Cornell welcomed Dean Wang Jisi, School of International Relations, Peking University, to campus last Friday in an event to help usher in the University’s newest major, China and East Pacific Studies. Wang was invited to speak on the topic “China’s Rise vs. America’s Supremacy: Conflict or Cooperation?” Speaking to a full house in Cornell auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall, Wang addressed a variety of aspects in U.S.-China relations and detailed his “forecast.”
“Is China trying to or able to challenge the United States’ economic primacy? I don’t think so,” Wang said. “China is lagging behind the United States in almost all dimensions.”
He said that those dimensions include economic and military power, among others.
Wang began his lecture with a brief overview of the historical precedent of the phrase “the rise of China.” In his view, the relative rise of China began in 1978 when its economy was one percent of the world GDP and the U.S. economy made up 20 percent.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Wang said, the United States was dealing with the oil crisis, the Watergate scandal, the Iran hostage crisis and adjusting to the civil rights movement.
“The United States economy at the time was also seeing a decline,” Wang said. “At that time, many people were talking about the declining power of the U.S.”
Now, he said, the United States economy makes up 32 percent of the world economy, while China’s economy has expanded to make up 4 percent.
“What is China’s strategy?” he asked.
Speaking about the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other organizations, Wang said, “China has joined most of — almost all of — these economic [organizations] that the U.S. has been trying to maintain. China has no intention to establish counter-U.S. mechanisms like the Soviet Union tried to do. … One example is the six-party talks in [North Korea]. China and the U.S. are working very closely together despite all their differences. … If we can manage that, we’re about to move into a more positive direction in U.S.-China relations.”
Wang also spoke on the recent animosity between China and Japan in relation to the United States.
“I think China is working very hard to win over the neighboring countries by maintaining friendly and economic ties with those countries … with the big exception of Japan,” he said.
The animosity between those countries is partially caused by Chinese citizens protesting the annual visit that the Japanese prime minister makes to a World War II memorial in Japan.
Despite this, Wang said he believed that China has “to maintain a workable relationship with Japan in order to keep our working relationship with the United States.”
Wang fielded a number of questions at the end of the lecture, including questions about the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, energy development, education and intellectual property rights.
“I believe this is a topic of great concern of many of us, and most important of all, for those who are closely associated with the University’s newly established major of China and Pacific Studies, namely CAPS,” said Prof. Jian Chen, history, who introduced the dean.
“I think what he said is a very truthful reflection of Chinese intellectual view of Chinese-American relations,” Chen said to The Sun. “He’s very informed of the American perspective, and at the same time he’s [well aware of] the Chinese responses and the Chinese answers to those questions. So for us, it’s a very good educational experience.”
Prof. Peter Katzenstein, government and W. S. Carpenter Jr. Professor of International Studies, agreed. “It was an excellent and very diplomatic and optimistic talk,” he wrote in a statement to The San.
“China is changing, whether it is in the right direction or the wrong direction, is debatable,” Wang said. “We can’t stop China from rising … what we can do is control the level of mutual suspicions [between the U.S. and China].”