Ah, There’s the Opposition

By Harrison Yu

As a follow-up to one of my previous posts, I now have to apologize.  I was a bit critical of the Washington Center for not setting us up with speakers who had conservative points of view.  Now, for the most part, that still holds true; however, they did bring in (and sent us to) speakers from non-liberal viewpoints today.  Since my prior blog post criticized the lack of foreign policy diversity, it is fitting that I address this new viewpoint in this blog post.

A group of us made it to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for a panel discussion on U.S.-China relations.  The panel consisted of Robert Daly, Andrew Wedeman, and J. Stapleton Roy.  Even a cursory glance at their bios will give you a feel for how knowledgeable these people are and why they are qualified to be speaking on this aspect of foreign affairs.

Robert Daly discusses the merits of getting into a trade war.  Photo credit: Harrison Yu

As most of our speakers have done, they started out with a bit of background information; in this case, on why U.S.-Chinese relations would be strained in the first place and why the new presidency has already started to make an impact on these relations.  What this panel did better than many of our other speakers is to go in-depth into the relationship.  We learned not just that the U.S. recognizes the People’s Republic of China (“mainland” China) while maintaining relations with Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, but we also learned the importance of accepting the three communiques and the One China policy as the way to continue these relationships.

The opposition to the liberal way of thinking came in their discussions of what the U.S. should do about the South China Sea and trade agreements.  Instead of focusing on soft power, they discussed what traditional hard power would look like in the face of China continuing to make gradual land grabs.  Describing them as Realist would be a stretch, despite them invoking Mearsheimer’s name.  Their thinking was too nuanced for such a simple classification.  They created and destroyed hypotheticals of the U.S. and China going to war or having a trade war or Trump not accepting the One China policy.

For those of you who did not follow this post entirely, I apologize.  Essentially, the panelists were complex in their thinking.  Their invented scenarios incorporated a variety of factors beyond what the lay-person might assume was a more simplistic scenario.  They had their facts, presented them where appropriate, and came to a logical conclusion for each hypothetical.  In a course that has the goal of creating better civil discourse, this was a great panel to watch in action.  They found their talking points and accepted caveats to said points.  When questioned further, they had further evidence and reasoning to back up their claims.  Even if you may not be right in an argument, you should walk away learning something new and having an altered viewpoint.  If that occurs through reasonable civil discourse, we will all be better off.

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