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Each episode of Georgetown University’s U.S.-China Nexus podcast features conversations with a scholar or policy expert on dynamics in China and Sino-American relations.
Join co-hosts Eleanor Albert and Dennis Wilder as the show’s guests take us through the development of their careers and share insights about the current state of bilateral ties. In this excerpt from our first episode, Wilder shares his experiences of growing up in Southeast Asia and talks about China’s nascent military footprint.
Welcome to the U.S.-China Nexus, a new podcast from Georgetown University’s Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues. Each episode features conversations with scholars and policy experts on dynamics in China and Sino-American relations. The show’s guests take us through the development of their careers and share their thoughts about the current state of bilateral ties.
In this teaser, you will hear excerpts from a conversation with Dennis Wilder who shares his experiences of growing up in Southeast Asia and talks about China’s nascent military footprint. I'm your co-host Eleanor M. Albert, a research fellow with the initiative.
Eleanor Albert: Today, my guest is someone whose voice will be familiar to future listeners, as he'll be co-hosting this new podcast series we're launching. Dennis Wilder, welcome to the show.
Dennis Wilder: It's great to be with you Eleanor.
Eleanor: Now, Dennis, you are a senior fellow and the managing director of the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue, but you came here with quite a career under your belt. I was wondering if you could start off by telling us your China story. How and when did your interest in studying China come about?
Dennis: Let me say that I come by my interest in China honestly. My parents were Methodist missionaries, so I grew up in Southeast Asia, Singapore and Malaysia, and my father served overseas Chinese communities. The huaqiao they were called, I believe, in Southeast Asia. And, so I learned from a young age about Chinese culture, Chinese traditions, Chinese holidays. And when I went to college, I was bound and determined that I would go back to Asia, and go back into the Chinese world.
Eleanor: If you had to characterize or describe the current state of U.S.-China relations today in two or three words, what would that be? I know this is a question that might be a little simple, given the complex dynamics that we live in today, but, what comes to mind?
Dennis: I've thought a lot about this question. And I think at the moment, my favorite sort of characterization of it would be that it's a great power rivalry. We have entered a distinct phase where the United States and China are rivals for influence both regionally in the Asia-Pacific and globally. And you see this in many different spheres of competition. […] It's not simple to explain this relationship and where it is at any moment. I don't think it's a cold war yet. I'm not one of those who believe that we are in a new cold war of the sort of the relationship we had with the Soviet Union. I think it's something different.
Eleanor: I'm curious if you could give just a quick overview of how the things in the security realm have changed.
Dennis: I think that ever since Tiananmen, the relationship has never quite recovered. There have been attempts to build a solid relationship between the two militaries, but the level of distrust and suspicion remains quite high.
Eleanor: This distrust, is it rooted purely in a geographic strategic context as being isolated kind of in East Asia and what China envisions as its neighborhood, or are there fundamentally different things about the way in which China's military is evolving? What do you make of the changing dynamic of China's military and how it's engaging with other countries and their militaries?
Dennis: I think that we are beginning to see China establishing a global reach in its military capabilities. It's nascent capability at this point, but certainly in places like Cambodia, of course, Djibouti with the base there, and other parts of the world, the Chinese are trying to establish a footprint. How large that will become is an interesting question.
This was an excerpt from our first episode. Be sure to subscribe to the U.S.-China Nexus on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your preferred podcast platform for future episodes.
The U.S.-China Nexus is created and produced by Dennis Wilder and me, Eleanor M. Albert. Our music is from Universal Production Music. Special thanks to Tuoya Wulan, Leann Deckert, Shimeng Tong, and Amy Vander Vliet. For more initiative programming, videos, and links to events, visit our website at uschinadialogue.georgetown.edu.