On May 22, Dr. James Holmes and Dan Murphy returned to participate in Power Clash: China’s Rise and the U.S. Response. There was an overwhelming number of requests to bring them back following our 2018 Global Security Forum, a telling sign of the anticipation for their conversation to continue.
Both participants agreed that characterizing China as either friend or foe is troubling, but they also acknowledged the great amount of uncertainty that exists with current U.S.-China relations. Murphy wondered if a more appropriate event title for Power Clash would be Power Clash? given his belief that if Americans assume that the nation is on a preordained course to clash with China, then ultimately they will create that event. A tense reality is created by assuming that China can only be a friend or a foe, and both participants addressed forces, like the language used in National Security documents, as factors contributing towards this dichotomous characterization. A general consensus came from Murphy’s claim: “It’s a new era and I’m not really sure we have all the answers yet.”
Other topics discussed by Holmes and Murphy included the “weakened” line of communication between the U.S. and China, as well as analysis of how that relationship has changed under the Trump presidency. Dr. Holmes pointed to a kind of “quiet bipartisanship” that exists with foreign policy; he noted that the attitude of the current administration towards Chinese policy is generally a continuation of the stance that existed towards the end of the Obama administration. The speakers were also asked about a proper U.S. response to Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, against which Murphy suggested the U.S. must compete.
The conversation produced keen insight on a topic extremely pertinent to contemporary global affairs, and it offered fresh perspective for those present. While the relationship between the U.S. and China is rather competitive, Murphy emphasized that it would be detrimental for America’s economy and much of the globe’s well-being if China were to fail in a large way. Both speakers acknowledged that a degree of uncertainty, and perhaps discomfort, with the inherent values in China’s political system may contribute towards the rigidity of this topic, and they were equally unsure about what the future will bring. Amidst the chaotic trade war and a plethora of other foreign relations dilemmas, Murphy articulated that what the U.S. truly wants is a “successful China that plays by the rules.”
The World Affairs Council of Connecticut would like to thank Dr. Jim Holmes and Dan Murphy for their participation, Scott Bates for moderating the discussion, and those who attended. Special thanks to Stanley Black & Decker for hosting Power Clash in their brand new Manufactory in downtown Hartford, offering those in attendance an in-person look at Industry 4.0.