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Are the US and China on the road to war?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017 9:58am

Are the US and China on the road to war - a panel discussion to be held tomorrow evening - is the latest in a series of public lectures to celebrate 50 years of Politics at Otago.

North Korea’s nuclear test over the weekend, and ongoing territorial disputes between China and many of its regional neighbours, including India, Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines suggests that a storm is brewing on New Zealand’s foreign policy horizon.

It is an illusion to believe that we can be a neutral bystander on these issues.

A public panel discussion will be held tomorrow to discuss US-China relations, and hear views from political experts Robert Patman and Nicholas Khoo from Otago’s Department of Politics and Professor Alex Tan of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Canterbury.

The discussion, in the Burns 1 Lecture Theatre from 6pm to 7:30pm, is part of a series of lectures being held to celebrate 50 years of politics at Otago.

Are the United States and China on the road to war?

The rise of China since landmark economic reforms in the late 1970s is one of the big stories in world politics. The largest number of people in human history have been lifted from poverty, and China’s impressive economic growth has bolstered the world economy in the post-2008 global financial crisis.

However, in recent years, we have also seen a clear increase in tensions between China and the US, and this raises a number of questions. What are the sources of these tensions? Can they be moderated? What is the likely trajectory of the U.S.-China relationship in the 21st century?

Dr Khoo believes that at the policy level, China’s territorial disputes strike at New Zealand’s core national security interests, specifically, freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific. In fact, given our dependence on global trade, we arguably have a greater interest than many other states in a satisfactory resolution of these disputes.

About 70 per cent of New Zealand’s trade and investment is in the Asia-Pacific region.

Today, 14 of New Zealand’s top 20 export markets are in the Asia Pacific, and two of its major export markets are in China and the US respectively. New Zealand has signed Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with both China and South Korea, and is currently seeking to reactivate the Trans-Pacific-Partnership agreement after the Trump administration.

Professor Robert Patman.

Professor Patman agrees New Zealand has a big stake in regional stability in Northeast Asia.

“As a country with strong non-nuclear credentials and one which has good relations with the US, China and South Korea, it is important our government leaves no doubts internationally about its interests and values in relation to current developments like the tensions associated with the North Korean crisis.

“New Zealand must actively encourage and support international efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. But an expanded New Zealand diplomatic effort to resolve the North Korea crisis must go hand in glove with the frank recognition Wellington does not share the worldviews of either the Trump administration in Washington or the Xi Jinping regime in Beijing.

“New Zealand’s opposition to nuclear weapons in North Korea should not be an endorsement of Trump’s ‘America First’ strategy or an acceptance of Beijing’s China-centric approach to its regional neighbourhood.”

Celebrating 50 years of Politics at Otago

The Politics Department has hosted five open lectures already to celebrate its 50th, including one from Emeritus Professor James R. Flynn – the department’s founder in 1967 who is still active in teaching.

The final panel discussion on 5 October will be on “100 years since the Russian Revolution 1917,” hosted by Brian Roper and James Headley.

The Department will also be hosting a conference from November 29 to December 1 - NZPSA 2017: (Dis) ordering Politics: Exclusion, Resistance and Participation.

"It was a great way of marking our anniversary, and shows a definite appetite for politics here in Dunedin."

Head of Department Professor Janine Hayward is thrilled with the turnout of students, University staff and members of the public to each of the presentations, and with the broad range of interesting questions raised during discussions.

“It was a great way of marking our anniversary, and shows a definite appetite for politics here in Dunedin.

“We’re also heartened by the conversations being held around the monthly Otago Daily Times opinion pieces our staff have contributed to mark our input into political research and education in New Zealand.”

See here for the latest.

The Department is well regarded for the balance its curriculum offers between theory, domestic, regional and international politics, something it has maintained since inception.

“The result is a broad training and a respected qualification that has produced graduates working across the globe in politics, business and NGOs, including the United Nations and the World Bank. It’s a very proud time for us.”