    Noah Feldman:
    -- then these countries will have no choice. They will still feel the same way, but there will be realities that will interfere --

    John Donvan:
    But let's put that point --

    Noah Feldman:
    -- on the table.

    John Donvan:
    -- on the table for David Shambaugh, the argument that Noah Feldman is making. And again, David, you -- you're arguing no, China will not be regionally dominant. Noah is saying, to the degree that it's dominant, it's hemmed in by us -- that 30, 50 years from now, he doesn't really see the American people wanting to support military action that costs us in that part of the world, to protect countries like Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, et cetera. What about that premise?

    David Shambaugh:
    I think you'd need to dis-aggregate dominance and you'd need to dis-aggregate Asia.
  • 01:32:01
    As I said, I just came back from half a year in Southeast Asia. There, Noah is absolutely correct. China has economic -- primarily economic dominance. Japan is also a very significant actor. The United States less so, and declining in Southeast Asia. Northeast Asia, that's not the case at all. But if you look at the other indices of China's regional posture, military, cultural, political, diplomatic, there you don't find anything approaching dominance. China's not the major diplomatic actor in Asia. Its military is -- I think General Petraeus was indicating earlier -- and Ian mentioned -- is a regional military. It's growing very quickly, and certainly it's stronger than any other military in the region except for the United States, but it's not -- they haven't had a war since 1979, and it's not -- they're an unproven force, I would argue. Political model, I don't see others wishing to emulate that, and culture. Does China have soft power? Does the Chinese culture and system travel? Does it have universality in Asia or elsewhere? I say very limited.
  • 01:33:06
    John Donvan:
    Ian Bremmer.

    Ian Bremmer:
    The Chinese have been picking up a lot of influence. I mean, Taiwan, Hong Kong, it's very clear that they have effective dominion over that in a way that the Americans would not have ceded even 10 years ago. And I think over the coming 10 years, there'll be other countries that we feel that way about. Pakistan may well be one. Certainly, many of the Southeast Asians. Singapore is quite concerned, as a consequence. But there are two reasons that I really don't buy the idea that this is destined. One is not the economics. If it was -- if Asia was just about economics, I would feel much more comfortable with this formulation, certainly with the fact that the Chinese can write really big checks and they can bring the whole apparatus of the state together with it. But the fact is that, unlike the United States which is surrounded by Canada, Mexico, and big bodies of water, Asia is geopolitically fraught, and it's only going to become more so going forward. So, I think that idea that China's going to be able to be regionally dominant in a part of the world that's likely to see vastly more conflict going forward, I don't buy it.
  • 01:34:00
    Second point is a lot of people talk about the coming Chinese century. There's been an American century, now there's a Chinese century. I don't think we do centuries anymore. Destined implies to me the sweep of history where the Chinese are going to be in charge. When I look at China's military in 20 years, I think about things like drone swarms. I think about things like infantry and I don't know what the balance of power in Asia's going to be looking like, but I do know that the idea that China's going to be able to take manifest their plans of building buildings over the last 30 years and just plow them through for another 15, I wouldn't put a lot of money in stake of that. So it's possible that they'll get there. If you wanted to bet on any one country in the region being dominant, I'd bet on China, but I wouldn't bet much. I'd bet much more on the United States still be regionally dominant in the Western hemisphere.

    John Donvan:
    Noah Feldman, so directly to your point, Ian Bremmer is saying that he thinks the U.S. will hang in 50 years out.

    Noah Feldman:
    Yeah, I mean, I think one thing that strikes me across the debate is that my -- the views that I'm expressing seem to be more skeptical of the U.S. public being willing to sustain a global position of dominance than my colleagues seem to think.
  • 01:35:06
    John Donvan:
    Could we just stop you on that because you've made that point a few times, and I haven't directly heard from your opponents. Just go down the line. What's the time frame you're talking about, 30 years?

    Noah Feldman:
    Yeah.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, just down the line, Ian Bremmer, do you think the U.S. public will be willing to sustain its military -- the U.S. military presence in that commitment to that part of the world 30 years from now?

    Ian Bremmer:
    No way, but it doesn't change any of the points I just made.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, Liz Economy?

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yes.

    John Donvan:
    Yes? David Shambaugh?

    David Shambaugh:
    Yes, I think so.

    John Donvan:
    Okay, back to you, Noah.

    [laughter]

    Noah Feldman:
    Okay, so I think -- I think --

    Ian Bremmer:
    Well, either way, I mean, the whole --

    Noah Feldman:
    -- yeah, I mean, we -- you know, the subject of our debate tonight isn't primarily, "What does the U.S. public think?"

    John Donvan:
    Right.

    Noah Feldman:
    But I do urge people to ask themselves if the U.S. -- if they would support in their hearts or would predict that the U.S. would intervene military to protect not just Taiwan but any of the -- Japan, let's say, or --

    [talking simultaneously]

    Ian Bremmer:
    We're talking about --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Treaty -- Japan is a treaty ally. I mean, we are terrified of treaties.

    Noah Feldman:
    I know, and what I'm saying --

    Elizabeth Economy:
    So you're saying that we will back out of our treaty?

    Noah Feldman:
    Correct. What I'm saying, Liz -- what I'm saying is that in the world that we all occupy of formal
    -- formally trained political scientists with a deep knowledge of political science norms, it's impossible to say that the United States would back away from its commitments which is embodied in a treaty of international law.
  • 01:36:12
    And what I'm saying is that, you know, if people ask themselves inwardly, "Would you support the U.S. doing so, even in the presence of a treaty?" I think many people in the room, and many, many people in the country, and a huge number of people who voted for Donald Trump would say that the answer is, "No way. I never heard of the treaty, definitely don't care about it." And if that's --

    [applause]

    Elizabeth Economy:
    We should take -- we should take a vote right here.

    Noah Feldman:
    If we weren't doing this on radio, I wouldn't be adverse to a show of hands. I've actually, you know, tried this, asking a room full of military people. Everyone says, "Of course we would defend them. That's why we have a Navy." And then I ask the room, "Well [inaudible]."

    John Donvan:
    Let's do a show of hands. Let's do it.

    Noah Feldman:
    And everybody says, first of all, "What are you talking about?" like, "Of course we wouldn't do that." So my -- the point that I'm making here is simply that, if the U.S. public can't sustain that sort of commitment over the long term, if it doesn't see a clear economic payoff to regional dominance in Asia, for example, that is likely to shift the geo-strategy, the geopolitics of the region.
  • 01:37:14
    And, again, in the absence of the U.S. position, China will de facto dominate the region. And, you know –

    John Donvan:
    Liz Economy, you're going to get the last word.

    Noah Feldman:
    Okay, sorry.

    Elizabeth Economy:
    Yeah, I want to make a totally different point, and that is that we have not even raised the possibility that China's not going to be in a position to be a regionally dominant power because, actually, its economy is going to collapse or at least is going to slow down so significantly that it's not going to be able to continue on the path that it's on.

    John Donvan:
    And Ian, you look anxious to make a point, so go ahead.

    Ian Bremmer:
    Not really anxious.

    [laughter]

    No, I can -- I agreed with Liz there, but I just can't see the -- if the Americans pull out, to me, that does not ensure Chinese dominance. Instead, it makes it much more likely that we're going to have very significant confrontation. The U.S. staying in, I think, helps with stability.
  • 01:38:00
    Noah Feldman:
    Totally agree with that. I hope -- by the way, I hope I'm wrong.

    John Donvan:
    Oh, you're all agreeing. Okay. Well, that's good, because that concludes this round of debate on this resolution --

    [applause]

    -- "China is destined for regional dominance."

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have worked through all four of our resolutions for this evening. And there are a couple things I want to say. First of all, I want to, once again, thank David Petraeus and Max Boot for the opening. They were terrific, I thought.

    [applause]

    And normally we bring to the stage the chairman of Intelligence Squared whose vision it was back in 2006 to bring this forum to New York and to the United States. He wasn't able to be with -- so many moving parts -- that he said he would sit it out tonight. But I don't want to let him do that. I want him to stand up and take a bow, and thank --

    [applause]

    I do want to also mention this about Intelligence Squared. What Robert Rosenkranz put together is actually a non-profit organization.
  • 01:39:00
    We rely on contributions from the public, and we would really look for any of you who are -- is able to make, you know -- even the small donations make a big difference when there are enough of you. And you can do that. Text the word "DEBATE" to the number 797979, you'll get a link that would let you make a contribution. We work very hard to raise the level of public discourse to bring people like this to the stage. Who argue with passion, but with truthfulness, with honestly, with candor, and with respect for one another. By the way, I need to congratulate all four of you for the way you did this tonight.

    [applause]

    Thank you. All four of our debaters fought well. Thank you everybody for joining us, and being willing to listen, be willing to change your mind, because that is the IQ2 way. I'm John Donvan.

    [end of transcript]
Trump Is Making China Great Again
Winner: No
Yes: -11.54%
No: +11.54%
The U.S. Should Play Hardball with China on Trade
Winner: Yes
Yes: +7.69%
No: -7.69%
The U.S. and China Can Forge a Grand Bargain to Contain North Korea
Winner: No
Yes: -50%
No: +50%
China Is Destined for Regional Dominance
Winner: No
Yes: -15.38%
No: +15.38%
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Graham Allison on Thucydides's Trap
Author and Harvard historian Graham Allison discusses China's rise to power and his recent book "Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides's Trap?" which served as the inspiration for the "Unresolved: Face-off with China" debate.
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Keynote Conversation with General David Petraeus and Max Boot
General Petraeus and Max Boot take a broad look into the foreign policy of the Trump administration, the global challenges facing the U.S., and lessons learned from General Petraeus' extensive time spent in the Middle East.
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Debate #1 - Trump Is Making China Great Again
President Trump is shaking up the foreign policy playbook, pulling out of global deals and agreements, and casting doubt on America's commitments to its allies. Is this creating a vacuum for a growing China to fill?
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Debate #2 - The U.S. Should Play Hardball With China On Trade
Should the U.S. meet China’s economic aggression with tough policies of its own? Or is playing hardball on trade a risky business that may put the American economy – and influence around the world – in harm’s way?
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Debate #3 - The U.S. and China Can Forge a Grand Bargain to Contain North Korea
Could U.S. and Chinese leaders garner the political and diplomatic muster necessary to contain North Korea?
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Debate #4 - China Is Destined For Regional Dominance
Should the U.S. shore up its Asian alliances in defiance of an increasingly powerful Beijing? Or is it time to give China its due as the regional hegemon?
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Is President Trump using Nixon's "madman" theory toward North Korea?
General David Petraeus evaluates President Trump's consistency at home and abroad, and the message that sends.
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Is the U.S. destined for war with China?
General Petraeus and Max Boot discuss Graham Allison's book on Thucydides Trap, and whether the United States and China can avoid war.
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Are there too many generals in the White House?
General David Petraeus and Max Boot discuss the Trump administration's cabinet and the number of generals in senior positions.
About The Debaters
An image of Ian Bremmer
Ian Bremmer − Founder and President, Eurasia Group
Ian Bremmer is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting... read bio
An image of Elizabeth Economy
Elizabeth Economy − Director for Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
Elizabeth Economy is the C.V. Starr senior fellow and director for Asia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.... read bio
An image of Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman − Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Noah Feldman is the Bemis Professor of Law at Harvard University and senior fellow of the Society of Fellows. He is... read bio
An image of David Shambaugh
David Shambaugh − Professor of International Affairs & Director, China Policy Program, George Washington University
David Shambaugh is a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and... read bio
Where Do You Stand?
Trump Is Making China Great Again

Donald Trump  is tearing up the conventional playbook on U.S. policy toward the rest of the world — making policy personal, casting doubt on America's commitment to its allies, and raising questions about its traditional role as the "indispensable nation." Do these trends create a leadership vacuum for an ever more powerful China to fill? Or are these mere feints on the part of the president? And is China even capable of filling American shoes in the role of global leader?

The U.S. Should Play Hardball with China on Trade

China is notably quick to flex its economic muscle around the world, putting its trade policies to use in bolstering its national interests. Should the U.S. meet China’s economic aggression with tough policies of its own? Or is playing hardball on trade a risky business that may put the American economy – and influence around the world – in harm’s way?   

The U.S. and China Can Forge a Grand Bargain to Contain North Korea

As North Korea’s closest ally, China is often seen as the key to curtailing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. But China, fearing a flood of refugees across its border should North Korea’s government collapse and hesitant to broker discussions without military concessions from the U.S., remains cautious toward its neighbor. Could U.S and Chinese leaders garner the political and diplomatic muster necessary to contain North Korea? 

China Is Destined for Regional Dominance

China’s recently launched Belt and Road initiative, a massive infrastructure project spanning some 60-plus countries, promises to transform global trade and bolster China’s presence in Asia and beyond. This, combined with China’s increasingly prominent military presence in the South China Sea, points to nation seeking greater influence in its own backyard. Should the U.S. shore up its Asian alliances in defiance of an increasingly powerful Beijing? Or is it time to give China its due as the regional hegemon?