13 October 2018
Dr Thomas Christensen, Professor of Public and International Affairs and Director of the China and the World Program at Columbia University in the City of New York, gave the Second WSD Handa Distinguished Lecture at the SOAS China Institute on Friday, 12 October. He addressed an audience of about 300 on the subject of ‘China’s Rise and the Security of East Asia’.
Professor Christensen highlighted structural changes which affect China’s place in East Asia and its relationship with the USA, the other leading player in East Asia. The substantial rise not only in China’s economic strength but also in its military capabilities now require the USA to approach the issue of security in East Asia differently from two decades ago. China’s economic integration with its neighbours, many of them key US allies in the region, also make them reluctant to choose between the two. In the meantime, the USA is reviewing its long-standing approach to engage China and help China to develop and modernise. The recognition that China is not going to democratise as it grows richer and its middle classes expand is shaping a rethink in the USA, beyond the confines of the Trump Administration. But Professor Christensen remains confident that despite these trends we shall not see a new Cold War in Asia. In his assessment the new situation arising in East Asia is one which will be a more complicated one than that which prevailed during the Cold War, where both sides knew where redlines were drawn and generally did not cross them. The lines are not so clearly marked in East Asia today, and both the USA and China will need to approach their relations and the region much more carefully to ensure that peace, stability and good order are maintained. He sees this as a significant challenge but not a mission impossible.
His lecture elicited lively discussions across a wide spectrum of issues.
This was the Second WSD Handa Distinguished Lecture at SOAS, which is an annual event. WSD stands for Worldwide Support for Development, a Japan based non-profit organization, and Dr Haruhisa Handa is a great philanthropist who has devoted himself to supporting disadvantaged people and communities all over the world. SOAS would like to thank WSD and Dr Handa for their support of this important series of Lectures. The inaugural speaker of this series was Sir John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand from 2008 to 2016.