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Experts Gather At UC San Diego To Discuss How US Should Approach China

A Chinese news magazine featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2017.
Andy Wong / Associated Press
A Chinese news magazine featuring a photo of Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump in Beijing on Feb. 9, 2017.

Experts Gather At UC San Diego To Discuss How US Should Approach China
Task Force Presents Blueprint For Trump-China Relations GUESTS: Susan Shirk, chair, UC San Diego's 21st Century China Center Winston Lord, former U.S. Ambassador to China

Last week President Trump reaffirmed to US recognition of the one China policy which came as a relief to most China experts. There are still a number of other aspects to a possible Trump-China policy that are troubling to people who have studied the US China relationship. A bipartisan task force of China experts led by UC San Diego Susan Shirk recently released a series of recommendations for the Trump administration on dealing with China. They include reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and a joint strategy on North Korea. Joining me is Doctor Susan Shirk chair of the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego and cochair of the China task force. Welcome to the program. Also Ambassador Winston Lord former UN -- US Ambassador to China also a member of the task force. Welcome. Professor sure, how big of a relief was it that he would acknowledge the one China policy? It was a big relief because this was a very prominent recommendation on our part after President Trump had suggested that our relationship with Taiwan could be a bargaining chip on other issues our final version made this a central recommendation because, unless we can stabilize the foundation of the relationship we can't move on to achieve our other objectives. If I could add to that, I think Susan and I agree although we are glad the president has reaffirmed the one China principle the way it was done is unfortunate. By suggesting that was in doubt, when everyone knows that China would not budge on this issue and she wouldn't take Trump's phone call until he agreed in advance to do this. It now looks like Trump is a paper tiger because he backed off without reciprocal gestures and conversely, Trump when he leaves -- comments may say I have to make up I have to do something stupid and some other part of the world. You are referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping and what his reaction may be to this 180 degree turn around by President Trump. Professor Shirk I know there is a recommendation where you end Ambassador Lord disagree. The firing of a missile by North Korea yesterday. You believe the US and China should work together to stop them is a program. Do you think that could be done? It's a long shot, for sure. All of our other options or worse. The report recommends and I certainly agree with this, we should make it last ditch effort to get China to apply pressure to North Korea. One element in doing that would have to be to try to get another round of negotiations started. You will hear from Ambassador Lord, he thinks that's impossible. I think it's essential to try. Ambassador Lord? I do respectfully disagree. I think we can concur there are no good options left. We won't go into detail. We rule out the extremes of preventive military strikes and rolling over for the programs and the other. My view is that we have tried her approach to successive administrations for 20 years, the result has always been Chinese undermining any pressures. We've often, every conceivable carrot of diplomatic relations, and only halfheartedly tried sanctions in the Chinese have undermined them. If we try that approach again, they will be stalling. We have an urgent timeframe because of the developing intercontinental missile program that could reach our mainline -- Mainland. We need to start North Korea exchange, fled the country from information from the outside world, increase missile systems, follow up on human right's recommendations and get both the North Korean and Chinese attention, hopefully. The only thing that North Korea values higher than nuclear weapons is the regime survival. If we had Chinese interests immediately and put up this kind of pressure, that's the bare minimum and we will slow down and complicate the North Korea program. I'm hoping this might drive them back to the negotiating table which is what Susan wants to do and we would both like to see. It does raise the prospect of regime change which would certainly get the North Koreans attention. Professor Shirk, how would you characterize the goal of the task force in coming up with these recommendations? We created the task force because many of us who have worked on US policy towards China for many years felt that our approach wasn't working as well as it had, especially before the global financial crisis in 2008, which was kind of a turning point. China became more assertive in Asia, especially over the maritime disputes, more protectionist and mercantilist and it's economic policy and discriminating against American firms. Becoming more repressive at home, which was also impacting American nongovernmental organizations and academics and media. We were searching for a better way. What we concluded, was that we really have no choice but to try to maintain a solid, nonhostile US China relations. First of all, we are working well on global issues, things like climate change. Also new, the risk of an actual military confrontation or a cold where between US and China would be detrimental to US interests. We are looking for ways to build on a foundation that we have built over decades. Professor Shirk, what's been the reaction in Washington DC to your report? We were there last week, Ambassador Lord and Orville Schell. We briefed some of the Asia people in the new administration, who have already been named. Some of them were really interested in getting our ideas and did not reject them out of hand. We went to the State Department Pentagon and we found tremendous activity. We also met with three Republican senators from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They were eager to get suggestions from the task force. I think people are looking for a sensible, effective alternative to some of the more radical ideas that President Trump suggested in the early days. It is encouraging that some of the worst ideas appear to be getting abandoned one by one. I've been speaking with Doctor Susan shirk chair of the 21st Century China Center and Ambassador Winston Lord from the US Ambassador to China . They will speak today at 4 PM at the UC Sand Diego Faculty Club. Thank you, both of you. Coming up, questions about the future of remittances from the US to Mexico. You are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

A group of China experts will convene at UC San Diego Monday to discuss a report calling on President Donald Trump to reassess U.S. policy toward the People's Republic.

The report urges the new president to develop a policy that addresses concerns about China's recent actions without damaging potential cooperation in areas of mutual benefit.

The document — which was unveiled last week in Washington, D.C. — was put together by the Task Force on U.S.-China Policy, convened by the 21st Century China Center at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and the Asia Society Center for U.S.-China Relations.

Task force members include former government officials, scholars and think tank researchers, many of whom have served under both political parties and every U.S. president since the Nixon administration.

"We are at a critical moment for our two countries, a moment that calls for our government and the public to reassess and reexamine policy toward China," said Susan Shirk, a UC San Diego professor.

"We are confident our recommendations will support a stable relationship that is in American interests and help the U.S. maintain an active, positive presence in the Asia-Pacific," she said.

Shirk, former U.S. Ambassador to China Winston Lord and Center on U.S.- China Relations Director Orville Schell are scheduled to present their findings at 4 p.m. at the UC San Diego Faculty Club. Shirk and Schell are co-chairs of the task force.

“We created the task force because many of us who have worked on U.S. policy towards China for many, many years felt that our approach wasn't working as well as it had. Especially before the global financial crisis in 2008, which was a kind of turning in point in which China became more assertive in Asia, especially over the maritime disputes," she said. "So we were searching for a better way and what we concluded was that we really have no choice but to try to maintain a solid, non-hostile U.S.-China relationship. First of all, we are working well on global issues, we shouldn't throw that away, things like climate change. But also, the risk of an actual military confrontation or a cold war between the U.S. and China would be very detrimental to U.S. interests. So, we are looking for ways to build on a foundation that we have built over decades.”

Their recommendations are to:

— work with China to halt North Korea's nuclear and missile program;

— reaffirm U.S. commitments to Asia;

— deploy effective tools to address the lack of reciprocity in U.S. trade and investment relations with China;

— intensify efforts to encourage a principled, rules-based approach to the management and settlement of Asia-Pacific maritime disputes;

— seek an easing of Chinese human rights and civil policies that harm U.S. organizations and undermine public support for better U.S.-China relations; and

— sustain and broaden U.S.-China collaboration on global climate change.

The task force contends that regional maritime disputes in Asia, trade and investment practices, human rights issues and cyber-espionage risk undermining the overall relationship between the two countries despite cooperative successes elsewhere.

Their report also cautions that unilaterally abandoning this country's longstanding One China policy would likely increase Taiwan's vulnerabilities, destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region and jeopardizing broad U.S. interests.

After defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November's general election, Trump spoke by phone to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen, prompting an angry response from the mainland government in Beijing. However, Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to One China in a recent telephone call to Chinese President Xi Jinping.