Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, and The Atlantic's James Fallows discuss the financial relationship between the United States and China as part of the 2009 Aspen Ideas Festival.
The event was moderated by Scott Stossel.
James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has worked for the magazine for more than 30 years. In that time he has been based in various sites within the United States and in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He has written ten books, of which the latest, China Airborne, was published in May. He won the American Book Award for his book National Defense, the National Magazine Award for his writings about the Iraq war, and a New York Emmy for his role as host of a documentary series on China. During the Carter administration, he worked in the White House as the president’s chief speechwriter.
Niall Ferguson, MA, D.Phil., is the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University. He is a resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies.
He is also a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford University, and a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Scott Stossel is editor of The Atlantic magazine and the author of the award-winning Sarge: The Life and Times of Sargent Shriver, which The Boston Globe called an “extraordinary achievement” and which Publisher’s Weekly described as “a superbly researched, immensely readable political biography.” His articles and essays have appeared in a wide array of publications, including The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Stossel has been associated with The Atlantic on and off for 20 years, serving at various times as senior editor, managing editor, and deputy editor. He is a former executive editor of The American Prospect, and a member of the board of incorporators of Harvard Magazine.
Niall Ferguson and James Fallows debate the statement by Zhou Xiaochuan, head of China's central bank, calling for the replacement of the dollar as the dominant world currency with the creation of an international reserve currency.
Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money, concludes that the legitimacy of China is not strictly dependent on GDP growth, but on also relies heavily on nationalism -- which the Internet facilitates.
"The more economic problems they have, the more it seems to me they will rely on nationalism," he says.
Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.Country, eastern Asia. Area: 3,696,100 sq mi (9,572,900 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 1,331,433,000. Capital: Beijing. It is the world's most populous country, the Han (ethnic Chinese) forming more than nine-tenths of the population. Languages: dialects of Han Chinese, Mandarin being the most important. Religions: traditional beliefs, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Daoism (all legally sanctioned). Currency: renminbi (of which the unit is the yuan). China has several topographic regions. The southwestern area contains the Plateau of Tibet, which averages more than 13,000 ft (4,000 m) above sea level; its core area, averaging more than 16,000 ft (5,000 m) in elevation, is called the Roof of the World and provides the headwaters for many of Asia's major rivers. Higher yet are the border ranges, the Kunlun Mountains to the north and the Himalayas to the south. China's northwestern region stretches from Afghanistan to the Northeast (Manchurian) Plain. The Tien Shan (Celestial Mountains) separate China's two major interior basins, the Tarim Basin (containing the Takla Makan Desert) and the Junggar Basin. The Mongolian Plateau contains the southernmost part of the Gobi Desert. The lowlands of the eastern region include the Sichuan Basin, which runs along the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang); the Yangtze divides the eastern region into northern and southern parts. The Tarim is the major river in the northwest. China's numerous other rivers include the Huang He (Yellow River), Xi, Sungari (Songhua), Zhu (Pearl), and Lancang, which becomes the Mekong in Southeast Asia. The country is a single-party people's republic with one legislative house. The head of state is the president, and the head of government is the premier.
I don't understand why Mr. Ferguson seems to think that China doesn't need America for growth. Without America as a stable export economy many Chinese would be out of jobs and China would be forced to sell goods at much cheaper prices thus lowering GDP. They are growing and becoming a more powerful economy but they still must rely on advanced economies to purchase their goods. http://bit.ly/4bQyDu
I always find it interesting when people try and express their own opinions on a subject after watching a video like this, as if they seriously have anything they can add--beyond maybe one or two purposely insulting contrarian quirks. That being said, it was a great video. I had only moderate optimism about it coming in, but it turned out well beyond my expectations. Anything that can feed my fascination with Chinese-American relations as well as this video just has earns an "A" in my book. So glad FORA was kind enough to put this up and I seriously hope to see more on the subject in the future!
So you admit that history is an bad way to gauge the future. Good for you. So I hope you agree that the China that you never visited of 2009 is a very different Nazi Germany of 1939. And simply inappropriate to use the Chamberlin (a major name which you badly misspelled)? Have you been to Vietnam or study the war in detail? It was the fear of the domino effect that lead to the escalation, not your poorly educated guilty notions about American imperialism during the 60s. Read and travel more my young friend. BTW your idol Ferguson is full of it, as most great mind from Krugman to Fallows will attest.
I have not been to China or to Germany; however, it is crucial for everyone to understand that we have to be very careful how we judge the motives of other countries..and very careful with our comparisons. At least in the U.S., we have gotten in trouble with not fully investing into understanding the cultures of other nations, and sometimes using a biased view to judge what is actually going on in the global social, economic and political market. China is experiencing an unprecedented growth; and comparing them to Germany based on motives and intentions is very biased and prejudiced at its worst. One thing that especially young professionals (ages 21-43) have to understand is that the more they invest their time into learning and avoid prejudging the nations around them, then they will be able to do well in this 21st century, a century which requires for us to become a lot more educated and open minded to the inevitable growth of other potential superpowers....America is not and will not be the sole world power any longer, those days are over....the more we understand that and adapt to that, the better off we will be..and the more intelligent solutions we will have in doing well in this new century.
I've never been to China, but I have visited Germany several times. Getting to know German culture didn't leave me under impression that Germans are inclined towards imperialism. If we're to predict future events, I believe that "culture" is less important factor than leadership and capabilities.
As for your Chaberlain's comparison, it is simply inappropriate. US foreign policy in Vietnam and Iraq was driven by ideology and imperial ambitions rather than by fear.
@ Vasil. Have you personally been to China? Using one historical event as a guide is rather simplistic and limiting method to gauge the future events. Fears of repeating Chamberlain's mistakes led US leaders to disastrous adventures in Vietnam and Iraq, all without understanding the nuances of local culture.
When professor Ferguson compares China and Germany he does not emphasize intentions, but rather focuses on capabilities. China might be lacking imperial ambitions - of which i'm not fully convinced - but it strives to establish itself as both economic and military superpower. Besides its tight grip on Tibet,Taiwan and Xinjang we cannot ignore its ever-increasing presence in Central Asia.
I agree that it is highly unlikely that China will risk a war with US or vice versa. Nevertheless, it's more likely that two countries will become rivals rather than friends. Niall Ferguson's metaphor of the "broken marriage" is more appropriate to me than Fallows' hope for future cooperation.
I will have to side with Mr. Fallows on the China/Germany comparison as being invalid for a number of reasons, but the primary one being the lack of territorial imperialistic ambitions on the part of the Chinese. As far as territory goes, China has never wanted more than what the Han consider "the historical and traditional" Chinese territory. Now this may greatly upset those living in Taiwan, Tibet, or Xinjang, but Mongolia or say Southeast Asia shouldn't really have any fear of the Chinese army coming in to annex their country. This is certainly not the case in the Germany during the run up to WWI or WWII. Quite the opposite. That's just not how the Chinese do things. Controlling resources, yes. (as recent events in Africa certainly show) But invasion? No. Even when under control of Mao, with his complete conviction of his own military genius, his two forays into invasions, Korea and (to a lesser extent) Vietnam, ended in disaster and broke any possibility of that sort of tactic in the future. I think Mr. Fallows was 100% correct in attempting to stamp out this thread of fear (shades of the old racist "Yellow Hordes" meme?) when it comes to things like the buildup of the Chinese Navy. Are they building up? Sure. But not to attack the US, only to insure that a War over Taiwan is one that they have a good chance of winning. Who would purchase Chinese goods if they *actually*got into a war with the US? Africa? Not likely... And without its titanic economic growth figures, how is China going to keep its wildly diverse population under state control?
The Chinese goal is internal cohesion above all things. Attacking the US would result in that cohesion being far more difficult, and therefore, only something like Taiwan attempting to declare independence would threaten such a beneficial relationship for both sides. Even then, I do not think the US would actually come to Taiwan's aid if it also meant war with China. Just look at how we handled the situation in Georgia...
Niall Ferguson's comparison of China and Germany (100 years ago) is frightening as much as it's appropriate. One addition to the rapid economic and industrial growth is the concept of the "peaceful rise" which is put forward by China. I wonder if Niall comparison would also apply to the Nazi Germany of 1930's. If so, we should remember how masterfully Hitler was able to hide his original motives to fool the rest of the Europe.