CCG President in Dialogue with CFR President Richard Haass

December 16 , 2022





On December 15, 2022, Dr. Henry Huiyao Wang, Founder and President of the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), spoke via video link with Dr. Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), as part of the CCG’s 7th Annual China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum.

The video has been broadcasted online both inside and outside China via CCG via its partners. The following is a transcript of their dialogue based on the video recording. It is produced by CCG staff and hasn’t been reviewed by Dr. Wang or Dr. Haass.

Think tanks as a mediator between the academia, the state, and the business sector

Wang Huiyao: Good morning and good evening and good afternoon, depending on where you are. Welcome to a special dialogue program as part of the 7th China Global Think Tank Innovation Forum. My name is Henry Wang Huiyao, founder and president of the Center for China and Globalization, which is the host of this forum.

We started about 7 years ago with the University of Pennsylvania on this think tank forum. So it’s been the 7th year we’re running this conference. Last year, I remember, we had a dialogue with the president of CSIS John Hamre. And also for the past year, we also had dialogues with Larry Summers, Pascal Lamy, Fred Bergsten, and many others. Actually, today we just released a book. It’s called Understanding Globalization, Global Gaps and Power Shift in the 21st Century—CCG Global Dialogues. We have already collected ten dialogues, including the ones with Joseph Nyel, Graham Allison, and many more. We hope that our new dialogue with Dr. Haass will again be made into our collections. We are very excited and thrilled to talk to a very senior diplomat, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of The World: A Brief Introduction.

Richard Haass was a veteran diplomat, a prominent voice on American foreign policy, and a proven leader and manager in foreign policy circles. He is actually in his 20th year as the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. We know that Council on Foreign Relations was founded in 1921 as one of the first American think tanks. Dr. Haass has extensive additional government experience. He was special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. Previously, he served in the Departments of State and Defense and was a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate. Dr. Haass was also the director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he directed the policy planning staff and was a principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. He also served as U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Dr. Haass is also a prolific author or editor of 14 books on America and foreign policy and also one book on management. I’m also very glad to hear that his next book, The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, will be published by Penguin Press in January 2023.

So it’s a great honor to welcome Dr. Haass to our distinguished speakers’ dialogue. I had the privilege of actually visiting your council quite a few times and speaking there in 2017, and also met your colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Ian Johnston, Huang Yanzhong, and many others. We had joint events in China in the past. We also met the editor of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan when I was there in July. Such a great think tank and influential policy magazine that you have running for so many years.

I would like to thank you very much for joining us. Now, I would like to start first with some questions on think tanks. I know you wrote a piece about think tanks 20 years ago when you were in the policy planning department. But we know that think tanks these days are making a lot of headlines and making a lot of policy recommendations. But running a big think tank such as Council on Foreign Relations is such a great opportunity for 20 years. So very impressive. And you mentioned that you have now 120 interns paid to work at CFR. You have actually made the council’s 5,000 members much younger and also diversified with a lot of women participation and minority participation. In terms of running a think tank, what can you offer for a think tank summit? We are having, actually, a few dozen think tanks will join us during this forum. So maybe I can start with you on this think tank management and think tank issue. How did you manage your think tank for the past 20 years? What are your success factors for running a think tank?

Richard Haass: First of all, thank you for having me, Dr. Wang. It’s good to be with you even virtually. I look forward to again the day when it will be easy to do these things in person. I do think such exchanges are important whether between governments or think tanks. Happy to talk about think tanks for a minute, because I’ve been here for 20 years at the Council on Foreign Relations, but I also spent years at the Brookings Institution, at the Institute for Strategic Studies, and in London, at the Carnegie Endowment. So I’ve spent probably, I don’t know, 25 or 30 years in think tanks throughout my career. I believe that think tanks occupy an important place in the national conversation. On the one hand, you have universities. Universities often deal with more theoretical concerns. They’re very concerned about methodology, often quantitative analysis. They tend to be more removed from matters of policy. And then, on the other hand, at the other end of the spectrum, you have people in government or business. And to be honest, they are busy. I’ve worked for four presidents, at the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House. And when you’re in government, you have all these things coming across your desk, and it’s your challenge to keep up. I think it was Henry Kissinger who said that when you go into government, you no longer have the time to generate intellectual capital. What you do is you tend to spend it down. You tend to use it, because you’re so busy, meeting the challenges that come into your inbox. What I believe is valuable about think tanks is that they occupy the space between academia and state government, and think tanks have the time to do serious analysis. But they also have the responsibility and the obligation to produce what we call policy-relevant analysis. Think tanks have to produce work that explains what is going on or might be going on about its significance, and also where possible, think tanks must provide policy recommendations. And that could be of use to either for citizens or governments. And I think that’s what makes them important and what makes them unique. In the United States, what makes a think tank unique is you’re producing intellectual work. Again, that’s policy relevant. We’re also a place where you can train people. There are probably more than a dozen people in the current Biden administration who worked at the Council on Foreign Relations. You mentioned our intern program over the course of the next decade, we will train more than 1,000 interns, hundreds of young research assistants and associates, and hundreds of fellows. So think tanks are in the bill business of producing ideas, but also of producing or developing people who can then assume more responsible positions in either government or business, journalism, or in the foreign policy conversation.

We’re lucky here at the Council on Foreign Relations. We have our fellows producing books and articles. You mentioned Foreign Affairs magazine. It’s the leading magazine or journal in the world. We do it with meetings. We’ve also gone into the business of education. What we are trying to do is to provide educational materials for young people in high schools as well as colleges and universities in order to teach them about the world, why it matters, how it operates, and so forth. So I believe that think tanks have enormous opportunities, but also significant responsibilities.

Think tanks bridge differences by having conversations, generate new ideas and influence the government

Wang Huiyao: Thank you, Dr. Richard Haass. I was reading your paper about 20 years ago, “Think Tanks and U.S. Foreign Policy: A Policy-Maker’s Perspective”, in which you mentioned five benefits of a think tank: number one is an idea factory, number two, provides talent. And number three, convening professionals. And number four, engage the public, and number five, bridge differences. With your extensive experiences running one of the oldest and most prestigious American think tanks and serving as a director on the other side of the government, the policy planning for the Department of State. What do you think, I mean, these days (about) bridging the difference? I think probably (it) needs to do more. What do you think and how we can make think tanks bridge more differences?

Richard Haass: Think tanks can bridge differences in several ways. One is through what it is they write. People who work here at the Council on Foreign Relations can put forward ideas or recommendations. They can do it in articles, say, in foreign affairs, they can do it in books. They could also do it in conversations like this. One thing we started years ago, probably about 10 years ago, I started here at the Council on Foreign Relations is something we call the “Council of Councils”. And what we’ve done is we bring together maybe the representatives of two dozen think tanks around the world where we discuss issues of global governance, how the world is tackling or maybe should tackle various global challenges. Think tanks can participate in track two or track 1.5 dialogues. Think tanks can have meetings like this one. So again, on the person-to-person side, as well as the intellectual side, I believe that think tanks have an important role to play.

Again. I’ve been in the government. I know when you’re in government, you’re busy, you’re also under certain constraints when you’re in government because you have to represent official policy. When you’re working in a think tank, you have more space, you have a little bit more room to offer up suggestions. And when you say things, it doesn’t weigh official policy. So I appreciate the difference between when I used to be in the government, and I would be speaking for the government. Now I’m here, I no longer speak for the government, and it gives me a certain degree of freedom. And now what I say may have less weight. I understand that because I no longer represent the government. On the other hand, it weighs the content, if they are good ideas. And again, when you speak from a think tank, you have freedom and what therefore can be useful is these kinds of dialogues to be a place where ideas can be introduced. And if they are good ideas, then they can be brought into official channels. I think that is one of the ways that think tanks, as you say, can bridge differences, And can expose people in government to new ideas. And these people can then act on those ideas. So there are all sorts of ways in which outsiders can influence what insiders do.

The sharp decline in world order: causes and consequences

Wang Huiyao: Great, Thank you, Richard. I think you’re right. I spent some time at the Brookings as a visiting fellow, but over a decade ago. I think the rise of American think tanks was in the last century, you have a think tank that is over 100 years, and think tanks in China are actually developing in the recent number of years, particularly in the last 10 years. According to the University of Pennsylvania, there are about over 2,000 think tanks in the United States. But there are about over 1,000 think tanks in China. So I think probably we see more think tank exchanges and dialogues. And of course, your experience is very valuable. And I’m sure that the ideas and the experienced success track record would actually stimulate a lot of our colleagues and peers here in China. I’m sure that think tank forum audiences will be very much interested to hear your views.

Now, let’s get to more substantial dialogues now. And you wrote quite a few op-eds recently. You have you published one in Foreign Affairs and also Project Syndicate just a few days ago. We see the sharp decline in the world order and the causes and the consequences, and the waning domestic support for the world order. And the book you’re putting out, The Bill of Obligations. We see the issue, we see the Russia-Ukraine war, and this 2022 would be really remembered for this unexpected big surprise. Also, we have many other challenges happening all at the same time. The pandemic–we finally could see some turning around. But again, I’d really like to know about your book. You’re going to publish that in January, can you discuss a bit about your thought and how do you think about this new book you are having coming up? So maybe a glimpse of that for our Chinese and also other international audiences here in this dialogue.

Richard Haass: Happy to. Any author is always happy to discuss his new book. This is a book, though, that’s very different for me. I’ve written many books. Almost all of them are about either international relations or foreign policy, particularly American foreign policy. This is a book that’s really about American democracy. This is a book that’s aimed largely at Americans. And it introduces the idea that democracy if it is to succeed, needs to rest on a foundation not just of rights, but also of obligations. And by obligations, I mean that citizens of a country, citizens of a society, have responsibilities to one another as well as to their country. And obligations are, as I define them, things that citizens should do. I distinguish between that and the things they have to do. Things you have to do are a matter of law. If you don’t do them, you will face penalties. Obligations are something different. They are things, again, their behaviors, their attitudes that citizens, I believe, should do, and how they act to one another, how they act towards their country, but it’s not a matter of law but it’s because I believe, desirable or good. What I worry about my own country is I believe that we’ve become so focused on our rights that we’ve lost sight of our obligations.

So this is what I want to start a conversation in my country about. How do we rethink American democracy? We’re nearly two and a half centuries old. Our country began two and a half centuries ago. Our constitution is about 240 years old. We’ve only had 27 amendments. But when we began–people forget this–when the United States began 250 years ago or so, we were a country of 3 million people. Today, we’re a country of 330 million people. We’ve changed in fundamental ways, technology has changed, and so forth. So my argument is simply that if American democracy is to not just survive but to succeed if it is to deliver for its citizens that it needs to evolve. And our attitudes in this country and our behaviors need to evolve. It’s been about two years since we had a terrible day here on January 6th, two years ago, where we had politically inspired violence. And what I’m hoping is that we learn from that, and we introduce different behaviors and different attitudes that will make sure such things never happen again.

And I would say this is a domestic conversation, but it has real foreign policy consequences. The ability of the United States to act effectively in the world depends, in part, on they’re being social stability here at home. There has to be consensus to a degree here at home about our role in the world. So I think this conversation about American democracy, on one hand, is an internal conversation. On the other hand, it’s a conversation that has tremendous consequences for the other nearly 8 billion people in the world, because what happens in the United States has implications for the rest of the world.

So again, this is a very different book for me. It’s a very different focus. Normally, I write about things like world order and US-China relations or the use of force for negotiations or global arrangements. That’s the kinds of things people like me normally think about and write about. But what led to this book? I’m always asked when I speak publicly, people say, what keeps you up at night? What worries you? They would say, is it US-China relations? Or is it Russia? Is it North Korea? Is it Iran? Is it climate change? Is it over? And I say, look, all of those things worry me. Those are all big challenges. But I believe the biggest challenge facing my country, probably facing other countries, is domestic right now. And the same might be true of China. The biggest challenges facing China may be more national or domestic than they are international. If countries are strong at home, it gives them the potential to act effectively in the world. And if they’re divided at home, if they’re weak at home, then they cannot act effectively in the world. I won’t speak for China, but I’ll speak for the United States. I think that’s true. So I believe it’s we don’t think of this as a national security challenge in my country. But I believe it is actually a national security challenge for the United States to make sure that its democracy is robust. And it’s conducted with certain constraints and certain rules so that we can bridge (as you mentioned the word “bridge”) our differences between the United States and China, but we also need a mechanism for peacefully bridging our differences here at home. And that’s what I’m writing about.

Despite differences, China and the US should find new common grounds to avoid conflict and reverse a deteriorating relationship

Wang Huiyao: Thank you, Richard. I think this is fascinating from what I can hear. This is really a self-reflection for a country like the US and a prestigious think tank leader like you to really think about a self-reflection. That’s probably a bit paradigm shift because I think that’s true, as we all know, foreign policies start at the home. There are always a lot of things you have to think about yourself rather than looking outward. I think China, you mentioned briefly, I think,China probably experience some of that. We see the just-concluded 20th Party Congress talk about common prosperity. They have lifted 800 million people out of poverty. Now, what about 300 million migrant workers? They have created a 400 million middle class, but what about 1 billion still not making it? So if every country really starts to look at its own problem and starts to concentrate on solving that rather than looking outward for answers, probably we will have a better understanding. Because you mentioned the January 6 storm in the capital, that’s something the US is facing. I think China now is also facing this COVID challenge and swiftly making changes. So every government and every society has to really look at its own issue.

But I have a question: it looks like now, 30 years after the cold war, we probably want to see the world in more multi shapes and forms. And last year, we had President Biden’s summit on democracy versus autocracy. A really binary view. So because China has a different style of democracy, we have a consultative democracy. We have a whole process of democracies and meritocracy. All the officials have to be voted by examination papers in order to get promoted. So what do you think about this binary lens when looking at the world? And can we just look more at domestic issues by ourselves rather than really looking at other countries? For example, China wants to avoid a widening (gap) between haves and have-nots where I think in some countries that are maybe still a challenge. What do you think about those issues? I think you’re right. If we look at the domestic more, we may have a better understanding and compare apples to apples and how we can compare notes and find our own problems rather than blame others.

Richard Haass: Well, I’m not sure I agree. I’ll be honest with you. I once wrote a book titled, Foreign Policy Begins at Home. What I learned, I had to remind people after I wrote that book, is that even though foreign policy begins at home, it doesn’t end at home, it continues abroad. The image that I find useful is to think of national security as a coin with two sides, there’s a domestic side and there’s an external side, and I think both are critical for a country. Look, China, and the United States have fundamentally different political and economic systems. We have different histories; we have different values. I expect many people in China think the Chinese model is preferable. Obviously, here I think the American model is preferable for many reasons. We don’t need to debate that. The question is, can we manage US-Chinese relations given these differences? That to me is the foreign policy challenge for both governments. And the reason I think it’s a challenge is it’s not easy given these differences. US-Chinese relations have deteriorated significantly in recent years and decades, but I still believe we have something of a shared common interest in managing our differences. And at a minimum, the two countries have a shared interest and not seeing the differences slide into conflict. And more optimistically, more positively, the two countries have potentially a shared interest in seeing the two governments, the two countries cooperating, where there might be some agreement.

And so that to me, that’s the challenge for diplomacy. For the United States and China, how do we at minimum avoid the worst and somewhat more optimistically, can we build some areas of at least limited cooperation where it’s in our common interest to do so? I don’t know. And again, it’s interesting. During the cold war, you mentioned the end of the cold war… during the cold war, the United States and China had a certain common interest in opposing the Soviet Union. And that provided the impetus, the rationale for areas of US-Chinese cooperation. Then when the cold war ended three decades ago, we had to find a new foundation for our relationship. And we largely found in economic matters. The whole idea was the United States and China would become economic partners. China would be a big market for American goods and investment. The United States would be a big market for Chinese exports. We would become a source of technology that would help your development. The United States entered into that with China. Quite honestly, many Americans are disillusioned and very unhappy with the results. We had been hoping that this would lead to a China that was more open, politically, and economically, and more moderate in its foreign policy. Since I’m no longer a diplomat, I can be blunt, quite bluntly, that this is not the China that we see. We see a less open China, politically, and economically, and more assertive in its foreign policy. So there’s disillusionment in the United States with the course of US-Chinese relations. So the question arises, here we are three decades after the end of the cold war, can the United States and China find a formula again for at least avoiding conflict, be it over Taiwan or something else, and ideally cooperating, for example, to cooperate on a challenge like North Korea, or cooperate on a challenge like Iran, or climate change, or infectious disease, or Ukraine. So far, the results are not promising. The results are disappointing. We obviously just had the meeting in Bali between President Xi Jinping and President Biden. We have the upcoming trip of the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to China. We’ll see what comes of this renewed interaction, this renewed face-to-face diplomacy. That’s where we are in our history, but I think we have to be realistic. It has been a disappointing few decades for US-China relations. The question is whether the two countries can turn this around.

The globalization order and the global governance machinery: what can be done to mind the gap

Wang Huiyao: Thank you, Richard, for your very candid points. I think that in the last three or four decades, particularly the last four decades since China opened up, the Chinese economy has grown many times over. And even since the second world war, if you look at the last 7.5 decades, where the Bretton Woods System that the US led has really made the whole world prosperous several hundreds of times already. So in a sense, the globalization that we’ve seen in the past has worked relatively well for this global order that the U.S. led since the second world. And China wants to and likes to see this order continue and wants to maintain this multilateral order and also how to improve and enhance it. You wrote many things on that as well. I know that you mentioned about 21st-century “concert of powers” and dynamics of the US, China, and EU, and you even mention the notion of G6 if G7 doesn’t work well. We see G20 just happened, and we see some face-to-face meeting that is really important. I think. This COVID isolation for the last 3 years really doesn’t help at all. It’s really accelerated the tension, obviously. So what do you think about the future global order and how we can reach a new balance of equilibrium? Now we all look more domestically and really not happy with each other on its values, on its models, on its development. Because after all, I think the whole world is better off with all those trades and economic prosperity and hundreds of billions of people lifted out of poverty. So what do you think about the future global system, even for this current Russia-Ukraine war going on, how we can really get the solution out of these? Can we have a seven-party talk in the P5 plus EU plus Ukraine? Or let’s get the G6 as you mentioned, “sit down and talk”. And President Xi mentioned quite a few times. China is willing to participate to promote peace and talks. I even wrote the Op-Edto the New York Times in March this year saying that China could really play a more active role there.

What do you think? You mentioned so many common threats like climate change, pandemic, nuclear proliferation, North Korea, and Iran.

Richard Haass: You raise a lot of good points. So let me make a few general points, and then one specific one. I’m worried about the state of the world order. It has been deteriorating in recent years. That’s just a fact. It’s deteriorating for several reasons. One is we’ve seen the reemergence of serious geopolitics. And we’ve seen a blatant use of force in Europe with Russia. We’ve also got the global level seen a large gap opening up between global challenges and global responses. At both the geopolitical level and the global level, we’ve seen a deterioration of order in the world. It doesn’t matter if we talk about G6, G7, G20, or G83s, it doesn’t matter. The numbers don’t matter. What really matters is whether the major countries see things similarly and are willing to act collectively. And quite honestly, you take the biggest immediate threat to world order, which is the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and it’s disappointing. Quite honestly, China’s no-limits agreement with Russia just before Russia invaded Ukraine was a disappointment. China continues to buy oil from Russia allowing it to escape sanctions. Let me be fair. China has also, as best I understand, not provided Russia with military support. That’s welcome. China has expressed its concerns about any threat or use of nuclear weapons. That’s a welcome development. But the most basic concept of international relations, the most basic concept of order is that force is not to be used as an instrument of international relations, particularly to violate sovereignty. That’s what Russia has done.

This is by the way very similar to what Saddam Hussein and Iraq did in 1990 when they invaded Kuwait. Saddam Hussein claimed that Kuwait was part of Iraq and invaded it, making Kuwait, part of Iraq, and then the United States working, by the way, with much of the international community through the united nations, built a coalition that liberated Kuwait. And it reinforced the rule, the norm, that territory should not be acquired by force. We haven’t seen anything similar to that this time. Yes, the United States has worked with its allies mainly in Europe, but the international response has been disappointing. And I would say China’s say performance has been somewhat disappointing as well. And so that’s where we are. If one looks at what just happened on climate change, the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, the COP27 was to me almost a total failure in dealing with climate change and narrowing the gap between the challenge and global response. What happened to COVID was disappointing. We could go through it. We have something called the Non-Proliferation Treaty. North Korea withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Now, North Korea is increasing the size of its missile force, then also its nuclear arsenal. That’s disappointing. I’m worried or not optimistic about world order, simply because I don’t see the willingness of the major powers to work together to promote it, even though I would argue it’s in their interest to do. So ideas of a concert, which I have put forward, quite honestly, the world isn’t ready for it. We’re actually farther away from it today than we were a few years ago. When Charles A. Kupchan and I wrote that article. It’s been a bad couple of years. And so that’s where we are. We don’t have the luxury of giving up. We’ve got to continue to try to deal with our differences, but I think we’ve got to be intellectually honest that it’s been a disappointing few years. It’s the reason I would say it’s essential that Russia does not succeed in Ukraine. Russia mustn’t succeed. Ultimately, I would love to see Russia reintegrate it into the world, but it’s got to be a Russia that’s willing to be integrated on terms that are consistent with the order. And that is not Mr. Putin’s Russia. But that is where we are.

The United States in China have lots to talk about whether it is to deal with Ukraine or global challenges or Taiwan. Again, the question with Taiwan is for nearly half a century, the United States and China have, how would I call it, we’ve managed to agree to disagree in Taiwan. We haven’t solved the problem, but we’ve managed the problem. We’ve managed the situation. The question going forward is, can we continue to manage the situation in a way that’s acceptable to all the parties? That, to me, is a realistic diplomatic challenge. That’s not impossible. We’ve done it for nearly half a century. The question is, can we continue to do it even if there are areas where we don’t disagree? And I would simply say, I would hope so, because the consequences of a breakdown in our ability to manage the Taiwan situation, I believe, would be terrible for everybody, for China, for the United States, for Taiwan, for the region, for the world. But that’s where we are.

So that I actually think the biggest immediate threat to order is Ukraine and what Russia is doing. And then I believe in the future, the biggest geopolitical challenge will be Taiwan. And I think the biggest global challenge will be climate change. And that is where I believe we are in history right now.

US-China relationship in 2023: Anthony Blinken’s visit to China & “managing” the Taiwan issue

Wang Huiyao: Yeah, actually, a very frank and very stimulating discussion. Actually, I think on the Russian-China (talk), this February 4th. Because Biden was actually talking to President Xi last November saying [“five-noes”]. But actually, the moment he went back, he said I’m going to boycott the Beijing Olympics. Whereas Putin said don’t worry, I’m coming. And so, I think there’s some reciprocal on that for Putin to come to China in February to support the Beijing Olympics. But China says friendship “has no limits”, everlasting, or friendship is boundless, that’s a diplomatic language they use very often, but I think the fact is you’re right. The Chinese defense minister said that China does not provide any material or military support for Russia. And President Xi actually told President Biden and Chancellor Scholz that china doesn’t want to see any nuclear weapons being used. Those are very strong messages. I think even at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit, Putin was not happy, saying to President Xi: You have worries and you have concerns about Ukraine, let me explain it in private. So you can see we’re not really 100 % with Russia. China is doing that because the US has put China as enemy number one. I think China was forced to probably be a little cozy with Russia, but it’s not really intended by China. So I think the US has to think about what is the most urgent issue rather than still forming IPEF and all those Quad, AUKUS aiming at China. So I think China probably was in a defensive move. So I think we hope we have more face-to-face discussions with senior officials of both sides that can clarify the positions. But you’re right. You mentioned Taiwan as well. I think (it’s a) more dangerous issue now. And Taiwan is, in the last four decades since The Three Communiqués were signed, is really, in more or less the status quo. But we don’t want to see a parade of senior officials from the US visiting Taiwan and the Communiqués violated. And then China has to every time to show its protest by sending aircraft flying over the midline (of the Strait) or doing military exercises. But there’s one thing happening now. You see recently, there was a midterm election in Taiwan, and the KMT swept almost all the mayors of seats and came to recognize the 1992 Consensus. There is One China across the Straits, the economic integration was there, and China has quite a few million tourists flooding Taiwan every year. There are a lot of student exchanges. There are marriages across the Strait. Taiwan enjoys the biggest surplus. Economic integration probably will serve the peaceful unification. At the end, rather than having all senior official visits from the US. What do you think about the peaceful prospect of Taiwan? Let’s all back down and let’s all seek a peaceful resolution. After all, the mainland and Taiwan share the same language and cultural heritage, and we are relatives. I think the mainland and Taiwan eventually could be peacefully emerged as time goes on. It could be one country two systems, one country three systems, or whatever. So what do you think if the US can be less probably aggressive on that Taiwan policy?

Richard Haass: Avoiding unilateral actions from both the mainland and Taiwan, the failed promise of One Country, Two Systems, and Taiwan as a “situation, not a problem”.

We obviously see things differently there. You, from your point of view, it’s the United States by what we’re saying and doing. That is challenging the status quo and leading the mainland to react. We would see it the other way around. We see China changing the status quo in many ways through what it’s saying and doing, particularly with its military forces. We see ourselves reacting, we also see ourselves acting consistently with the One-China principle with the Three Communiqués. We’re not going to resolve that today. You and me. Again, what matters, I would say, is that the United States and China continue to discuss this and set some rules for the road.

So again, we don’t have to agree, but we have to figure out how we agree to disagree and how we don’t allow our differences to spill over into confrontation. In terms of more broadly, I believe President Biden was right when he said the other day that we oppose unilateral actions by any party, be it the mainland or Taiwan. That would destabilize the status quo that I believe is served everybody’s interest. If you look at the last 40, or 50 years, you look at the extraordinary progress the People’s Republic of China has made. You look at the extraordinary progress that “the Republic of China” is made. You look at the extraordinary progress in the region with extraordinary progress here at home in the United States. I believe everybody benefits from the ability to manage our differences here.

To me, that’s I don’t think we’re going to resolve them anytime soon. You mentioned one country and two systems. I believe the prospects for that were significantly damaged by what happened with Hong Kong. I think the idea of one country and two systems now is no longer, widely respected or accepted as a viable path.

And Taiwan is a democracy and is on a very different trajectory, but I believe people there understand that unilateral actions, such as announcements of independence, would be destabilizing. I don’t know how to interpret the KMT victories in the recent elections. I’m not sure. I don’t claim to be an expert here. I’m not sure they set a precedent for the presidential election in two years. I think the dynamics around elections for mayor are very different than the dynamics around the election of a “president”. So I’m not smart enough to know what will happen in two years, but I don’t assume that what just happened locally will necessarily happen nationally, but we’ll see in two years.

But again, I think to me, I want to avoid unilateral action. And I want to avoid actions that would destabilize the situation, however imperfect the mainland sees this situation. I believe, if people act unilaterally or act coercible, the results would be far more imperfect. I always try to distinguish in my mind between what I call “problems and situations”. I don’t know how this translates into Mandarin. I see the Taiwan issue as a situation, not a problem. It doesn’t lend itself to an immediate solution. I believe it lends itself to being managed. And that to me, sometimes in diplomacy, that’s the most you can do. You can successfully manage something, and I worry that attempts to “solve” the Taiwan issue actually could do just the opposite. And I just think we have to continue to be realistic about what we can accomplish. And again, however frustrating, or imperfect the status quo might appear to be from a particular vantage point for those in the mainland who want Taiwan and the mainland to be one to those in Taiwan who want independence. However imperfect the status quo might be, attempting to bring about these alternatives, I believe, would set in motion a chain of events that would be extraordinarily costly.

So again, I come out in favor of managing a situation rather than solving a problem as the best way to understand the Taiwan issue.

Wang Huiyao: Yeah, I think you have your view very clearly stated. I think the people across the strait should have the wisdom to manage the problem there. And basically, I see it a little differently. For example, during the first term of President Tsai Ying Wen, the midterm was also swept by KMT. But the second term of the presidential election was at the peak of the Hong Kong crisis, then she got elected because Hong Kong was chaotic. But now Hong Kong is back to normal and I think things will get better. And also central government says, if there’s a reunion with Taiwan, the Taiwan authority doesn’t have to pay any tax federal tax for the central government. So I believe economic power may in the end prevail. But again, I think president Biden actually said very well. After he met with President Xi, he had a special news conference, answering the four questions one of the questions he was saying was, he doesn’t think China mainland is going to attack Taiwan. That put a lot of companies’ B plans on hold now. Because they all worried the next (war) after Ukraine will be Taiwan. But even I’m sure President Xi has convinced President Biden that China will not attack Taiwan imminently, and that’s why President Biden says that. So I hope that we can, they were saying the next year or 2027, but not now not immediately anymore. Let’s really concentrate on peaceful solutions and with Hong Kong in stable condition, I hope that in two years, and also recently Chinese mainland government announced that it is going to open the traffic between Fujian (those areas on the sea) and those across the strait. Hopefully, we will see better news out of this, but at least there is no more (US) congress leader or speaker to visit again. That would be really making things worse.

Richard Haass: My guess is it will happen again. I simply look at what is being said, and I think you’ll have a future business. I think that’s inevitable. I don’t know if it’ll be the new speaker of the House. But I look at what is being said in American politics, and I think one has to assume there’ll be future visits. And this will be judged as provocative in Beijing on the mainland. And the question then is, how do we manage this? And given our political system, the executive branch cannot prevent the legislative branch from doing certain things. There’ll be visits by congressional leaders. There could be visits at some point by candidates. And the choice of the mainland then is how to respond to it. They don’t affect official policy. I understand they’re not welcome. These visits are not welcome on the mainland. So the question is, what’s the response? And again, I would simply argue that the response needs to be measured because the last thing we want to do is trigger a larger crisis. These visits do not change US policy, however unwelcome they may be viewed from Beijing. And what matters is official policy. And President Biden has made clear that the United States continues to act consistent with the Three Communiqués, supports the One-China principle, and visits by congressional congressmen or congressional leaders don’t change that.

So I really believe the government in Beijing and China needs to not overreact, no matter how unhappy it might be, but that is your choice you’re going to have to. Your government will choose how it reacts to such visits that it sees as provocative. And we and others are going to have to decide how we react to your reactions. That’s simply a fact of life, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves. These visits and statements are not going to disappear. They’re predictable. I think everybody ought to think hard about how they manage them, so the results don’t get out of hand.

Visits and travel: the more, the merrier

Wang Huiyao: Yeah, I think that we have to manage that. I think if there’s always a pro-action on the US side and reaction on the Chinese side, they’re going to really escalate things up. So let’s calm down, and hopefully, when the two sides’ senior officials meet, they will try to figure out what to do. Also let congressmen and senators visit China, rather than just visit Taiwan, divide all of the visits with China.

Richard Haass: I would love for more congressmen and senators who got to visit China. I think it would be really healthy that them to go there. They have conversations with officials and with others. I would welcome that. And I would think that would be a healthy development that they would see more parts of the region for themselves. And I think that would be welcome.

Wang Huiyao: That would be great. Absolutely. Now after 3 years of isolation and not communicating, we have for the first time the senior official Blinken is coming and hopefully other USTR, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Finance… everybody comes. And then we have more congressmen and senators coming and Chinese NPC members visiting the US. Let’s resume those dialogues very important.

Richard Haass: I hope leaders of think tanks will be welcome in Beijing. I look forward to it. This is the longest I’ve gone without visiting China in my modern adult life. It’s probably been 3 years because of covid. And I think that to me is frustrating because every time I go and I have conversations, whether on my last trip with people like Wang Yi or Yang Jiechi and others. I believe it’s important for people like me to have contact with their Chinese counterparts. It’s the way to get an understanding of what is going on. I don’t think it’s healthy for the relationship that we haven’t had many contacts face to face for three years. I think that it won’t solve everything, but I’m not na?ve. But I do think it will be a positive development. I knew we find something we agree on there. There we go. That’s great.

Wang Huiyao: No, I think that even after President Xi and President Biden’s first time meeting in three years, they have better results than not meeting. We hope to welcome you to come to China. I saw you a few times with Dr. Kissinger during those talks. But even Dr. Kissinger just still wants to come at 99 years old or whatever.

Richard Haass: He’s going to turn a hundred in about six months. You better get that invitation there.

(Re)joining CPTPP?

Wang Huiyao: Yeah. Again, maybe we’ll talk a bit further, just one or two questions. But on this global governance, you are running a very big global think tank there. You could talk about global solutions. We talk about diplomatic relations and how we can get through all those challenging difficulties. But what about the economy? How about CPTPP, the economic framework? Or BRI, three Bs (Build Back Better), can they work together? World Bank and AIIB? What do you think about those economic frameworks?

Richard Haass: Good questions. I’m a great believer in regional and global economic institutions. I believe if you go back to the period after World War II, what began as the general agreement on tariffs and trade became the World Trade Organization, which I believe was an important engine of global economic growth. I believe, institutions like the world bank and the IMF have been for the most part helpful. I worry now about the failure of the World Trade Organization.

I disagree with my own country’s decision not to enter what was TPP and now CPTPP. I believe that we should be a member of that. I worry about the elements of what you might call deglobalization. I think that’s unhealthy. I understand why it’s happening. Political reasons, COVID reasons, other supply chain reasons, and security reasons. But I’m concerned about some of the implications. I would like the United States, as I said, to be more active in regional economic relations. I think, for other initiatives by China and so forth, a lot depends on the terms. But I believe that regional infrastructure programs and the rest need to be done in a way that does not increase the debt burden on participating countries, that’s consistent with sound climate and energy policies, and so forth. I don’t get up in the morning saying, how do I keep China outside of certain things? The question is, can we cooperate on terms that both governments could agree to? And I think the answer there simply depends. I would like to see the United States do much more around the world in Africa. We have a summit going on just now with African leaders. I would like us to do more in terms of promoting infrastructure and development around the world through trade, through investment, through finance. And again, I’d like it done in a way that encourages responsible climate stewardship. At the same time. It encourages growth. I think that’s possible. I think we have to be willing to share technologies. And I’m interested in that. We’ve done it in certain areas with drugs. For example, when HIV/AIDS was an enormous problem, the United States was willing to make available certain drugs and we’ve saved millions of lives in Africa and around the world. So, I believe there are mechanisms for sharing technologies that can protect the investments of the firms that did the innovation and at the same time can make the benefits more widespread. I’m not opposed to US-Chinese collaboration. The question is whether we can agree on the terms of that collaboration, if we can, great, if we can’t, China will have its initiatives, and we’ll have our initiatives. And we’ll simply see which initiatives the countries of this or that region find more attractive.

Wang Huiyao: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right. I think we need more joint initiatives. Now we have this climate change consensus: we are facing a common threat. China was forthcoming and set up the (goal), as President Xi mentioned, before, not by 2030, China will reach a carbon peak and neutral before 2060. It could be a few years ahead of the schedule if you interpret that before. This is already a consensus there. I’m glad that at COP27, John Kerry and Minister Xie met, and resumed the dialogues on climate change.

Richard Haass: I wasn’t very impressed with COP27 quite honestly. When I look at what happened there, I thought it was a big disappointment. The takeaway I’ve made from COP27 is, I’m not very optimistic about climate diplomacy. And I believe that if the world makes significant progress on climate, it’s more likely to come from technology than from diplomacy. It’s from the development of new technologies, whether it’s renewable fuels or a new generation of nuclear plants. And then what we do is we make these new technologies, carbon capture that is widely available. There was a big article in the New York Times, I think it was yesterday, about in this case how are India’s path towards economic growth and how independent it was not just on fossil fuels in general but on coal. That’s quite honestly terrible for India. It’s terrible for the world. This to me shows the challenge is that there’s a real premium on developing new technologies in the area of renewable or fuel efficiency, even using fossil fuels not coal, but using, say, natural gas, and then making these new technologies, these new techniques a bit widely available, providing the financing and the technology and so forth globally. And I actually think that will be more important. Then COP28 or COP29 or COP30. I’m not very optimistic about what the diplomats will do, but I am pretty optimistic about what the scientists might do.

Wang Huiyao: Yeah. And also business, it goes back to your original statement that the big countries have to work together. Particularly in terms of climate change, US and China are the two biggest carbon emission countries. I think that China has harnessed a lot of clean technology like EV cars and solar panels, wind power, and hydropower. And Tesla has set a huge success story of China-US corporation, the largest producer of clean vehicles in the world, and half of that export now. That technology can be benefiting other countries as well. We need goodwill. We need a good political determination of the world leaders, particularly the US, China, and the EU now and you send leaders to really work together, rather than in a very decoupling and negative geopolitical sentiment. For example, there are over 1,000 Chinese companies now on the US sanction or watchable list, whereas there’s almost no US company on the Chinese side. Hopefully, we don’t want to see this coupling really going to happen. And let’s revive WTO, you mentioned that. We really hope that the US can come back to CPTPP so China and US can talk on that platform. Maybe even join the DEPA (digital partnership) and also even IPEF (Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity) if it’s an economic framework if it’s seven young countries in this region, China being the largest economy in this Asian region, why China cannot be part of that? So let’s make more economic alliances rather than secure alliances.

On Intellectual Property

Richard Haass: I think China is going to have to make some decisions about whether it’s prepared to respect Intellectual Property, which is often violated. China is also going to have to–I’ll just be blunt, again, I’m not a diplomat anymore –about the uses China makes of certain technologies, whether domestically or internationally. Plus, the question is, how do we manage areas of cooperation or sharing, given the reality that we are competitors in many areas? So it’s complicated. But I think it’s not just a question of promoting more collaboration. There’ll only be collaborations if we agree on the rules of the collaboration and if the context is stable. But if we can’t agree on the rules of the collaboration or the larger context of the relationship is problematic, then it’s not going to happen. That’s simply a fact of life. That’s all. Sorry to introduce a degree of realism, but that’s where we are.

Wang Huiyao: No, thank you, Richard. You’ve been very frank. But again, that’s probably several years, five, six years of Trump’s point. China now is the largest patent applicant in the world. And last 3 years, China made a lot of progress. We hope that US friends have come to China to see that because there’s more motivation for Chinese companies to safeguard their intellectual properties, if not more, compared with their counterparts in the US.

Richard Haass: That would be great if China becomes across the board much more protective of patents and pro-intellectual property. I think that would be a healthy development. And I think that would be one of the things that would contribute to an improved economic and possibly even political relationship.

Right now, in the United States, you have a lot of disillusionment with China 20 years after the United States supported China’s entry into the WTO. There’s a lot of, I’ll be honest with you, regret about that. Because people feel that China uses that relationship to access certain technologies that help China’s economic relationship. We didn’t see either respect for the technology or the patents. Nor did we see the kind of behavioral changes we wanted. So, if there’s going to be economic cooperation going forward, people are going to have to be persuaded that it will be different going forward than it was over the last two decades. We don’t need to debate the past. I’m just saying that’s the way it’s perceived here.

Wang Huiyao: I see you certainly have a lot of concerns there. That’s why China became a bipartisan consensus on the bipartisan side. But again, I think probably in the end, we have to really coexist and peacefully and maybe accept each other as it is, because of (what) now they call the Chinese path of modernization. Basically, China has a hybrid economy. The private sector generating 60% GDP and then you have another 20% [state economy] does all the jobs of social welfare and corporate responsibility, lifting (up) the property and all the things, and another 20% multinationals employ 40 million people in China: FoxConn employs 2 million just by one company… So this kind of hybrid, trilateral economy is not found anywhere in the world. But it’s really good for China. If China is not exporting refugees, not exporting hunger and things like that, that’s the success of WTO and that’s the good payback for the world. Hope we can live peacefully together.

Richard Haass: Hopefully, we can. I think China’s economic accomplishments are impressive and real. I have my own view that the United States should not, and our policy should not be predicated on the notion of changing China’s nature. I believe that’s for China to decide, but it’s legitimate for us to try to alter China’s behavior and its foreign policy. To me, that’s what foreign policy is all about. That’s what diploma diplomacy is, one of the tools towards that end. So we want to encourage certain forms of Chinese behavior. We want to discourage other forms. That’s a legitimate goal for China’s foreign policy when it comes to the United States. My view is we have to accept our differences in nature. We may be critical at times because we may speak out about it for reasons of principle. But I don’t believe that as a rule, we ought to allow those differences to preclude cooperation in foreign policy, and that’s what makes me a realist. Not everybody agrees with me, but there you have it.

Wang Huiyao: Thank you, Richard. Absolutely. I think we’re having a very fascinating discussion and a really open dialogue on both sides. And we really hope that the cooperation and also more talks and face-to-face meetings and that we have a better understanding. I think there are already several years passed without physically two country people visiting each other. I was in the US in July and I was overwhelmed by a curiosity about people from the mainland. Chinese also want to see more Americans coming as well, American students and tourists, and vice versa.

I think you’ve been the leader in the think tank community, and you have such a very influential magazine Foreign Affairs, and really have a lot of good suggestions. Let’s really talk and have more discussions and also have a multilateral system. Let’s put all the differences into the multilateral system and have more platforms to talk about that. And so that we can really have a better world and better situation to come. We’re probably going to conclude. And so maybe you have some final words, Dr. Richard Haass, maybe to conclude.

Richard Haass: I just to thank you for this opportunity. And thank you for your openness to this kind of exchange. I expect some of the things I said could not necessarily make all your listeners happy, but I appreciate the opportunity. I also appreciate the stability of the exchange. Whether we’re talking domestically or internationally, it’s important to be able to conduct these conversations in a manner where disagreements don’t lead to a shutting down of the conversation, much less to violence. So, thank you again for the opportunity. Thank you again for the spirit in which this was done. And again, as I said at the beginning, as much as I appreciate the Zoom conversations, I look forward to a conversation in person next time I come to your country. Thank you very much.

Wang Huiyao: Yeah, thank you, Richard. I hope to welcome you to come to Beijing and speak at the CCG and we look forward to your visit next year. I hope they’re going to happen pretty soon. Thank you and thank all the audience and thank all the participants of the conference. We really appreciate your presence. Thank you Dr. Haass again.

Richard Haass: Thank you. Stay healthy, stay well. And I look forward to seeing you.

Wang Huiyao: Thank you very much. Bye.

Note: The above text is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. It is posted as a reference for the discussion.


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