The Asia Society, one of the oldest U.S.-based organizations focused on bridging ties between the U.S. and Asia, formally launched a new Center for China Analysis in New York on Monday.
Founded with the support of John D. Rockefeller in 1956, the organization’s mission remains “to add light rather than heat to the discourse in order to find pathways through the seemingly intractable challenges of our age,” Asia Society CEO Kevin Rudd said at an inaugural conference on Monday called “China’s Future: What It Means for Asia and the World.”
“We see ourselves as a think tank and a do tank. We’re not into the business of just thinking alone. Thinking is the sound of one hand clapping; thinking and doing is the sound of two hands clapping,” said Rudd, a former Australia prime minister and foreign minister. The Mandarin speaker began his career as a China scholar, serving as an Australian diplomat in Beijing before entering Australian politics.
“We have always seen our work as the one which translates theory into practice, rather than producing a report in the vain hope that somewhere there will be someone in the world who will read it at some stage,” he said. The new Center for China Analysis will operate under the Asia Society Policy Institute.
“You might ask,” Rudd queried, “Why do we need another China center here in the United States?”
“One,” he continued, “is that it’s important to bring together the full spectrum of China’s specialization under one roof in order to bring together the best integrated analysis of contemporary China that is possible.”
“There is no lack of analysis on different aspects of China’s rise. What I find… is a lack of synthesis in drawing the threads of disparate analysis together into an integrated whole that can make sense to policymakers,” Rudd said.
“That is why the Center for China Analysis will bring together expertise on Chinese domestic politics, China’s domestic economy, new developments in Chinese society and culture, rapid advances in Chinese technology, as well as the most recent developments in Chinese foreign security policy, and of course, China’s impact on climate,” Rudd said.
“In the minds of the Chinese leadership, all these things relate to each other. Therefore, I think it’s useful for other international leaders to have available to them integrated analysis of Chinese politics and policy in a way that also relates the part to the whole,” he said.
Second, Rudd continued, the new center will attach a priority to Chinese-language sources. “Many of the debates on China’s foreign and domestic policy are well ventilated by China’s own domestic discourse, often freely available in its own public literature, assuming of course you know where to find it (and) assuming you’ll put in the effort to read the Chinese original sources. We therefore intend to make maximum use of Chinese domestic journals, publications, newspapers, and online information as the Chinese system itself seeks to communicate across the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people new directions in politics, the economy and foreign policy.”
“That’s not to say we’ll believe everything that we read, but it’s important to understand how the Chinese system speaks to itself. It’s what we describe in the CCA as our ‘inside-outside’ angle of looking at China,” he said.
Another feature of the Center for China Analysis is “vigorously objective analysis of where China is going that “will be critical of Chinese policy whenever necessary, but also means to bring a critical approach to bear on U.S. policy, where we also judge that to be necessary.”
Event speakers and panelists included former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as well as Wu Guoguang, senior research scholar at the Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions; Chris Johnson, president of political risk consultancy China Strategies Group; Ma Guonan, a senior fellow on the Chinese economy at the Asia Society Policy Institute; Evan Medeiros, former top Asia advisor to President Barack Obama and current Asia studies scholar at Georgetown University; and Rorry Daniels, managing director of the Asia Society Policy Institute.
Other panelists included Dr. Selwyn Vickers, CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK); Dr. Bob Li, MSK Physician Ambassador to China and Asia-Pacific; and Kate Logan, associate director of climate the Asia Society Policy Institute. Guest attendees included business leaders Joe Tsai and Ray Dalio.
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