China in the World

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the China in the World podcast, Paul Haenle is interviewing five of the most respected Chinese international affairs scholars to discuss this important inflection point in U.S.-China relations. For the fourth episode in this series, Haenle spoke with Shi Yinhong, Director of the American Studies Institute at Renmin University and Director of the Academic Committee of the School of International Relations.

Shi pointed to two important turning points in China’s foreign policy shift to a more assertive international approach. The first was the global financial crisis stressed the importance of China’s economic development as an engine for global growt. The second was Xi’s rise to power and a more ambitious international approach. Shi said China undertook a number of new foreign policy initiative in the South China Sea, relations with Russia, and the Belt and Road Initiative. China is now at a stage where it should assess the successes and failures of its recent foreign policies. Beijing must be willing to be flexible and adjust its future international engagement to reflect the realities of the evolving geopolitical environment. At home, Chinese policymakers should implement much more broad and deep reforms to ensure stable economic and financial systems. This includes areas increasing market access, giving equal treatment to private and state owned enterprises, and addressing core demands laid out in the USTR section 301 report. Time is running out, Shi argued, and China needs to act quickly before implementing further economic reforms becomes too difficult. In the current contentious US-China relationship, Shi said prudent pessimists are needed to think through urgent resolutions and save the bilateral relationship from continuing down a dangerous path.