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China Will Become Biggest Foreign Policy Challenge, Campbell Says

U.S.-Asian Policy Panel

Victor Cha, center, director of Georgetown's Asian Studies program, moderated a panel of former and current assistant secretaries of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, including from left, Winston Lord, Kurt Campbell, Richard Solomon and Christopher Hill.

November 2, 2012 – Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told a Georgetown audience last night that the United States-China relationship will soon become America’s most important foreign policy challenge.

“I believe that it will be the most consequential foreign policy challenge that we will ever face,” Campbell said during a Nov. 1 panel on the future of U.S.-Asian policy. “[It’s] much more difficult than any relationship that we’ve had in preceding years largely because of its complexity… because it encompasses every element of statecraft, of economic intercourse or people-to-people diplomacy and … hardcore strategy.”

“Forging Consensus: U.S.-Asian Policy in the Next Administration” featured Campbell and former East Asian and Pacific affairs assistant secretaries of state Christopher Hill, Winston Lord and Richard Solomon.

Victor Cha, professor and director of Asian Studies at Georgetown, moderated the panel. Cha, also the  D.S. Song-Korea Foundation Chair in Asian Studies at the university, left the White House after serving as director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council between 2004 and 2007.

Asian Strategy

Campbell said his successors will need to recognize that the best strategy for handling China is to engage the entire East Asian and Pacific region.

“My only recommendation and actually my hope for whoever comes or follows in our footsteps is that there is a deep recognition that good China policy is best done when it is embedded in an Asian Strategy,” he said.

After the event, Carol Lancaster, dean of the School of Foreign Service, presented Campbell with the Georgetown Asia Award for his service to the U.S. and the East Asian region.

Dealing with Distrust

Solomon, who served in the State Department from 1989-1992, predicted China would soon enter a period of political and economic difficulty because of a growing distrust between its citizens and government officials. He noted incidents such as the one involving Bo Xilai have exacerbated the problem.

“This leadership really does face some very fundamental issues about whether they can open up the political process and [deal] with a very substantial measure of distrust in the population,” he said.

Hill, who served in his post from 2005-2009, said that the U.S. should not interfere with China’s domestic issues.

“It’s not all about us,” he said. “There are things going on in China that have absolutely nothing to do with us.”

University Commitment

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia welcomed the panel and thanked the event’s co-sponsor, the Korea Economic Institute, for helping to sponsor the event.

“It is the breath and tenor of leadership, diplomatic work across many years and spanning both political parties that our panelists represent today,” DeGioia said. “It’s the work that Georgetown has committed itself to pursuing though the expanding work of our Asian Studies program and several other programs across our campus that explore — through teaching, scholarship, immersion, and research – the vibrant economic, cultural and social life of Asia."

Lord, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs from 1993-1997 under President Bill Clinton (F’68), also worked with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and served as ambassador to China in the 1980s.

He said the assistant secretary of state position was “grueling.”

Challenges and OptimisM

“I don’t know how my colleagues feel but of all the jobs that I had, I thought it was the most demanding and the most challenging,” Lord said.

Lancaster said the panel provided a very productive conversation.

“I think we have a reason to be optimistic on the basis of this conversation that there is a lot of basic agreement with some interesting disagreements and a tenor of collaboration and respect and bipartisanism,” she said.

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