The U.S. & China After Obama


The McKinnon Center for Global Affairs and Occidental’s History department welcomed two prominent China thinkers to the college on Thursday, February 25, 2016. Professor Gordon H. Chang (Stanford, History) lectured in Choi Auditorium delivering, "Entwined Destinies: America and China and the History of the Present." Just before, Ambassador Jeffrey Bader spoke about post-Obama U.S. foreign policy in a lecture titled "The U.S. & China After Obama." Ambassador Bader’s visit marked another installment for the McKinnon Center’s 2016 Young Future of Diplomacy Series.

Hosted by Ambassador Derek Shearer, Director of the McKinnon Center, the two Yalies spent the day discussing complications and promises for the next administration’s foreign policy towards China.

Ambassador Bader explained the current policies and also argued in generalities for what U.S. policy toward China should be. Today, China’s Xi Jinping oversees the empire’s strategic expansion, which features militarism, cyber espionage, a partnership with Russia, flirtations with democracy and economic liberalism, "not doing what the U.S. fears most," and gaps in adherence to world rules. Ambassador Bader argues that China poses a "critical overseas challenge" to the United States. Its economy is soon to be the largest and will be the strongest soon. Furthermore, the country’s economic and cultural influence will extend far beyond its borders in coming years—more so than it has expanded already.

The former ambassador offered three possible U.S. responses to China’s actions: accommodation, containment/strategic rivalry, and cooperation. Should the U.S. accommodate, the administration must recognize China’s inevitable rise and an eventual equal balance of power. Moreover, Ambassador Bader contends that resistance would be fruitless and hard choices would have to be made among global and domestic priorities. The second option, containment/strategic rivalry would result in military confrontation because of incompatible resistance. This would result in China’s dominance and U.S. expulsion from the region. Finally, Ambassador Bader offered the option he suggests—cooperation. This policy involves meeting China halfway. Under these conditions, security issues would be interconnected by interdependency, which "cannot be undermined," an important economic relationship would be upheld. On the global scale, Ambassador Bader argues that Chinese and American interests are aligned and that the favorable cooperation with China would bring stability to the United States’ foreign policy.

Ambassador Bader’s concise and efficient lecture was followed by a lengthy question-and-answer session. Topics covered included TPP, the issue of delineating the U.S. "rule of law" and China’s "rule by law," Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump—each as a prospective president, conflicts of the South China Sea, and the political role of the Dalai Lama in Tibet.

Ambassador Bader’s unique perspective in U.S. diplomatic and political affairs from the past and for the future exclusively contributed positively to the student experience at Occidental College.

Among his diplomatic and political roles with the U.S. Government, Ambassador Bader is also author of Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy.

--William Butenschoen