October 02, 2009

David M. Lampton

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By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa., -- The People's Republic of China has become a powerful international force with "extreme" economic and military growth during its 60 years of existence.

That same growth has, however, made the nation vulnerable to domestic issues such as climate change, poverty and an eventual slowdown, David M. Lampton, director of the Chinese Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, told a group of international scholars, faculty, students and community members at Bucknell University Thursday night.

"On the one hand, it has become an increasingly powerful state, but also a state that is somewhat uncertain," Lampton said. "You cannot take extreme growth like China's and project it into the future."

A former president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Lampton gave the opening address at the international conference, "The People's Republic of China at 60: Internal and External Challenges." His talk, "The Growth of Chinese Power and its Implications," coincided with the 60th anniversary of the republic. The conference continues today with talks by two other top scholars on China and a series of panel discussions on politics, economics, history and foreign policy.

The conference was an opportunity for experts from around the world to assess and evaluate the successes, challenges and goals of China, said Zhiqun Zhu, the MacArthur Chair of East Asian Politics at Bucknell and the conference organizer. Panelists were selected from more than 80 applicants who submitted papers on various issues facing China, such as political reform, changing demographics, energy security, gender equality, climate change and growing Chinese "soft power." Zhu plans to compile and edit the papers into a book.

Lampton, who is a former president of the National Committee on U.S.-Chinese Relations in New York City, also served as director of China policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the Nixon Center and was previously a professor of political science at Ohio State University. He has authored or co-authored a dozen books on China, including The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money and Minds (2008), Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000 (2001) and  The Making of Chinese Foreign and Security Policy in the Era of Reform (2001).

Cooperation over competition
Many of the issues facing China today, such as climate change, also face the United States and the world, Lampton said during his talk. That means the world powers are in a position to cooperate rather than compete.

"We are an interdependent ecological system," Lampton said. "Global warming will affect the U.S. and China at least. These global issues now are what is pulling us together. The U.S.-China relationship is anchored much more soundly in stabilization: stabilization of the economic situation, stabilization of the ecological situation and stabilization of the security situation in the world. ... U.S. and China relations are in the best and most sound state they've been in."

The United States and China have faced and continue to face challenges, Lampton said, but their relationship is durable. That does not mean the United States should ignore that China has built a strong economy with jobs and investments while the United States has lost millions of jobs and sold trillions of dollars in debt to China. But China also must solve issues within its own borders.

"We're all worried about how they're going to use their strength and what that will mean to us," Lampton said. "I think Chinese leaders will worry about their domestic problems for the next three or four decades. ... The growth of Chinese power is impressive, but they've got problems. They are more focused on their problems while we are more focused on their successes."

'Might, Money and Minds'
Although it has shrunk land forces, China also has expanded its navy and air forces, Lampton noted. But continuing to build its military could backfire if nations of the world feel threatened.

"The Chinese understand that if they keep building their military power, the rest of the world will build alliances to try to diminish that power," Lampton said. "China is trying as it increases power to reinforce to the rest of the world that it is not a threat."

More of a threat is China's purchase of technology and creation of jobs or building its economy and intellect, Lampton said.

"You have to understand China's ambition," he said. "China doesn't aim to be a regional power. China aims to be a global power, and they are capable of it. We have to realize that China is going to be completion and decide what we are going to do to compete. ... China's strategy is economic and intellectual. We need to up our game in this area."

Other Conference Highlights
Douglas Spelman, deputy director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C, gave the keynote address Friday on "U.S.-China Relations: Yesterday and Today." David Shear, deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with the U.S. Department of State, also gave an address Friday.The talks were followed by panel discussions.|| Complete schedule

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