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Intelligence Squared debate: Is recent U.S. policy towards China productive?

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President Trump, left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President Trump, left, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 29, 2019.
Susan Walsh | AP Photo file

The United States is cracking down on China in an attempt to create a more favorable balance of trade. Other concerns include continuing Chinese thefts of intellectual property and the imposition of technology transfer requirements to do business in China. 

The U.S. seeks to frustrate China’s program to achieve dominance in a range of advanced technologies. And it wants to cripple Huawei, the telecoms giant, which it sees as a potential security threat. 

Are recent U.S. policies tough and focused enough to achieve key economic and strategic objectives? Or will U.S. policy escalate tensions too much, ultimately reducing the chances that the world’s two major powers can achieve a sensible accommodation?

The four debaters agreed that the U.S.-China relationship is the most important issue of our time. 

The motion: “The recent U.S. policy towards China is productive.”

For the motion: 

Michael, Pillsbury, senior fellow and director for Chinese Strategy, Hudson Institute: “For the Chinese to be told ‘Yes’ by Donald Trump, you could see that was productive. That's the way things have been running since 2017.”

Against the motion:

Graham Allison, professor of government, Harvard Kennedy School: "Gallop found for the first time ever, more of the world supports China than America's leadership in Asia, which seems to be just incredible." 

For the motion:

Kori Schake, deputy director-general, International Institute for Strategic Studies: “China's behavior argues for a different, a sharper-edged American approach. And President Trump is right to take a different and sharper-edged approach.”

Against the motion:

Jake Sullivan, former National Security Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden: “What we have to look at is what productive actually means. It means, as Graham said, getting results that advance America's interests and values. And on this front, the Trump administration has failed time and again.”