From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
China’s expected next president, Xi Jinping, is making a closely watched visit to the U.S. this week. We discuss with a panel of experts what the impending leadership change could mean for the future of Sino-U.S. relations.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The visit to the U.S. by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping has been carefully orchestrated. It's being as closely watched here as it is back in China. Here with me to examine the upcoming transition in leadership, what it could mean for the future of U.S.-China relations: Ken Lieberthal from The Brookings Institution, Nancy Bernkopf Tucker from Georgetown University and Quansheng Zhao from American University.
MS. DIANE REHMWe do invite your calls, comments, questions, 800-433-8850. You can join us on email to email@example.com. Send us your message on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
PROF. NANCY BERNKOPF TUCKERGood morning.
PROF. QUANSHENG ZHAOGood morning.
MR. KENNETH LIEBERTHALGood morning.
REHMNice to see you all. Quansheng Zhao...
REHM...tell us the purpose of Xi Jinping's visit.
ZHAOI guess this is a very important visit that's what really the president-to-be -- that is his next position.
REHMIs that certain?
ZHAOI guess so. Yes, at least from past experience and the current information.
REHMAll right. All right.
ZHAOSo that's led him to know about his colleague as his counterparts in the States and to build up a future relationship between these two most important countries.
REHMNancy, what should we expect from his visit?
TUCKERI think not terribly much. I would say that his accession is almost certain, but if he isn't very cautious while he is here, something could arise to disrail (sp?) his progress, not likely. But his main purpose, I think, is to be seen in the United States, interacting with the top leadership here. It's a get-to-know-you visit. He wants to have a better feel of American leadership. We want a better sense of what it's likely to be to deal with him in the future on a variety of sensitive issues, but not likely to produce any serious agreements or any real change in policy.
REHMAnd, Ken Lieberthal, what kinds of important issues have been raised, will be raised?
LIEBERTHALOur relationship with China is one where, when the top leaders get together, they actually take up the toughest issues across the board. This is isn't something where they sit in the same room and avoid raising difficult questions. So while the White House read-out on his meetings at the White House yesterday emphasized that it was not going to get into point by point, the reality is they discussed Syria, they discussed Iran, they touched on North Korea. U.S.-China bilateral economic and trade relations were a major part of the discussion.
LIEBERTHALLater on, Xi Jinping went over to the Pentagon where he met Secretary Panetta -- actually quite unusual for someone in Xi's position to do -- and I'm sure that they have a -- had a vigorous exchange about military to military relations and overall military postures in the region.
REHMWhat about human rights abuses?
LIEBERTHALUnquestioningly came up. In fact, I was at the lunch yesterday at the state department for Xi Jinping, and Vice President Biden gave a remarkably detailed, candid and critical set of comments, very much including the human rights agenda.
REHMWas there any acknowledgement on Xi's part that, in fact, human rights abuses had taken place?
LIEBERTHALXi's position there and elsewhere is the standard Chinese position, which is China is a developing country. It is in the midst of massive transition. It obviously has a ways to go on human rights. But it has been making substantial progress, and we should recognize that. And this is a matter that the Chinese care about a great deal. They often -- Xi did not yesterday. But they often add that, and, by the way, it isn't that you guys are the paragons of virtue on human rights. You have your own history and your own problems, too, so let's not get too preachy about this.
REHMI wonder about the fact, Nancy Tucker, that this is an election year in this country. How does that have an impact on U.S.-China relations? When you hear, for example, Mitt Romney insists if he's elected, he would use his first day in the Oval Office to declare China a currency manipulator.
TUCKERWell, I think it does a couple of things. First of all, President Obama has to be very careful how he deals with the Chinese. He has to, on the one hand, be seen as being a little tough, making sure that the Chinese understand that we want them to, as he says, obey the rules of the road and behave like other countries in the international community. On the other hand, he can't see -- be seen to be so tough that he worsens the relationship. So he's under political pressure. But from the Chinese side, the same thing is true. It's not just an election year for us.
TUCKERIt's a change, a transition in China as well, and so he doesn't want to put Xi Jinping in a terribly awkward position. But he does anticipate that the Chinese understand that it's an election year here. So all of this is a question of a lot of balancing between the U.S. and China to get it just right, which isn't so easy.
REHMQuansheng, what does it mean to get it just right?
ZHAOWell, we should all remember there are not only international audience but also domestic audience, that Xi Jinping had important task to portrait himself as a strong leader, you know, ready for the next presidency. If you look at this time and you try to be confident, you can see. And also, interestingly, for example, when he, you know, meeting with Vice President Biden, he quoted a popular music songs. It's very -- something like (foreign language) meaning -- that's actually from "Monkey King" story, saying that where is our -- how should we go?
ZHAOAnd then the road is right there. We have to work hard to get our directions. So...
REHMAnd to work hard together.
ZHAOTogether. Yet, in particular, he said this kind of a relationship between China and United States is unprecedented, I mean, in terms of this kind of two powers. So there is no ready ways to do that. We have to explore and think about -- so, in other words, he's trying to portrait himself as a leader with strategic vision rather than purely a technocrat. So that's a kind of interesting thinking and interesting image when we look at...
REHMQuansheng Zhao. He's professor of international relations, director of the Center for Asian Studies at American University. Also here in the studio: Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, professor of history at Georgetown University, and Ken Lieberthal. He's at The Brookings Institution. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. Ken Lieberthal, does China pose a military threat of any kind to the United States?
LIEBERTHALThe U.S. military is enormously stronger than China, including even in areas right near China. China's military, though, is increasing its capacities at a substantial pace. The reality is China seeks, over time, to be the dominant military force out to the eastern edge of the East China Sea. The U.S. has, for a long time, outside of China's territorial waters, had virtually total freedom of movement and action in that very region. We have stated we want to maintain that freedom of action, and they have made clear they want to dominate the area out to the edge of the East China Sea.
LIEBERTHALNeither those goals is attainable in the real world. We will either talk to each other in a serious, sustained and deep way over a period of years to figure out how China can meet its legitimate security needs and we can meet our obligations to friends and allies and our own national interest and show some mutual restrain and mutual understanding. Or we'll engage in the kind of military competition there that will cost a lot, raise tensions, be detrimental to the region and, by the way, leave both sides less secure. But, frankly, it's not clear which way that will come out at this point.
REHMA very tricky balance, Nancy.
TUCKERYeah. Yeah, I think particularly because there are at least two areas, perhaps three areas, of potential friction. In the South China Sea, China has been much more assertive in the last 18 months or so about its claims because there is a great deal of money involved. There are potential oil deposits that are substantial, and China is not alone in making claims on those areas. They also have, for years, relied on the United States to provide maritime security in the South China Sea.
TUCKERBut that's an uncomfortable dependency for the Chinese. And so as they grow their navy, they are becoming more active, and that questions then freedom of navigation for the United States and for others. There's also the possibility, of course, of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Although relations between China and Taiwan are quite good right now, there are substantial differences in the perspective of where that relationship is moving and how quickly. And the United States has been very involved in supporting Taiwan. That support could conceivably lead to conflict in the future with China.
REHMNancy Bernkopf Tucker, professor of history at Georgetown University, senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. We'll take a short break here. And when we come back, more conversation, then your calls and comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. As we talk about Vice President Xi Jinping's visit here to the United States, he is the expected heir apparent to the presidency. Here in the studio to discuss what's happening not only in China, but between China and the United States: Quansheng Zhao -- he is professor of international relations, director of the Center for Asian Studies at American University -- Nancy Bernkopf Tucker of Georgetown University, Kenneth Lieberthal of The Brookings Institution.
REHMWe have talked very briefly about currency manipulation, Nancy, and disputes about trade and the valuation of Chinese currency have really caused rifts of late. Are the differences manageable, or are we heading for some kind of trade war?
TUCKERWell, part of the problem is currency manipulation is something easy to understand, and so American politicians have focused on that, particularly because of the campaigning this year. But it's really not the heart of the problem. China has been appreciating its currency slowly, although not as much as we would like it to. But the real economic problem that currency speaks to are domestic American problems.
TUCKERWe have to do something about our own economy. I think, more broadly, there are questions of market access of investment, of China's coercion of technology transfer from U.S. companies to China and other issues like that that are perhaps as much, if not, more important than currency manipulation.
REHMAnd how do you see it, Quansheng?
ZHAOWell, we may have to also look at it from a big picture that is what we so call the power transition process, which is a theoretical notion. But, you know, many -- some scholars, they're still debating that, what do we mean by power transition? And then I have been recently developing a project entitled, a dual leadership structure in Asia-Pacific, that is China try to develop a economic power, and, whereas, United States still taking military security and political leadership.
ZHAOHow should -- and particularly after global financial crisis. And even though there are enormous problem as well for China, but appearing -- it has appeared that China may getting -- continue have economic upper hand in terms of development. So it -- how should we adjust this new phenomena? So this is a very important. And then another notion, Xi Jinping, this time, I noticed is -- he emphasized win-win situation.
ZHAOThat is to develop a complimentary relationship to a so-called -- another Chinese term Hillary Clinton used to call (speaks foreign language). That is same boat, so one has to help each other.
REHMWe're all in the same boat.
ZHAOIn the same boat, same boat.
REHMBut how do you respond to charges about Chinese currency manipulation and how it is -- that specifically, how it's affecting relations between the U.S. and China?
ZHAOIndeed. It is a serious problem. It reflect economic friction. Trade imbalance, currency issue is in the process. But I consider that as one of the technical issues -- both leadership and the bureaucrats can gradually solve that issue, just like when U.S. and Japan, back to '80s, there are similar problems. So I wouldn't see this issue would interrupt entirely of the bilateral strategic relationship.
REHMKen, how do you see it?
LIEBERTHALI think it's an issue that really needs to be managed carefully. Nancy was right. It's an issue that appears very attractive politically. It sounds simple. They undervalue their currency, increases their exports, reduces our exports to China. That has all kinds of bad repercussions for the United States, and, by the way, the fault is entirely China's. So we don't have to do anything they do, and our trade balance will come in to the right -- where we want it to be. And that's a wrong analysis. They do undervalue their currency. It does affect their global trade balance.
LIEBERTHALIt has almost no impact on the U.S.-China bilateral trade balance. The reality is China does have a lot of other things they do that are far more important for our economic purposes. And also, we have to be more attuned to exporting than we have traditionally been. It's one of the things Obama is trying bring about, but it's not easy because most of out firms don't focus on exports. So this is a -- you know, it's a complicated issue. To hang everything on currency is ridiculous. It's politically attractive, but it's substantively ridiculous.
LIEBERTHALAnd it can, frankly, get us into quite a bit of trouble if we don't manage it in a careful way. One last comment on it, if I can, and that is that an undervalued currency is now, I think, many in China would agree hurting China. The problem is that there are a lot of interests that have been built up in China around an undervalued currency: low-end exporters and this kind of thing, coastal provinces, et cetera. So they have tough politics internally in trying to move the currency to a higher level.
REHMAnd just to follow up on that, Tyler in Michigan emails. He says, "China today reminds me of the U.S. at the beginning of the industrial revolution. As the Chinese begin to demand better wages and working conditions along with more environmental regulations, does your panel see jobs that have been outsourced to China eventually leaving as it becomes less profitable once Chinese regulations begin to align with the rest of the world?" How do you see that, Nancy?
TUCKERSome of that's already happening, even less because of what's happening in China than because of the general economic problems in the world community. Shipping goods, particularly heavy and bulky goods, back from China to the United States are already becoming so expensive that some manufacturers have moved production back to the United States. But if we look ahead and say, yes, China's wages are going to improve, working conditions hopefully will get better, jobs that have been in China are probably not coming back to the U.S.
TUCKERThey're going to go to other cheap producers in Asia and elsewhere. So the assumption that we can force jobs back, that we can create jobs by being tough on China economically, I think, is misguided. The other thing is that in terms of currency and these other issues is the whole question of China's foreign exchange reserves and a lot of people are arguing we can put China in a difficult position, and they can threaten us by selling off some of those reserves. And so we will have an economic meltdown of some kind.
TUCKERI think we have to be clear in our vision that our relationship is interconnected and intertwined. We hurt China. They hurt us, and then we're both in bad shape.
REHMAnd on that point, Kathleen on Facebook writes, "Recently, Zbigniew Brzezinski said on 'The Diane Rehm Show' that it is important not to ever demonize China." Can you talk about that, Quansheng? Do you feel that there are times when the U.S. attempts, or elements within the U.S. attempt, to demonize China?
ZHAOWell, indeed this is a crucial time for the two countries to develop a so-called objective (word?) toward each other. I understand that both sides now undertaking a serious debate domestically about how to deal with each other. There are all these hard-liners and soft-liners, you know, to -- fortunately, mainstream, both Washington and Beijing, realize that. As Nancy early said, interdependence is so much between the two countries, so it should not demonize each other. So that is very crucial ideas.
ZHAOSo we do see the developing -- that's the notion I just early mentioned, Xi Jinping, this time of visit, saying that this is unprecedented, you know, the -- this kind of two major powers. But, back to Brzezinski, early, he suggested the G2 concept that not accepted by either Washington or Beijing, but that's interesting idea. That is, the two powers should work together, not only economic issues. There are a number of strategic global issues -- not only regional such as Korea Peninsula, but also Middle East and others.
LIEBERTHALYou know, I think, on the broad issue of demonizing China, there is a recent poll that was done. It was very interesting. What it indicated was, among older American -- middle aged and older -- more than half the people now have a negative view of China. But among younger Americans, there's a much more positive view, and that's true on the Chinese side, too. Younger Chinese tend to have a more positive view of the United States.
LIEBERTHALI think they just live in a world of a different level of communications and interaction. I worry not so much about demonization, you know, writ large, as I do about the notion of threat perceptions as they guide military investments because I do see the possibility that our two militaries will, pointing to each other, get into a back-and-forth, set up investments and deployments that will, in fact, produce a lot of tension and not much security down the pike.
TUCKERYeah, I've -- ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the American military has essentially been looking for another enemy which will justify the buildup in military power. That hasn't arisen because a war on terrorism doesn't really require huge investments on big weapon systems. So there is a temptation there to demonize China for very practical purposes within the United States, and on the part of the People's Liberation Army about us to justify their buildup. So this is a difficult and sensitive issue.
REHMBut another huge issue between the U.S. and China is cyber security. Ken Lieberthal, how big is the problem?
LIEBERTHALWell, I think this is an issue that has moved very rapidly from the periphery to the center of the U.S.-China relationship, and it's, in part, because the cyber world has been developing exponentially. Let's keep in mind, social media -- which, by the way, are revolutionizing communications in China even more than they are in the United States -- they're only about five years old. Ten years ago, no one knew about it.
LIEBERTHALSo this is a new realm. It's a difficult realm to get your arms around. For example, there are very well-documented instances of attacks launched on U.S. computer systems from China, not to disable the systems, but to penetrate them and get information. But in the cyber world, ironically, the attribution problem is key. It's hard to know whether these attacks are controlled by Chinese or by others using Chinese computers.
REHMKen Lieberthal of the Brookings Institution. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Ken, I know you travel to China a great deal. How do you protect yourself when you are there?
LIEBERTHALWell, I take a number of precautions. It isn't because I have secrets or something like that. I just don't like intrusions into my own personal emails, et cetera, so I do several things. One is I bring a laptop that is not my own laptop. It's one that I borrow from Brookings that is clean. Secondly, I borrow a cellphone that is clean. Thirdly, I never type a password in China.
LIEBERTHALI have a password on a thumb drive that I simply copy and paste when I'm in China because it's very easy to put on what's called keylogging software onto your laptop in your hotel room, where every key you type is duplicated elsewhere so that you can quickly give away your passwords. Finally, when I bring my equipment home, I turn it back in. And all of that is wiped clean at Brookings, and I then get back my original equipment. So these are just basic precautions.
LIEBERTHALOne other thing -- it's quite well known to people who deal with this -- is if you have a battery in your cellphone, not only is it possible here or elsewhere by technical folks to know exactly where you are, at least where that cellphone is at all times, but it's also quite easy to turn on the microphone. Even though your cellphone appears to be off, it can, in fact, be broadcasting your conversation. So you take a battery out of your cellphone if you don't want to have that capability out there.
REHMBut do you think that's happening not only in China, but elsewhere?
REHMIn other words, I mean, the Chinese are surely not the only ones who know how to get into your personal information.
LIEBERTHALThe reality in the cyber world today is that offense trumps defense. There is almost no system that is 100 percent safe against what's called an advanced persistent threat, sophisticated, ongoing, all -- you know, all-out effort to penetrate it. So that can happen anywhere. Absolutely. I think, for someone like me, it's more likely to occur in China than it may be to occur in England simply because the potential level of interest in China in who I deal with and on what issues than may be the case in England. I may be wrong about that.
LIEBERTHALMy systems may be compromised when I'm in London, but not when I'm in Beijing. I have no idea.
REHM...how do you feel with your own cyber security here in the United States?
ZHAOWell, I learned a great deal from Ken, my good friend.
ZHAOI don't have measure. I just keep being a small potato, so nobody would really pay attention to me. I guess this -- you know, to -- back to the big picture then, of course, this is a very serious problem. I understand that the Pentagon had launched several protests over that issue, so it's obviously -- and I also understand that both China and Beijing undertaking, like, a (word?) every year. Twice a year, they discuss the usual ways China counterparts, you know, to -- how to deal with this issue, so, still, it's in the process. Yeah.
TUCKERWell, I think we also have to remember that Ken's precautions in China are certainly necessary and targeted, but that people, for instance, who work on China here in the United States have their accounts hacked here in the United States.
TUCKERBy Chinese listening in to find out, you know, are you having sensitive conversations? Do you speak with officials? Can you -- can your accounts tell them anything about American policy?
REHMHave you ever had your account hacked?
TUCKERI've had a group that I'm part of hacked, although my account individually, no. But one other thing, I think, is important to remember is that we do it to them, too, not, I think, to the degree that they're doing it. But the United States is, if anything, better at penetrating systems than the Chinese are. So it is a two-way street, although I think the Chinese perhaps are more comprehensive than we are.
REHMNancy Bernkopf Tucker, professor of history at Georgetown University. We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, it's time to open the phones. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd let's go right to the phones as we talk about what's happening between the United States and China. First to Wynn (sp?) in Chapel Hill, N.C. Good morning to you.
WYNNGood morning. Thank you very much. My view is our major problem with China is our inability to have a political will to do the things to be competitive with them in the 21st century. They have some kind of quasi-oligarchy over there that, you know, dictates big economic policies through administrative fiat. And we're worrying about, you know, birth control and the deficit and the filibuster rule. We can't get anything done, and we're going to be steamrollered over the next 10 years by them economically if we don't get our act together politically.
LIEBERTHALWynn, I think you're exactly right. The biggest single thing we can do to have a strong and constructive relationship with China over the coming decade and more is to get our own act together domestically. If we bounce back, if we get the kind of agreement after this election that let's us get our own house in order so we again develop a vibrant economy and are on top of our fiscal problems, that will do more than anything else to secure our position in Asia and to secure the kind of relationship with China that works for both sides and not just for the Chinese side.
REHMAnd on that point, to you, Quansheng, Dixie in Lenoir City, Tenn. wants to know how Xi Jinping was selected and by whom. I'd like to back that up and get you to tell us a little about him, who he is, where he was educated and then get to the question of how he was chosen.
ZHAOFirst of all, there is no election system in -- like the Western practice. Basically, it is decided by the party. And Xi himself is a son of old revolution, (unintelligible) Xi Zhongxun's son. Xi Zhongxun was a leader back to Shaanxi, and together with Mao, during Yan'an period. But later, after -- around '62 -- early '60s, the father was purged, and Xi and the family also suffered, particularly during the Cultural Revolution. But his father returned to power when Deng Xiaoping resumed position. And the father, known as a reform leader, (word?) open mandate.
ZHAOXi Zhongxun then gained some popularity among both leaders and populars. And then Xi Jinping himself was sent to the countryside when he was a teenager, very young, and living in a very tough life in Shaanxi Province. And then back to -- after his father resumed power, he also back to -- and studied at Tsinghua University, received also -- all the way to a PhD degree and then had rich experience in both provincial, and also military briefly.
REHMSo he has shown qualities of leadership that the party feels belong at the top.
ZHAOIndeed. He was a provincial leader in both Fujian and also Shanghai mayor. Both positions demonstrated leadership function, and so, in a way, he had a -- even though there are no election system in China, but there are some so-called consultative system based on broad consultation among top leaders. And he was decided to be president.
REHMAnd do I understand correctly that his daughter is at Harvard?
ZHAOThat, it is said so, but I don't know detailed story about that.
REHMAll right. Nancy.
TUCKERYou know, one of the things I think we have to be very careful about is that Americans have this tendency to look at an incoming leader and say, deep inside, if you scratch the surface, you're going to find a reformer hiding there, and all we have to do is to help bring him out and make it possible for him to do the things he would really like to do. We did that with Hu Jintao. I remember, when he was here in Washington, everybody was very hopeful he was going to increase reform and even think about political reform. It didn't happen. If anything, Hu Jintao has backtracked.
TUCKERI'm not suggesting that Xi Jinping will backtrack, but I think we have to be very sober in looking at him. We have to pick out the features that are promising. But, remember, you don't get to the top in China by being soft.
REHMAnd how certain is it that he will get to the top, Ken?
LIEBERTHALOh, it'd be pretty much a political earthquake if he did not at this point.
LIEBERTHALYes. It's a -- he is the one person whose position has really been indicated very clearly as set for the top slot, top slot in the party, the government and the military. So if that were to be disrupted at this point, that would really suggest that the whole leadership succession in China is going to be very contentious and potentially unstable.
REHMAll right. To Plano, Texas. Good morning, Gabriel. You're on the air.
GABRIELGood morning, Diane. Fantastic program every day. Thank you for letting me talk in your program.
GABRIELTalking about the currency manipulation, since the dollar is the currency of the world economy, when the United States print in money, isn't that a form of currency manipulation? Thank you.
REHMWell -- and to follow that up, Vin from Hebron, N.H. says: "Isn't it hard for us to criticize the Chinese for manipulating their currency? Just before President Obama criticized them last year, we had quantitative easing, too. Wasn't that a form of currency manipulation by devaluing our currency?" Ken.
LIEBERTHALI don't think it's the case that because we undertake actions with our currency, therefore, we should not point to harmful practices by China with their currency. Each country has its own policies. Each of us is subject to global opinion on this. And I think that China's currency policies have, frankly, been more harmful globally than ours by quite a bit. They have really encouraged major global imbalances that have been hard to correct, especially given China's increasingly robust international trade regimen.
REHMSheng, (sp?) how would you see it?
ZHAOWell, like I said earlier, this is, indeed, a -- one of the major problems between the two countries. However, my understanding is that, even here in Washington, we don't necessarily have a consensus about how should we label this. And some committees, if I understand it correctly, are not necessarily just right out there saying you're a policy manipulator. So, in other words, there are still discussion over that issue and China's side also working very hard.
ZHAOLike Nancy early also pointed out, there are serious concerns in China about labor issue, about job situation and further cutting this possibility export than their jobs also. So, in other words, it's really a comprehensive picture. And also, Chinese currencies free -- convertibility is still not there. It's not really international currency yet in the sense like a Japanese yen or U.S. dollar, so China has adopted a pretty cautious -- so in other words, my view is it need a close consultation between Beijing and the Washington to get this issue set rather than politicizing this issue.
TUCKERWell, I think what he just said sort of takes us to another point, which is China -- it has become part of the international community. The U.S. has asked it to be a responsible stakeholder. What China sees when it looks at that, and when President Obama says it must follow the rules of the road is -- are rules that China didn't help write, so, to some degree, the Chinese look at these things and say, well, we would like to change things a bit, now that we are a power with influence in the world community. That's a little hard for the United States because we wrote most of those rules.
REHMNancy Tucker of Georgetown University. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What kind of leader do you expect Xi to be, Quansheng?
ZHAOI said early, I mentioned that there are two different attacks if you look at early time. Mao and Deng, I would consider their strategic worship. They have vision of a leader in terms -- and then the following leaders might consider as a technocrat. You know, it's not necessarily has a strategic vision. Xi, interestingly, try to at least to -- my understanding -- try to work toward that direction, back to strategic vision of a leader.
ZHAOBut, of course, we're still in the process looking at that and considering his past experience and very tough situation by -- interestingly, for example, he -- there are not necessarily every place with some talking notes, you know, like -- and he can have his own language, his, you know, that kind of say, interests. Early, I mentioned, even quote some popular songs, which is also interesting, so that kind of seeing -- but, of course, it still remain to be seen.
REHMKen, how do you envision this new leader? What do you expect at this point?
LIEBERTHALI think he will find that, within two years, he faces a situation where he has a choice of either initiating major reforms in China or risking major crisis in China.
REHMBecause of his own people?
LIEBERTHALBecause the situation in China is becoming increasingly tensed from any quality of wealth, from corruption getting out of control, with dramatic environmental deterioration, the spread of social media, a lot of different things. We've seen very rapid growth in China for the last 10 years, but it's largely growth as a consequence of the reforms initiated by the people who are in power for the previous 10 years. The leaders of the last 10 years have not followed along with that.
LIEBERTHALAs Nancy mentioned earlier, there's been kind of stagnation reform. Problems had built up in their system. The Chinese know it very well. They've laid it out that they have to change the way they put -- has changed their development model in order to continue to be successful. But that requires significant political adjustments that have not been made. And Xi will either prove to be the man who galvanizes the system to make those adjustments, or I'm afraid this is going to be a very unsuccessful presidency.
REHMAnd we haven't talked at all about the aging population, Nancy, in China.
TUCKERThat's going to be a tremendous burden for the Chinese. The population is aging rapidly, and the one-child policy, which we actually -- well, I shouldn't say we encourage. Some members of our Congress looked at that as a positive development, that we have been concerned about how that has been accomplished. The result for China has been that there are not enough women for men to marry, and so...
REHMThere are six men to every five women is my understanding.
TUCKERYes. And so it's not just an aging population, but an isolated and unhappy population, and also a population that hasn't been given the opportunity to buy consumer goods that they thought was part of the process of China's rising and growing more prosperous. A lot of people may have been lifted out of poverty by the Chinese government, but haven't had access to the kinds of advantages that they expected to get. So there's a great deal of unrest all over China.
REHMFrom your prospective, Quansheng, do you believe that this transition will be a step forward China? Do you see that it will muddy the waters? How do you see this transition?
ZHAOMuddy the water continue to be a word, however, we have to recognize the challenge the new leadership, Xi leadership may face. As Ken just mentioned, there are daunting domestic problems. Essentially, there would be a dilemma for the new Chinese leaders. One, everybody understands that you cannot only do economic reform. You have to touch political issue, so -- and how to do that? Political reform is a huge question, and that's facing another -- usually that's social unrest.
ZHAOAnd as (unintelligible) and others so-called stability issue, so how to handle this dilemma is really one of the central issues. Hu Yaobang, the early leader back to the '80s, tried to touch upon that issue and was not successful and ended up with the Tiananmen and others. Of course, there's also a Deng Xiaoping and other issues. So one of the issues Chinese leaders maybe afraid and try to avoid is another huge social in stability in - and unrest, but how...
REHMHow will they do that?
ZHAOThat's a major challenge that is, on the one hand, that you continue to sustain economic high-speed growth, but on the other hand you tried to do some sort of political reform.
ZHAOLike Wen Jiabao recently, the prime minister, emphasizing the so-called universal value of human can't. It's a serious -- that notion. Now, it's under debate, that whether there is such universal value or not. So a lot of those issues is going on, so now is, indeed, is a major -- one of the major ties to the new leader, Xi Jinping.
TUCKEROne of the things we haven't talked a lot about is human rights, and, of course, that's an issue that Americans feel strongly about. And when you look at the government that's been in place in China for the last 10 years, what you see is backtracking. There's been repression. There have been lots of arrest of people who spoke out simply on political issues. This is of concern to us, but, of course, for the Chinese people as well.
REHMNancy Tucker of Georgetown University, Ken Lieberthal of The Brookings Institution and Quansheng Zhao, professor at American University. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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