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China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections

“China Town Hall: Local Connections, National Reflections,” 7 p.m., Oct. 24, Lilly Family Gallery. Free and open to the public.
Susan E. Rice
The Honorable Susan E. Rice

China's twice-in-a-decade Communist Party Congress underway this week is generating a roadmap for the world's most populous nation in the coming years, including a formal elevation of President Xi Jinping to the level of Mao Zedong in the eyes of the Chinese Communist Party. At the same time, U.S. President Donald Trump prepares to pressure Xi next month on issues around nuclear tensions with North Korea.

The implications for U.S.-China relations in this time of great change and instability are momentous and urgent–politically, militarily and economically. Participants in an interactive town hall webcast on campus tonight will add their voices to a national conversation on the issues of the day with The Honorable Susan E. Rice, former National Security Advisor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of Political Science and chair of the Chinese Studies Department at Davidson, will provide commentary at the event.

"New leaders, new priorities, new directions–these will be the 19th Party Congress's most important outcomes," Rigger said. "Among those outcomes: heightened authority and power for President Xi Jinping, continued resolve to crack down on corruption, and determination to continue building strong economic partnerships with neighboring countries through China's Belt and Road Initiative."

Shelley Rigger
Prof. Shelley Rigger

The Economist magazine said of the latter, an infrastructure project along the old Silk Road linking China and Europe, "The ambition is immense. China is spending roughly $150 billion a year in the 68 countries that have signed up to the scheme."

The Davidson location of the China Town Hall webcast is one of more than 85 simultaneous gatherings in the nationwide initiative to provide Americans across the United States and beyond the opportunity to discuss issues in the relationship with leading experts.

The national forum will be moderated by Stephen A. Orlins, President of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. The Davidson event is sponsored by The Dean Rusk International Studies Program and the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Rigger, author of Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse, as well as two books on Taiwan's domestic politics, testified before congressional committees on China policy and is often quoted by national news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

In advance of her commentary tonight, Rigger offered a few crucial questions for advance consideration:

  • Is the Belt and Road Initiative likely to succeed in reducing U.S. influence and importance around the world?
  • Will Xi Jinping use his enhanced position to dial back his government's efforts to hypercharge its economy?
  • Is economic liberalization in the blueprint?
  • Will "coopetition"–a dynamic in which China and the United States cooperate on matters of shared concern (such as environmental protection and North Korean nuclearization) while competing in other areas–continue to characterize U.S.-China relations?
  • Above all, what kind of partner will Xi Jinping be in efforts to maintain peace and stability around the world?
  • And is this a partnership the United States is even seeking today?

John Syme