David Firestein speaks at Michigan State University on examining challenges in U.S.-China relations

January 27, 2021

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On January 27, David Firestein, president and CEO of the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations, was the featured speaker on a webinar entitled: “U.S.-China Relations, 2021: Issues, Challenges and Prospects.” The webinar is part of a lecture series hosted by the MSU Faculty Emeriti Association and the MSU Asian Studies Center.

Assessing the deterioration in U.S.-China relations over the last four years and prospects for the future, Firestein outlined seven concrete headline issues as the sources of contention that will continue to shape the relationship. The seven issues discussed at length included the following: damaging narratives around COVID-19; democratic rights in Hong Kong and the impact of the national security law; trade and investment tensions; increasing technological competition; regional security concerns over the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait; allegations of China influencing U.S. public opinion; and a rebuke of China’s human rights record. 

Firestein further emphasizes that the U.S.-China relationship is worse today than four years ago and recounts the toll the Trump Administration has taken on both the U.S. economy and international credibility. He highlights the new reality in the U.S.-China bilateral relationship: 

“China is the single most formidable national competitor that our nation will face in the lifetimes of every American alive today. It is also true, however, that China is an indispensable partner of our nation and whether we like it or not, China bears heavily on the future of our nation and we bear heavily on China’s future.” 

Firestein concludes with thoughts on how the Biden Administration will change the course of U.S.-China relations, taking a more fact-based and less ideological approach to our most pressing foreign policy issues in the future.