DIANA CASTILLO WRITES – The solution to the tense state of US-China relations is simple. So why do both countries make it so hard?
So suggested Daniel Russel, former top advisor on Asia to President Obama and veteran American diplomat, on visiting LMU at the invitation and organization of the university’s Global Policy Institute recently.
Russel, currently vice president for International Security and Diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), put forth two central recommendations: that both regions increase, rather than cut off, communications; and that they do so by resuming high-level government-level dialogues. He followed with even more back-to-basics on the topic of communication and what it can accomplish: building understanding of each country’s strategic intent and resolving differences, rather than leaving room for guessing or misinterpreting another country’s perspectives.
The latter, he said, leads to catastrophe.
For most of his talk, Mr. Russel applied these concepts to four wars brewing between the U.S. and China: 1) the trade-war; 2) the tech-war; 3) the influence-war; and 4) the ideological war.
The talk started with Russel’s exposition on how he came to these views. So great was his curiosity about other countries that he spent three years in Japan learning aikido, which is a Japanese martial art that consists of techniques to resolve conflicts in a non-destructive manner. Upon his return to the U.S., he was troubled by what he saw as a kind of provincialism, or lack of interest, within the United States as to the rest of the world. He decided to fix that problem himself and join the foreign service.
Today, Russel is an internationally respected peacemaker and a careful thinker. He warned LMU students that each country must not vilify the other side. He insisted on the importance of refraining from condemning the Chinese people themselves, and, instead, from disliking “the sin, not the sinner.”
Strategic rivalry, he said, is not a bad thing: “It brings out the best and allows both sides of the world to flourish,” whereas angry competition does the opposite.
Finally, according to Russel, there is no quick fix to the sad state of U.S.-China relations, but it is our obligation to break the vicious cycle and work to solve problems together. That’s not easy, but not as hard as we seem to be making it.
The Global Policy Institute at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles is the interdisciplinary think tank that applies rigorous academic research to help solve global policy challenges and helps produce campus events on key policy issues.