Research Implications of Current U.S.-China Relations: Robert Daly


[audience applauding] Thank you. US/China academic relations has a long very very important history. And I wanna state very
clearly at the outset, it has been profoundly
in the American interest as well as in China’s interest. I’m gonna be saying a lot of things today that may cast doubt on that, but I’ll keep on coming back to it. And again, the reasons that American’s wanted to be involved with China are many, but I wanna read you a
quote about the importance of working with China and
especially the importance from America’s point of view of working with Chinese students and
scholars, and this is the quote. “China is upon the verge of a revolution. “Every great nation in
the world will inevitably “be drawn into more or
less intimate relations “with this gigantic development. “The nation which succeeds in
educating the young Chinese “of the present generation
will be the nation which, “for a given expenditure of effort, “will reap the largest possible returns “in moral, intellectual,
and commercial influence.” That quote is from Edmund James, President of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 1906. So this goes way back. This could easily have
been given almost any times in the past 40 years during
which the US/China relationship has been complex. It has been both
competitive and cooperative, what the Chinese call
[speaking in foreign language], which means competitive
and cooperative relations. It’s a great word. We don’t
have this word in English. It’s been complex, but because engagement has been the background
of the relationship, we have focused on our co-evolution. The basic idea of engagement
is that our joint hopes are greater than our joint fears, and therefore we can progress together, so that during our exchanges
of the past 40 years, and especially our higher
educational exchanges, and especially through the
flow of Chinese students and scholars to the United States, both nations have benefited greatly. It’s been a mutual benefit. But the relationship has
now shifted fundamentally, and it’s done so quite
rapidly, quite rapidly. The seeds of it were planted long ago. You’ve sort of seen it coming,
but the fundamental reframing of the relationship
happened relatively quickly, and I think it is now
agreed upon in Beijing and in Washington that this relationship is fundamentally contentious,
competitive if you like, but I prefer the word contentious, because distrust is so deep,
and there is so much at stake. Now it’s hard to know how to define this for a number of reasons, one
of which is that in Chinese, there aren’t as many
gradations of competition. We have competition, rivalry, adversity, contentious relations. In Chinese, you go more from
competition to something like enemies right away
without as much gradation. There’s one really good word called [speaking in foreign language], and if somebody’s your
[speaking in foreign language], they’re sort of your opponent, but they’re your opponent the
way that ping pong players are opponents in that their cooperation is essential to their competition. If they don’t agree to play ping pong and agree on the rules,
they can’t be opponents. So it’s founded in a friendly way. So China and America, now we’re not just [speaking
in foreign language]. It is agreed in Beijing
and Washington I think that China has now risen and is, in many regards, a pure
competitor of the United States. There are indices of power in which the United States clearly leads, but there are a growing number of indices in which China leads, and China, generally speaking,
likes the trend lines. There’s a strong sense that
China’s long awaited modern day in the sun has finally come. And just to make it clear, that’s not nefarious on China’s part. Of course they feel that way. Of course China seeks what it calls comprehensive
national power. And this is something that the Chinese leadership
is very clear about. We want to build our
comprehensive national power. What do they mean by that? They mean what we’ve got. China has looked at, has studied, has in many ways felt subject
to American power that is, not only military, but
in the economic sphere in what China calls the discursive sphere, the ability to tell America’s story. In the soft power or cultural sphere, China has I say studied it and felt subject to it for a long time, and the Chinese view is that they would like to try that on for size, but that would fit the modern kingdom, middle kingdom pretty well. And again, I don’t say that
with any moral prejudice. It is natural that China would seek this. It would be surprising if it didn’t. It becomes an issue when the interests of the two nations grind
up against each other. The old saying is your
freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. And from the point of view of academia, while your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins, my vigilance begins when I
see you clinch your fist. So we’re deeply distrustful of each other. We are now involved in
a global competition, the US and China, to be the leading nation in
shaping security architectures, trade and investment regimes, very importantly the development and regulation of technology,
norms and practices, and values systems worldwide. And this becomes clearer
with every passing week if you’re reading the
international page of newspapers. For universities, the most important part of this new competition is
that Beijing and Washington agree that henceforth the
key to military power, and military power is a big part of this, we are probably looking at
with China a new arms race, very expensive, unaffordable,
wasteful, and immoral, but I think it’s coming,
that comprises nukes, cyber, and the weaponization
of outer space. So military is a big part of this. The key to military power, economic power, soft power, or cultural power, as well as our ability to
shape the global rules, both sides agree is founded
in innovation and tech. The nation which most
rapidly develops, defines, and sells AI in particular,
but 5G, the internet of things, quantum technologies, nano technologies, electronic vehicles, clean energy sources, this is going to be the
preeminent nation looking forward, and Beijing and Washington agree on this. It’s that, the focus on tech, that is creating a big issue
for American universities. And again, I apologize to those of you who heard this before, but if saying it twice
helps it to drill down, that’s good, because it’s true, and it’s going to be remain
true I think for decades, and it’s going to pose
challenges to all of you. I need a drink of water. This is why the 2017
National Security Strategy put out by the Trump
administration said several things, and these were big changes. They said China is America’s greatest long term strategic challenge. This is undoubtedly
true, and Beijing agrees. Beijing, in its diplomacy,
is far more polite, but China decided decades ago that America was the greatest obstacle to the achievement of its strategic goals, which is a nicer way of
saying the same thing, that it’s the greatest security challenge. And it also said, the National
Security Strategy said, that American colleges and universities have become important vectors for the loss of strategically important
information to China. I’ll just a few quotes from
the National Security Strategy. Technologies that are part
of most weapons systems often originate in diverse businesses as well as in universities and colleges. Losing our innovation
and technological edge would have far reaching
negative implications for American prosperity and power. Part of China’s military modernization and economic expansion
is due to its access to the US innovation economy, including America’s
world class universities. Now, the concern here is
not just with espionage. If it were just about intellectual property
theft and espionage, we could handle that
within existing frameworks. This is also expressing a concern that the mainstream research
and teaching activities of American universities
undermine American security, again because it’s a quest for
comprehensive national power, and there are many examples of this. Both countries, as I said, want to lead on the internet of things, on nano technologies, of things like the application
of CRISPR technologies, but also weapons like
super fast submarines and like hypersonic
glide reentry vehicles, which are a new way of delivering multiple independently targetable nuclear warheads to each others’ territory,
to each others’ cities. And unlike intercontinental
ballistic missiles, which enter on a predictable
ballistic trajectory, hypersonic glide reentry vehicles can be reprogrammed to dodge and swerve, and therefore, because
they come in very fast, can dodge any antimissile defense system. We are competing with China to develop these very nasty machines. And so the argument from defense is, why should any Chinese
physicists be getting PhDs in aeronautics or astronautics
in the United States? That’s the nature of the argument. But of course, it also
applies to the basic sciences, because the key breakthrough technologies could come out of the basic sciences, and this is why universities
are in the spotlight. So what I wanna do in the remaining time is tell you the worries
Washington has about China and then talk about a few
of the possible remedies. So I’m gonna give you
what we call a rap sheet, the different things of which
China is accused of doing. I’m not saying that all these
things are necessarily true or that they’re true in the same degree. I’m telling you what
Washington is focused on. Okay? So one is, I’ve already mentioned, why do we train Chinese
scholars in American STEM fields if they’re going to go back to China and strengthen its innovation system, its industrial capacity, and therefore its
comprehensive national power, which we now see as coming to
some degree at our expense? And this is think of the Cold War. And I’m not saying that
we’re in a new Cold War yet, but during the Cold War, UC Boulder, no university thought we should be giving Soviet physicists
PhDs in nuclear technology. The question didn’t come up, because the nature of the Cold War, of US/Soviet competition and
rivalry was broadly understood, and it was socialized around the country, and it was socialized in universities. The challenge from China is now, I think, understood in a bipartisan
way, bipartisan way. This isn’t Trump. We would be in the same
place with President Clinton. It’s understood in a
bipartisan way in Washington, but it hasn’t been socialized
throughout the United States. And in a way, this is a good thing, because Washington isn’t always right. Right? So people throughout
the United States are not as security focused, and they focus more on
the fantastic contribution that Chinese Americans
make to the United States. You’re focused on the fact
that Chinese Americans, Chinese students and
scholars are your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends,
your co-parishioners, the parents of your
kids’ soccer teammates, whatever it may be. And there’s sometimes more awareness of this outside of Washington than within. So this needs to be a dialogue of people who are more concerned about security and people who have
broader points of view. But the China challenge, because it hasn’t been socialized yet, it’s hard for universities to respond to. Washington is also concerned
that many universities have admitted enormous
numbers of PRC students, especially undergraduates, since the American financial crisis, because there was a need for a new source of full out-of-state tuition
paying undergraduates. And the critique here is that many, these large numbers of
Chinese undergraduates have all grown up since the
Tiananmen massacre in 1989 in a highly politicized and propagandized educational system, what’s called [speaking
in foreign language] in Chinese or national studies, which does not train people
in critical thinking, which is geared toward
building up state power. What does it mean, this question goes, that we are admitting so many students who have not been trained
in critical thinking or American approaches to
knowledge into the universities? And there are a number
of concerns about this. There is concern about
hosting Confucius Institutes, which some people in Washington would say are hot beds of espionage, spies. They are not hot beds of
espionage, I can just tell you. This is wrong. There are issues with
Confucius Institutes, but spying is not one of them. There are also, there’s
also a large concern about what’s called the
Thousand Talents Program. The Thousand Talents Program
is one of 200 programs that China has to try to
attract Chinese scholars who’ve been educated overseas
to come back to China to put their knowledge to work there. Now again to be clear, there is nothing nefarious about that. Of course China has these programs. China would be foolish if it did not try to attract the talent back. This is entirely predictable. And yet the concern is that we
are training Chinese scholars in STEM fields in particular,
and they go back to China, and they build China’s power
instead of America’s power. There’s also growing concern
about American faculty accepting money from China, especially from corporations like Huawei, which is a sort of a related
issue, but a side issue. We can talk about Huawei
in Q&A if you want. So concerns about American universities pursuing Chinese funding and
Chinese tuition generally. There are also concerns
about the large number of delegations that come
from China for visits. About what? Well it’s usually not exactly clear, but there are a lot of
these delegations that come, and they tour labs, and
they tour facilities, and sometimes thumb drives
get inserted into computers, and even these seemingly
friendly exchanges can be a source of the loss
of American information. There was an important
Australian report published late last year called Picking
Flowers, Making Honey, which detailed in a great deal of depth and very convincingly the
fact that large numbers of Chinese scholars in
Australian universities were actually employed by
The People’s Liberation Army, but came under the auspices
of various shell universities or institutions such as their
PLA affiliation wasn’t known. And so you need to know
who you are dealing with. There are also concerns about Chinese Students
and Scholars Associations. For the most part, these play extremely
positive roles on campus. I’ve seen this happening. So a new Chinese student is coming here, the Chinese Students
and Scholars Association will pick them up at the airport, help them find a place to live, get them oriented, take care of them, show them where the
good Chinese restaurants and Asian groceries are, and they throw the
Chinese New Years parties. And this is mostly a very positive thing, and it’s part of the
diversity of the campus. But in many cases, Chinese Students and Scholars Associations have also been discovered
to be in communication with Chinese embassies
and consulates in ways that may undermine academic freedom or the freedom of discourse
on American campuses. And then lastly, sorry,
need another drink, [coughs] there’s a growing concern about the nature of academia in China. Since Deng Xiaoping took over in 1978, for most of the next 40
years, the story of China was one of gradual opening,
gradual liberalization. Everybody has heard about the many human
rights issues in China, and the individual human rights problems you hear about are true, and
they’re serious and concerning. At the same time, and this is under-reported
in the American media, the rights of individual Chinese have been climbing at
an extremely rapid rate over the past 40 years. In fact, I would go so far to say that before Xi Jinping came to power, even with the human rights
issues that were still in China, so let’s say 2013, while this is still a one party Leninist
authoritarian state, no question, best time in Chinese history
to be a Chinese in China. Continued expansion of almost every kind of freedom except the freedom to challenge the Chinese
Communist Party’s monopoly on power or to organize
outside of the auspices of the Communist party. But freedoms were increasing throughout most of these 40 years, and the material wellbeing
of the Chinese increased on a scale and at a speed
that was unprecedented in human history. And for this, we have to say
congratulations, good for you. As a moral matter, this is
about human flourishing. But Xi Jinping has been both
more aggressive internationally and far more repressive domestically and has cracked down on the media. He says [speaking in foreign language]. They’re all surnamed
Chinese Communist Party. They serve the party. The universities, the think
tanks, the creative classes, he’s pulled a lot of pieces
out of the Maoist playbook, and China really has
become far more repressive under his leadership, and this is especially
true at the universities. And what this means is
that American universities that have long standing
cooperative relations with Chinese universities have in many cases had to reconsider then, and the most famous case is
the College of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, which last year canceled an exchange with People’s University of China, [speaking in foreign language], which is the very good
university in the Chinese system, but it’s very very close
to the Communist party. And the reason that the
School of Industrial and Labor Relations canceled
this exchange program was because many young Chinese students have been disappeared by
the Chinese Communist Party over the past year. And these students
who’ve been disappeared, are they human rights activists, are they disciples of
[speaking in foreign language]? Do they wanna commemorate
the Tiananmen massacre? No. They are the Marxists on
campus who are advocating under the umbrella of Marxist
morality for stronger rights of Chinese labor visa
vi Chinese management, and they’ve been closed
down and disappeared in Xi Jinping’s China. And so Cornell said
just can’t play anymore, no exchanges. So, the dynamics we’re talking about are in part historical and structural. You’ve got a rising
power and a great power. Some of the fears in
Washington, yes, are an index about America’s fear of
its loss of preeminence and America’s fear of relative decline. That is part of this story to be sure. But so is the real increase
in repression under Xi Jinping and his creation of a surveillance state, of a kind of a soft
totalitarian surveillance state. And one more recent anecdote, I was speaking with the cabinet of a public research
one university last year and was trying to help
them understand the kinds of due diligence that they had to exercise with reference to Chinese exchanges, and there was the Dean of
the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences went back
and did a little due diligence on a project that had been
proposed by a Chinese entity that was sort of
quasi-academic, quasi-corporate that had come to this university and said we would like to learn from you. We would like to have an exchange with you on uses of global
positioning systems, GPS, and the way that they can be used to anticipate and mitigate
natural disasters, especially typhoons, which can be quite destructive
in the South of China. So this looked fine until we
sort of said well look again. And the department then went and looked at open source information
about this company and found that this
company was deeply involved in the build out of the surveillance state and the reeducation camps
for Uyghurs in Xinjiang. So in Xi Jinping’s China,
every Chinese entity, including nominally private enterprises, some think tanks will tell you that they are
non-governmental think tanks, they are all subject to the control of the Chinese Communist
Party and increasingly so. You don’t have an institutional partner from the PRC of which that is not true. Doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. There’s still a lot of
room for cooperation and a lot that we can do, but
you have to be aware of that. Okay, so what kinds of things can be done about that
at the universities? How much time do we have? Five, okay. So very quickly, and I’ll keep this brief. I think there needs to be far more transparency
in universities. Universities, departments,
universities as a whole, as well as individual faculty members should not have any contracts
or MOUs with any foreign, not only Chinese, especially
Chinese in some senses, because China’s so large and ambitious, but with any foreign
government, entity, or person, all contracts should be public. If a foreign entity wants to
have a secret clause of an MOU or contract with an American
university, do not do it. Training and orientation,
I think it’s very important that all American university persons, be they graduates,
undergraduates, faculty, or staff, need far better orientations
every year to the idea of the American university
and to the American university and UC Boulder’s particular
standards of academic freedom, academic integrity, and academic rigor so that everybody
understands the terms of free and open debate and respect
for diverse opinions. And the reason this comes up, and there have been
numerous instances of this, but again they’re merely anecdotal, so I don’t mean to tar
everybody with the same brush, we’re talking about a
small minority of cases, but there are, with more
Chinese undergraduates on campus and more Chinese
students on campus, they’ve never heard critical
discourse about China, and suddenly they are in classrooms where the Tiananmen massacre
comes up, and the 1950, what they’ve always been taught
was the liberation of Tibet is taught as the invasion of Tibet. And then God forbid that
the American faculty member should call Taiwan a country,
and they object to this, and there have been instances
of people pulling down posters for Uyghur speakers, whatever it might be. And the idea is that
all American students, born in the United States and foreign, need to be oriented to the terms of a free and open and respectful debate, and I think orientation is
an important part of this. Very important also, I think
that all faculty members be required to report any
affiliation they have outside of their American university
job to their departments and that they report any funding they get. A lot of problems have come out of that. And also, and I’ll make this last, the last recommendation
in the interest of time, universities need to both partner with American security agencies,
with Congress, with the FBI to help define and understand
and manage this problem. At the same time, American universities need to be advocates for openness. The broad issue we have with China’s rise is that we’ve never faced a
peer competitor, one like China, which is an ancient,
large civilization state, rightly proud of its many accomplishments, which is now the world’s
leading trading nation, we’re also its number one trading partner, so we’re part of that,
but that is also trying to spread its practices internationally, primarily through the vector of money. Chinese foreign policy. What is Chinese foreign policy about? Chinese foreign policy seeks a world that is highly integrated,
very sincere about this, a world that is highly
integrated and wholly accepting of Chinese Communist Party
prerogatives and practices, and that’s where the difficulty comes in. But because China’s so wealthy, it creates a real dilemma for us, and it’s putting pressure
on core American values and the institutions founded
on those values of a sort that we’ve never faced before. What do I mean by that? You’ve got the core
American value of security, but you’ve also got the core
American value of openness, the liberal values. The security side of the
equation now wants to say you are training the top
minds of our adversary, and you shouldn’t be doing that. But the reply from
academia, from openness, is equally compelling. It says that American universities are one of the greatest assets we have in our competition with China. We have the world’s greatest
system of higher education, and that system’s greatness
is due to its openness. Given the global creation and
transmission of knowledge, you cannot wall China off
from American knowledge without walling the United States off from the global creation of knowledge. You just can’t do it. You can’t do it without
inflicting tremendous self-harm and actually diminishing the status of American universities as
an asset in this competition. So it’s a true dilemma. The security concern is very legitimate, but the reply from
openness in universities is equally compelling, and it’s very hard to know
how these will work out. So the universities have to
be involved with security to try to reach some kind of
compromise or common vocabulary while continuing to advocate
strongly for the openness and the internationalization
of universities, and, and I’ll close on this,
because this is part of, this is one of the biggest pieces that’s missing from this discussion. Right now, Washington is
still sorta freaking out about this stuff. There’s a lot of exaggeration,
there’s a lot of misframing. We’re just beginning to
get down to the business of serious policy making about this. And we’ve described, Washington has described
its concerns about China. Those concerns, which are
legitimate and serious, are not being weighed
against all of the benefits that America has gained
over the past 40 years from attracting Chinese talent. I don’t know how you quantify this, but having lived in this and
worked on this for 33 years, you got China threat, and
then we’ve got our benefit from the brain drain and from attracting all these wonderful scholars
to the United States. And that bit, what Chinese
scholars who stayed in America, and have become Americans, and have contributed to
our own national wellbeing, their contribution is not being weighed against the legitimate security concerns. I think that’s a good task for
higher education to take on so that we have a more balanced
discussion than we’ve had. This does not go away. There’s no silver bullet, and this competition between
the United States and China is I think largely without precedent and is going to be with us for decades. I hope the universities
play, including UC Boulder, play a major role, have a major
voice in getting this right. Thank you. [audience applauding]

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