U.S.-China relations have entered perhaps their most trying period since normalization in 1979. As both countries rethink the trajectory of their relationship, the last 40 years of diplomacy are invaluable to informing new ideas on a way forward. With this notion in mind, Georgetown University recently launched the “U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast,” a series of interviews with former U.S. cabinet secretaries, ambassadors, and other senior officials who helped sculpt U.S.-China relations over much of the past four decades. These edited recordings, now being released individually, trace the negotiating history of major periods of conflict and cooperation between the two countries, including anti-Soviet coordination, the Tiananmen crackdown, nonproliferation, cyber theft, China’s WTO accession, its role in G-20 summits, and much more. In gleaning the lessons of the past, policymakers and the public may gain a clearer perspective on the road ahead for U.S.-China relations.
On April 22, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings welcomed James Green, the host of “U.S.-China Dialogue Podcast.” Green moderated a conversation with three highly esteemed experts who have shaped U.S.-China relations through their extensive careers in government—Amy Celico, David Shear, and Dennis Wilder—two of whom have been guests of the podcast. The group weighed the insights and oversights gathered through four decades of interacting with the Chinese government. Questions from the audience followed the discussion.
Senior Research Fellow, Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues - Georgetown University
Principal - Albright Stonebridge Group
Senior Advisor - McLarty Associates
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.