tirsdag 25. august 2020

Is There a Future for Values-Based Engagement with China?

A key feature of current debates over U.S.-China relations is the proposition that “engagement failed,” in light of the Chinese government’s increasingly aggressive posture towards liberal values at home and on the world stage. Already on the defensive, proponents of engagement have had to reckon, most recently, with the heavy-handed passage of a new National Security Law for Hong Kong, as well as the arrest and subsequent firing of Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun (who has been one of Xi Jinping’s most vocal critics amongst Chinese intellectuals). But in an essay published in ChinaFile earlier this month, Chinese political scientist and democracy advocate Li Fan argues that the seeds of political reform nurtured by values-based engagement continue to develop in China, notwithstanding adverse conditions, and that the benefits of such work by scholars and civil society groups are underappreciated by proponents of “decoupling.”

As the U.S. government takes steps to reduce interaction with China—including through enhanced scrutiny of Chinese students in the United States, and possible new limitations on their ability to even reach or stay in the country—does there remain space, on either side, for academic and civil-society engagement between the U.S. and China to continue to operate? And if so, what form should it take, and to what possible end(s)?