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This season of the U.S.-China Nexus looks at China’s expanding influence.
Join host Eleanor M. Albert as the show’s guests unpack different facets of China’s global
Eleanor M. Albert: Welcome to season three of the U.S.-China Nexus. We’ll be picking up where we left off last season, exploring different facets of China’s growing global footprint.
China is a superpower anew, and its economic pull and security influence continue to spread far and wide. This season, each episode features a conversation with experts who examine a distinct form of China’s expanding reach.
In this teaser, you will hear excerpts from season three’s first two episodes, conversations with experts on China’s overseas security partnerships and Taiwan: Lev Nachmann, Christina Lai, Sheena Chestnut Greitens, and Paul Nantulya.
Tune in in two weeks for the launch of season three of the U.S.-China Nexus!
Eleanor M. Albert: Taiwan has been a hot topic in recent years, in both the broader U.S.-China relationship, but also unfortunately in the context of the war in Ukraine. There have been lots of people trying to gather lessons learned, what could this tell us about a potential conflict. But I really want to start by trying to situate Taiwan itself, its politics, and the role that it plays in geopolitics more broadly. So, I thought we could turn to Lev for a little breakdown.
Lev Nachman: Taiwan, today, is a democracy, but Taiwan was not always a democracy. Now, democratization began in the late 1970s, early 1980s, and officially Taiwan became no longer under martial law in 1986, and the first free and fair elections started in 1992, but the first real big election was in 1996. And today, Taiwan is a robust democracy, one of the freest in East Asia, and has really become a role model for democracies around the world.
That being said, there's a giant elephant in the room, which is that Taiwan is a contested state, meaning that it is a de facto independent state, it acts like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, but we don't call it a duck. It has its own passports, its own laws, its own citizenship, but it is claimed by the People's Republic of China still.
Eleanor M. Albert: I think the geopolitics are an important part, but it's not the only element through which Taiwan interacts with the world. Christina, I wonder if you could talk to us a little bit about Taiwan's economic statecraft. What kind of policies does it pursue to maintain these economic ties with the world?
Christina Lai: The Taiwanese government has responded to China’s economic pressure by diversifying its trade and investment in Southeast Asia to lessen dependence on China. However, it will still take quite a long time for [the] Taiwanese economy to achieve such structural change. As of now, I think Taiwan has remained reliant on China's economy, making it vulnerable to economic coercion and political pressure. By enhancing our understanding of how and under what conditions that economic coercion can impact the probability of conflicts, scholars and practitioners can effectively assess the current development of China-Taiwan relations and Taiwan’s use of economic statecraft.
Eleanor M. Albert: We're talking today about China's overseas security partnerships. To understand these partnerships, it would be helpful to first understand how they fit into China's
conception of national security. Could you shed some light on how China, and particularly under Xi Jinping, how does it think about national security, and how do these expanding security partnerships fit into that commitment about always thinking about security?
Sheena Chestnut Greitens: National security, which can also be translated as state security—the words are equivalent in Chinese—is really first and foremost a regime security concept. It's the security of the authority of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party of China's socialist system and of Xi Jinping at the core of that system.
So it's highly preventive. Xi Jinping has spent a long time pushing the party to try to be better at detecting and acting earlier on potential threats to regime security. It also sees external and internal security as highly interconnected. One of the interesting things about the concept is that it has primed the Chinese political system to interpret external events and world events through the lens of how will this affect the security and the ability to hold power of the Chinese Communist Party.
Eleanor M. Albert: I want to shift us to the security partnerships. And I wanted to get your perspective on what kinds of security partnerships China has developed with third parties, particularly on the African continent. And what makes these partnerships attractive to recipient countries?
Paul Nantulya: China, I think, has become more of a partner of choice, if you will. And has developed more comprehensive and multifaceted security and military relationships in Africa than it has in, for instance, Latin America or the Caribbean, or even South Asia to some extent. Africa has really been the center of gravity and continues to be the center of gravity for Chinese military and security engagements.
Foreign training is a popular activity for African countries. It allows you to update your own training. It gives you access to foreign technology, to foreign military doctrine. It allows you to strengthen political ties. It's popular and it allows you to develop capacity back home. It is popular, so regardless of who provides it, right?
Our show is created and produced by Eleanor M. Albert. Our music is from Universal Production Music. Special thanks to Tuoya Wulan, Shimeng Tong, and Amy Vander Vliet. For more initiative programming, videos, and links to our events, visit our website at uschinadialogue.georgetown.edu. Don't forget to subscribe to the U.S.-China Nexus on your preferred podcast platform for future episodes.