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Nye on China and the use of power

The pros and cons of extending Chinese influence beyond its borders differently from its predecessors: Xi Jinping, International Law of the Seas Treaty, Transnational Issues, Asian Infrastructure Investment bank.  Nick Burns, professor at Harvard Kennedy School in conversation with professor and author of The Future of Power Joe Nye.

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Video transcript

I'm Nick burns professor at Harvard Kennedy School here with my colleague at the Kennedy School Joe night there were two other lessons we thought we'd cover one is to go back to China and have you speak a little bit about China and then Turkey has a very a very different case of a rising power you are an Asia expert you know China well you've observed Xi Jinping the current president shine a very different leader in some respects you can almost see the China is now pushing out we're trying to extend its influence beyond its borders in a way that some of his predecessors had not done so what are the pros and cons of this for the Chinese why we might have benefit them what are the problems that they might encounter well I think the it's understandable that as China increases its economic strength that wants more recognition in the world fortunately China is not something that poses a threat the sense that is trying to impose its ideology on us or on others there were some of that when bouncy tone was a Chinese Communist leader back in the 60s but ever since dong champagne took over in the 70s and focused on economic development China has not been trying to impose its views on others it still has a communist party it still sees itself as its legitimacy is coming from the Communist Party but it's not very communist China has more billionaires in any other country except the United States that's not a very communist number it has more millionaires than any country in the world so the idea that China's Communist is no longer a very accurate description that's a good thing because unlike Nazi Germany in the 1930s which wanted to impose its fascism upon others by the use of force China is not that game and unlike Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1940s and 50s which tried to impose its communism others by force China is not in that game either so China wants more recognition it wants to be seen as perhaps dominant in its corner of the world but it's not about to try to take over ideology and others in terms of exporting a malicious type of soft power fortunately China is not that business xi Jinping talks about the China dream but the China dream is really not for export it's for making Chinese feel better about themselves so one of the key questions about both Xi Jinping and his successors is does China want to live within the sister international system that has been built up after the Second World War it seems to a prosper within it will we continue to try to become a leader with the United States and other countries in that system or will the Chinese attempt to establish a parallel system where they are dominant that could produce friction between the US and others at which way do you think China is going to go well I think up the global level China wants to live within the existing system it benefits considerably for the fact that it's a member of the UN Security Council with a veto power it benefits from the fact that it's a member of the World Trade Organization which gets it trade treatment that it that helps its exports indeed that's why China obeys decisions by the dispute settlement mechanism of the World Trade Organization even when they go against it they nonetheless survey them china also benefits from participation in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund so I don't think it's trying to kick over the whole table I think the area where there's the most likely to be difficulty is in the oceans right around China particularly the East China Sea where it has disputes over islands at Chinese cold I you islands and Japan Colson kaku islands and that our Japan's possession territory alcohol which we returned to Japan 1972 after World War two in the South China Sea sees itself as dominant compared to the southeast asian nations and has territorial disputes with a number of its neighbors but also that causes problems for the United States because we believe that this area should be governed by the international law of the Seas treaty under the United Nations and while China adheres to that treaty it interprets it in a somewhat different way and by building artificial islands it looks like it's trying to close off more and more of that sea so then in the world as a whole the global level I think China is not a what's called by theorists of international relations a revisionist state the state that's trying to revise the whole system it's not that unhappy with the status quo but when it comes to the areas in its immediate neighbourhood particularly the oceans off its shores I think you could say that it would like to have stronger control and that could cause friction with the United States and the United States allies do you worry about the possibility of conflict between China and the United States because we are an actor in the Pacific we have our Navy and Air Force there we have defense agreements with Japan and South Korea we have a defense agreement where the Philippines is that a problem that you worry about there's always a danger of conflict because humans make mistakes but if you ask me does China want a conflict with the u.s. the answer is no so I think both of them realize that we both pay a huge cost if there's conflict and in addition to that there are a lot of areas where we both benefit both the US and China from cooperation that goes back to climate change which neither of us can solve alone or international financial stability or dealing with pandemics or issues like dealing with cyber terrorism those are areas transnational issues issues that cut across borders outside the control of governments where US and China have common interests and if we can cooperate where can have a better chance of dealing with those non-state actors that diffusion of power then if we are at loggerheads with each other over other issues so keeping a sense of proportion about the areas where we have conflicts with China and there will be some Bron for example on these South China Sea East China Sea issues and areas where we have benefits from cooperation with China it's going to be a little bit like the old saying of trying to walk and chew gum at the same time we're going to have to be able to have a foreign policy in which we can stand up to China on issues of let's say freedom of navigation and at the same time cooperate with China issues such as dealing with climate change this is fascinating and important what you've said because in a way you're what I well I see it in very much like you is that on a thousand different issues China is going to be a very important partner of the United States climates one of them trade and investment maintaining economic stability on the other hand we're both powerful militarily in Asia and so will compete and maintaining that balance is going to be difficult for any president secretary of state particularly when public opinion congressional opinion is injected is that how you see the balancing act I think that's right and if we if we keep a clear head about it we can probably manage this some people say that the u.s. relationship with China is like the relationship between Germany and Britain they caused world war one a century ago and the argument is that the rise in the power of Germany created fear in Britain and that led to the condition which created world war one which was a disaster for Europe it you're up tore itself apart over a four-year period and ceased to be the center of the global balance of power some analysts like the distinguished political scientist John mearsheimer say China cannot rise peacefully and that would lead one to think there will be a conflict with China but I think there's a mistake there which is Germany had already passed Britain in industrial production by 1900 I argue in this new book that i mentioned that china has not passed the US it will not pass it in overall power for the next quarter century or more that gives us time to manage the relationship we don't have to succumb to fear and if the general concern is that too much fear leads to overreactions then there's no reason for us to become overly fearful this is your new book that I have read and recommend to everyone listening to this is the American Century over because it does give us a very useful way of thinking about this tricky relationship one more question Joe about China and the United States will it be necessary for the new generation of Americans who will be running our country the next 20 to 30 to 40 years to make some room for China in this international system we've tended to dominate the institution's from NATO that if the IMF and World Bank even the United Nations in some ways isn't it in our interest to give China some ownership and a seat at the table more than a seat leadership is on the table in what do you think of this recent controversy when China wanted plan to develop its own Asian infrastructure and investment bank in the United States try to defeat the mine with that wise I think that was a mistake on the part of the United States if China wants to use some of its currency reserves to set up infrastructure investments in other countries yes it will help China's political influence but also helps those other countries and we should actually be accepting of that it's not going to destroy the world bank or the Asian Development Bank it will supplement it and I think we overreacted to that it's interesting that President Obama a few weeks ago basically he came around to that view and said we would no longer were opposing other countries joining that he's an Asian infrastructure investment bank thank you very much thank you