Robert Rosenkranz: Intelligence Squared US Debate Analysis
China and the U.S. are Long-term Enemies
The evolving relationship between China and the United States is one of inherent tension yet also mutual benefit. As China’s position as a world power strengthens, the U.S. must choose carefully how to respond and to relate as that growing power naturally changes the dynamics between the two countries.
For its part, the United States is not likely to allow itself to be shut out of the Pan-Asian region while China is not likely to sit back idly while a democratic coalition designed to limit its growth emerges. The natural inclination of nations in these positions is to assume that the other party has malicious intent. Yet, each country has reason to not act hastily upon such assumptions.
Given this landscape, how adversarial is the relationship between China and the U.S.? This was the subject of a recent debate in which the motion “China and the U.S. are long-term enemies” was discussed. I pointed out that this debate “could have been held three years ago…or three years from now…because the challenge of accommodating the shifting power relationships in Asia is a huge challenge and a long-term project.”
Arguing in favor of the named motion were Peter Brooks, former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Asia and Pacific Affairs and a member of the U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission and John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago Professor and author of “The Tragedy of the Great Power Politics”.
Arguing in opposition to the named motion were Robert Daly, Director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Wilson Center and Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Ambassador to Beijing and the current president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.
Those for the motion started the evening with an important point—an enemy relationship does not guarantee that full-scale conflict will result but simply that an adversarial quality exists in the relationship. The debaters put forth the idea that relationships between any nations could be drilled down to a survival of the fittest sociological concept. Every country has an innate desire to dominate others.
They went further to suggest the great lengths the U.S. has gone to over the years to prevent any other country from being a true peer competitor. From Imperial Germany to the Soviet Union, the U.S. is the last one standing in some form. As China becomes stronger, our country will have less tolerance for its growth and seek new ways to dominate it.
Those against the motion began by clarifying that the motion does not talk about whether or not China and the U.S. will become enemies but are today enemies. This concept formed the premise of their argument that the motion is incorrect. Enemies by nature wish each other ill and while both China and the United States currently benefit financially from their existing relationship, they do not wish each other such ill. From trade to talent, the United States virtually needs China today.
As always, live polls were taken before and after the debate. Overall, the percent of people in agreement with the motion did not change dramatically, moving only from 27 percent to 32 percent before and after the debate. What did change remarkably was the number of people against the motion. Prior to the debate, 35 percent of people indicated their opposition to the motion with 38 percent being undecided. After the debate, those numbers were 56 percent against and only 12 percent undecided.
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