After nearly an hour and 30 minutes discussing US-China policy, Michael Pillsbury — who serves as US President Donald Trump’s leading expert on the relations between the two countries — gave a bleak conclusion: the risk of war with China “has never been higher.”
The William F. Buckley Program hosted Pillsbury on Monday in William Harkness Hall 208. Buckley Program’s President Kobe Rizk ’21 introduced Pillsbury, who is the director of the Center on Chinese Strategy at the Hudson Institute. Pillsbury organized his talk around different tenets from his bestselling book “The Hundred-year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America As the Global Superpower.” His written work mostly aims to expose the hidden strategy that has contributed to the China’s “magnificent economy.” Pillsbury said his book refutes common misconceptions regarding US-China relations and states that a “secret cooperation” between the two countries contributed to such economic gains in China.
“Trump deserves an A or A+ for converting campaign rhetoric to action with Chinese cooperation,” Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury discussed how China developed such a strong economy and claimed that American experts including leading economists and Noble Prize winners have historically consulted with the Chinese government to boost the international economy.
Still, Pillsbury pronounced those actions antiquated before he began discussing Chinese politics.
“Every day in China, there exists daily tension between Chinese reformers and hard-liners,” Pillsbury said. “We must think about Chinese politics like politics everywhere else.”
Pillsbury spoke extensively about how the United States must modernize its outlook on China to appreciate how the country experiences political strife like every other nation. Pillsbury added that the ways in which current American administrators contribute to the multilateral cooperation between the two nations.
Pillsbury spoke to the merits of Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While Pillsbury commended the Trump Administration’s work in the region, he stressed that the two nations are at high risk for war due to respective misperceptions of the other country.
During the question-and-answer portion of the talk, Pillsbury fielded questions about how the United States ought to catch up to China in STEM education. He suggested “technological espionage” at the university level, citing 1,000 current Federal Bureau of investigations inquiries into Chinese students’ work in American labs.
Student Bohan Lou ’21 said during the Q&A portion that while these cases are open, they are inconclusive. Lou, an international student from Shanghai, China, spoke to Pillsbury prior to the talk and said the event was what he expected, as he had read Pillsbury’s book. Lou also noted the differences between Chinese students and American Republicans in how they regard the strategist’s work. While Trump may consider Pillsbury the leading expert in US-China diplomacy, Lou noted that “no one in China has heard of Pillsbury.” Early in his talk, Pillsbury said that his book is not read in China because the government keeps his book a secret from the Chinese people in an act of censorship characteristic of contemporary Chinese politics.
“What Pillsbury says about China isn’t that welcoming though China has come to expect it,” says Lou.
In introducing Pillsbury, Rizk also discussed the purpose of the Buckley Program, which he described as a means of uniting “students against the liberal echo chamber and create a more open and representative political atmosphere” at Yale.
The Buckley Program was founded in 2010.