On January 22, 2020, Dr. Jonathan D.T. Ward, Founder of Atlas Organization, a consultancy firm focused on the rise of China and India, U.S.-China relations, and the new geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific, spoke at The Institute of World Politics. Dr. Ward received his D.Phil. in China-India relations from Oxford University and has traveled extensively through the Indo-Pacific region. Dr. Ward has done consultancy work for the Pentagon on Chinese strategy. At IWP, Dr. Ward discussed his book China’s Vision of Victory, which expounds upon Chinese global strategy.
Dr. John Lenczowski, Founder and President of The Institute of World Politics, moderated this event and started off the lecture by asking Dr. Ward what problem is he trying to solve through his book. Dr. Ward emphasized that he wants people to see what he is seeing. For over ten years, Dr. Ward has been studying the rise of China. Within this time, he has noticed that many people focus solely on analyzing commerce when it comes to the rise of China and neglect other areas of concern, such as Tibet and Xinjiang province. Dr. Ward stressed that “we need to understand (China) [and] stop making assumptions.”
Dr. Ward explained the United States’ current policy towards China as “engage and hedge.” However, he noted that this policy is based on U.S. illusions of China’s goals as well as the United States’ wishful thinking of politically liberalizing China. The U.S. is currently “engaging and hedging” with China economically because the U.S. does not want China to become a military superpower. However, currently, the U.S. does not fully understand China’s goals. According to Dr. Ward, China is undergoing the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” but no one is asking the question: “What do China’s leaders really want?”
Dr. Ward went on to describe China’s current fundamental strategy as beating the U.S. economically first, then use this economic advantage to achieve military and diplomatic superiority. In order for the U.S. to prevent China from gaining military and diplomatic superiority, Dr. Ward stated that the U.S. cannot let China surpass the U.S. in real GDP. Currently, the U.S. still has a much larger GDP than China. But, Dr. Ward warned, if the U.S. does not devise an economic plan to combat China’s rise, China will surpass the U.S. in terms of real GDP. Dr. Ward explained that when one country has an economic advantage, it also has the advantage in terms of technology and military, which is why China wants to surpass the United States economically.
According to Dr. Ward, the answer to winning the contest with China is to utilize the alliance system: “We have a vast world of people to draw upon.” The U.S. does not have to take on this competition alone; the U.S needs help from other powers too. One example Dr. Ward gave was the example of India. He stated, “India is a player; India’s choices will have an impact.” There have been talks about “Mission 500,” a plan to get the United States and India to achieve $500 billion in trade. Cooperation between the U.S. and other countries, such as India, will allow the U.S. to combat China’s rise.
Dr. Ward also touched upon the leadership of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the rise of Chinese nationalism, the current situation in Hong Kong, and how these aspects further impact Sino-American relations. His final remarks emphasized the importance of a U.S. victory in this economic competition in order to maintain military deterrence. However, the U.S. must also succeed in the moral domain, the most important domain.