Robert Zoellick | April 9, 2020
On Tuesday, April 7, Robert Zoellick published an article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “The World is Watching How America Handles Coronavirus.” You can read the article here or access it at the WSJ here.
On April 9, Professor Peter Feaver joined former President of the World Bank, former Deputy Secretary of State and former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick in a conversation on the relationship between the United States and China in the midst of the global pandemic. The conversation began with a discussion of where the possibilities for cooperation exist and where the sticking points may be. Deputy Secretary Zoellick framed the discussion in terms of globalization with Chinese characteristics; that is, the idea that China’s foreign policy is centered around achieving Chinese interests while working largely within the framework of international norms and institutions. He pointed in particular to the modern version of the tributary states framework based on economic benefits in exchange for respect and international clout (such as the Belt and Road Initiative). He also noted successes in cooperation within international institutions, such as China’s support of sanctions legislations within the United Nations and China’s activity in U.N. peacekeeping.
The conversation then shifted to U.S. foreign policy and China’s impact on the U.S. ability to achieve foreign policy goals. Deputy Secretary Zoellick suggested that the United States has to figure out a way to work with China in order to address interests abroad; but the U.S. has to figure out how to stand for values at the same time. He advocated for respect while still pushing your position and values. In particular, he noted that the U.S. has to decide how to treat China as a stakeholder, particularly when there is at least a minimal level of cooperation necessary to emerge successfully from the global pandemic. He noted that the pandemic is the primary issue for both U.S. and China, and coalition-building with other partners is necessary as well; however, there are other issues that will return to the forefront after the pandemic, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, the South China Sea, and Chinese treatment of the Uighurs.
During the Q&A, Deputy Secretary Zoellick addressed the question of how American companies can and should stand up for American values given the coercive power of China and the size of the Chinese economy. He also spoke to the perspective of the rest of the world on the U.S.-China relationship, noting that most countries want a strong relationship with both and do not want to choose between them. Finally, the conversation turned to the question of development and international institutions and their role in emerging markets and economies, particularly in the recovery from the pandemic.