On March 16th 2017, the National Academy of Development and Strategy at Renmin University of China successfully held a new round of “The National High-end Think Tanks Serial Lectures” at Mingde Business building. Shi Yinhong, professor at the Institute of International Relations, RUC and director of the Center for the U.S. Research, RUC, was invited to give the lecture with the theme “What Does Trump Mean for the World and China”. This lecture was presided by researcher Wang Lili, deputy dean of NADS and member of committee of China Public Diplomacy Association.
Before the lecture, Wang first gave a brief introduction of Professor Shi and his academic achievement, and also reviewed the evolving conditions of Sino-U.S. relations since Trump has gotten elected. She said we were now in a stage of radical change with the rise of nationalism and anti-globalization. Against that background, Trump, with his unique personality, was officially inaugurated as the U.S. president. Under the core of “America First”, the new administration under Trump will impose lash and challenges on the security of the world, the order of Asian-Pacific region and also Sino-U.S. relations. We need to get fully prepared for all the above uncertainties.
At the start, Professor Shi laid emphasis on the special meaning of Trump’s election for the world and China. He pointed out that Trump at least left us three impression since his campaign: First, he has never shown any respect for the American constitutional system; second, he has never appealed to the contemporary mainstream values; third, he has never shown appreciation to the liberal world economic and trade system, nor the broad international and trans-national cooperation. The strange thing is that Trump was elected mainly because of the above three “never”. Just because he is undisciplined, prejudiced and exclusive, he wins support from over half of the nation’s population who are the so-called “white grassroots”. Therefore, from that single perspective, Trump’s election represents an “unlucky sign” for the world.
Furthermore, Professor Shi believes that from the global picture, Trump’s election represents that the global political climate is experiencing an unprecedented profound change. The world order established after the WWII is gradually coming to an end. In fact, before Trump, we can strongly sense the radical change from global politics to localism, nationalism and populism. Although we are not good at telling the future, we can still review the past and come up with our own anticipation through comparison. In the past world that we are familiar with, globalization and international cooperation played a leading role, and countries ranging from China to developed ones were confident, at least before the 2008 Financial Crisis and the global economic recession. In the past, the U.S. was not so “psycho”. China was not so “radical”. Russia was not so “stubborn” and Japan was not so “revisionist”. However, every major power has changed or is changing their mindset now.
Professor Shi also mentioned the impact of Trump’s administration on China. He said that the U.S. and the whole West are in an eminent or relative decline regarding to politics, economy and culture. This brings us significant strategic and diplomatic opportunities. But remember, Trump is also likely to engrave our major problems which are reforms and development of economy and finance. The pressure and challenges will also appear in military, diplomacy and culture. So we need to be prudent and vigilant to deal with it.
As for what strategies to take in counteracting the above impact, Professor Shi concluded that we need to firstly prevent and counterattack the harm the U.S. brings to China’s core interests; and secondly to take initiatives under the premise of “minimum guarantee”. What is “minimum guarantee”? Formed during the 2000 years of China’s history, it refers to the “strategic conservatism” that committed to national stability, prosperity and progress. Considering China’s current economic and financial conditions, our prevailing strategic core in the near future is to main growth, adjust structure and deepen reform.
Apart from “minimum guarantee”, Professor Shi also emphasized that China should pay great attention to three “core strategic problems”. The first is that the Trump administration may continue to make trouble for China through allying countries in East Asia. Therefore, we need to be determined to improve China’s interests in this region and maintain good diplomatic environment with patience and efforts. The second is that against the possible anti-globalization background, we need to maintain economic growth, adjust structure and deepen reform, make full use of domestic and international market resources, so as to reduce the reliance on external market. The third is to upgrade strategic deployment. While we continue to strengthen our strategic military capacity, we should try our best to avoid our neighboring and other countries to feel threatened. Otherwise, we will be trapped into the security hard time when we become stronger, the external reaction grows and then turns out to restrict our development.
After the lecture, Professor Shi also took questions from the presider and audience. In answering to the question asked by presider that what would Xi-Trump meeting bring to Sino-U.S. relations, Professor Shi said that we need to stay calm for the coming Sino-U.S. Summit. After all Trump is newly elected, there will not be practical bilateral progress in short term. However, this type of summit should be appreciated in terms of improving Sino-U.S. relations. Professor Shi also gave insightful opinions on a series of questions like diplomatic strategy for neighboring countries, THAAD, Taiwan issue as well as the power game between Xi and Trump.
In the end, Presider Wang made a conclusion remark for the lecture and pointed out that, Trump has been in the office for no more than two months, so it is difficult for us to make clear judgments on many issues. Under the system of “Check and Balance”, Trump’s pledges, particularly “America First” and retrenchment strategy, may have a bumpy road to go. In the next four years, the topic “What Does Trump Mean for the World and China” will remain in our sight.
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