On November 15, 2017, the students of the Tsinghua-SAIS Dual Degree Program met with Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, as part of the course Policy Research in a Simulated Think Tank. In a wide-ranging conversation, Mr. Paal discussed his career inside and outside of the US government, as well as his opinions on US-China relations and other issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.
2017年11月15日，卡内基国际和平基金会副会长包道格（Douglas H. Paal）和清华-约翰·霍普金斯双硕士项目的学生进行了会谈。包道格先生向同学们讲述了他在美国政府内外任职的经历，并交流了他对中美关系及亚太地区发展的认识。
Mr. Paal began the discussion by providing his thoughts on US President Donald Trump’s recent inaugural tour of Asia, with the consequential visit to Beijing receiving a particular focus. Although President Trump was well received by Chinese President Xi Jinping, building on the positive personal relationship established during their first meeting in Florida earlier in the year, Mr. Paal noted a dearth of substantive achievements and characterized the visit as reflective of a lack of ambition in the Trump administration’s China policy.
In keeping with this theme, while the administration has heralded the announcement of $250 billion in trade deals between the US and China as a major accomplishment, Mr. Paal expressed a degree of skepticism as to the number of these agreements that would ultimately reach fruition. Furthermore, Mr. Paal argued that both the United States and the international community at large would have been better served had the administration maintained continuity with its predecessors by insisting on an “open economic system”, rather then President Trump’s preferred vision for the global economic system, “free and fair trade”. As such, Mr. Paal saw President Trump’s effort to convince President Xi Jinping to support the latter as a step backwards for economic policy.
Mr. Paal also criticized the administration’s sluggish progress on regional issues of critical importance and suggested a lack of preparedness, especially in comparison to Chinese counterparts. Mr. Paal pointed to the absence of any significant agreement regarding the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the Trump administration’s failure to properly brief partner countries prior to a speech unveiling an “Indo-Pacific Strategy” between the US, Australia, Japan, and India, as evidence of this fact.
Instead, Mr. Paal offered that President Trump would have found greater success had he leveraged the opportunity afforded by the tour to present a new “high-concept” way of managing US-China relations. Nonetheless, Mr. Paal noted that President Trump’s trip could certainly have been worse, as he recalled his experience accompanying President George H.W. Bush as part of the National Security Council staff during a 1992 trip to Asia in which the president vomited on the Japanese Prime Minister.
The topic of discussion then moved to Mr. Paal’s history in government, as well as his experience in the think tank world. He described his time serving as a CIA analyst in Myanmar from 1982-1984, which was marked by the attempted assassination of South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan in Yangon by North Korean agents. Mr. Paal later served on President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Council and became National Security Advisor for East Asia under President George H.W. Bush. With the switch from a Republican to a Democratic administration in the early 1990s, Mr. Paal left the government and started his own think tank focused on Asian policy. However, he eventually returned to the public sector to work under President George W. Bush, serving as the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s unofficial representative office in Taiwan, from 2002-2006. Mr. Paal then served as vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase International before finally moving to Carnegie, where he has been for the past ten years.
Mr. Paal then answered questions from students for the final part of the discussion. The first question asked Mr. Paal to elaborate on his time as Director of AIT as well as his views on the future of Cross-Strait relations. He noted that his time as director was a tense period in US-Taiwan relations shaped by disagreements between the Bush administration and Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan’s leader at the time. Despite more recent personnel changes at the organs responsible for China’s Taiwan policy, Mr. Paal believes that the current status quo will remain largely intact for the foreseeable future. However, he noted that many economic, military, and regional trends are not moving in Taiwan’s favor.
A question was then asked about developments in Southeast Asia. Mr. Paal noted that while relations between the US and many ASEAN countries weakened in the latter days of the Obama administration, which heavily emphasized human rights, his discussions with many ASEAN leaders suggested that they were optimistic that relations would improve with President Trump.
The discussion concluded with Mr. Paal’s opinions on the future of US-China relations. He criticized the idea that war between the two powers was inevitable, noting that concepts such as the “Thucydides Trap” are hardly relevant in the age of nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, Mr. Paal does not believe that managing the US-China relationship will be easy, and he sees little potential for any “grand bargain.” He stated that the US and China can deal with issues on a one-by-one basis to find areas of mutual benefit, arguing that the Obama administration’s decision to refrain from joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was a missed opportunity for such cooperation. Mr. Paal concluded that that no matter how the relationship develops, America has played a significant role in providing a secure and stable environment for the economic development of the Asia-Pacific, and the US will continue to play an important role in the future.
Mr. Paal imparted valuable knowledge for members of the class seeking careers in government service, as well as for those interested in working in the think tank world. The insights gained from his personal experience contributing to the development of US-China relations also provided important context for students as they prepare to enter the field of international affairs.