The political science department hosted George Washington University professor of political science David Shambaugh on Wednesday Oct 1. Shambaugh is considered an authority on Chinese politics and security in southeast Asia. Shambaugh has an impressive resume including of 11 of his own books, his most recent being China Goes Global: The Partial Power.
It was with the help of professor of political science James Moor that the crowded lecture, held during all-college hour, occurred.
“I don’t even give lectures to audiences of this size at my own school,” Shambaugh said.
His lecture focused mostly on his new book and his controversial stance on China and its influence––or lack thereof––in facets such as culture, foreign policy and domestic policy.
Shambaugh spent a great deal of time elaborating on his thesis, which states that while China is most definitely a rising power, it does not exert influence on a great deal of global policy or events. It is merely an actor, exerting very little influence on other countries.
And yet, Shambaugh says, China is not a “re-actor.” He mentioned multiple global issues such as the crises in Ukraine, Syria and with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which China has not made any comment on.
Shambaugh says this is mainly because China has not been a world power in some time—since the 1500s, to be exact—and as such, much of their foreign policy is risk averse.
The latter half of his lecture pertained to China’s recent focus in “soft power;” that is to say China has an image problem. In his latest book, Shambaugh writes, “China’s appeal as a ‘model’ to others is weak to non-existent.”
China has spent a great deal of resources promoting Chinese culture, entertainment and domestic life. It is still viewed negatively by most countries, however. Excluded from this of course are its few allies, namely North Korea and Russia, to an extent.
Shambaugh said that most of the global interest in China is business but that “there isn’t anyone seeking political asylum in China, when they have many people serving jail sentences for subverting governmental authority.”
Shambaugh did mention that China is on course to eventually overtake the United States as the leading power in “hard power,” which pertains to economic and militaristic endeavors. While China is undoubtedly an “economic engine,” as Shambaugh says in his book, it will be years, before China overtakes the U.S. in its military sophistication.
Shambaugh’s lecture was illuminated to the actualities of China’s influence in the world. He made it clear that China has been perceived as too high of risk in recent years and that it is actually still struggling to find its place on the global stage.