This semester I went to two events in Washington, D.C. related to Asian politics, in general, and China, specifically. The first event was a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “Beijing As An Emerging Power In The South China Sea,” and the second was Wilson International Center For Scholars event with former Secretary Of State Henry Kissinger and former United States Ambassador To China Stapleton Roy.
The House Foreign Affairs hearing focused on China’s policies and influence, but it examined U.S. policy in the region, as well. The Committee began the hearing by marking up H.R. 6313 about a peaceful and collaborative resolution to maritime territorial disputes, and, while the room was full of interns with copies of the bill, they put them away almost immediately because the hearing continued just as immediately. The Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), opened with remarks not only about her intolerance of Chinese aggression but also about the terrorist attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, which occured late the previous day. A dozen or more congressmen and women went around the room making remarks of their own by order of seniority, and they probably pertained to Benghazi as much as they did about China, especially with the Republican congresspeople. After the remarks, the witnesses were introducted: Toshi Yoshihara, Chair of Asian Pacific Studied at the U.S. Naval War College, Bonnie Glaser, Chair in China Studies at the Center For Strategic And International Studies, Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow of National Security Affairs at the Heritage Institute, and Richard Cronin, Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center. The witnesses gave remarks of their own and took questions from the congresspersons, once again by senority. As the representatives asked their questions, the room began to empty until the chairwoman herself left, and someone else took her place while the most junior members of the asked their question before the hearing was adjourned.
The Wilson Center event focused on U.S.-China Relations as they related to the Eighteenth National Congress of China. Former Secretary Henry Kissinger is a very humorous man, and he got a lot of laughs from the panel and the audience alike. The panel included Melissa Block, the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, Jane Harman, the President and CEO of the Wilson Center, David Lampton from the School Of Advanced Internation Studies’ China Studies Program, Cheng Li, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Brooking Institution’s China Center, and, of course, the former ambassador. Even as distinguished as everyone was, all seem to be honored to be in the presence of former Secretary Kissinger. After breif remarks from Secretary Kissinger, the floor was opened for questions. There was one, in particular, about the disappearance of Xi Jinping and how it may affect Chinese succession in the future. There was a lot of talk about the new leaders of China and their experience with the U.S., along with a lot of their experience that were uniquely Chinese and how it would affect their policies. However, the general consensus was that no one really knew or even could know so all they were doing was speculating, especially in regards to Xi, but one thing everyone agreed upon was the China would be changed. It just depended upon which faction of the Communist party won the internal struggle that was undoubtably going on. Althought, David Lampton highlighted the fact that he believed no surprises would ever come out of the Party Congress, but he could see the changes on the horizon. There were remarks to the effect that the U.S. does not affect Chinese policy as much as it once did, as well, and that might be a result of the new leadership within China. They want to create a legacy for the Party, but change is still possible from the provincial level. After all, China has reformed from the dictatorial government it once was.
Overall, both events were very informative, and I feel as if I’ve learned a lot from some of the great minds of our generation.