"Enduring Relationship" with China Needed, Opines Lee Hamilton '52

"Enduring Relationship" with China Needed, Opines Lee Hamilton '52

August 25, 2008

Lee Hamilton Point.jpgAugust 25, 2008, Greencastle, Ind. - "The great questions in foreign affairs for this century will involve China," predicts veteran statesman Lee Hamilton in an Indianapolis Star op-ed. Published hours after the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Hamilton asks of China, "Can its emergence be managed peacefully? Does it want to become a 'stakeholder' in the international system, or transform the system and challenge the U.S. in Asia and beyond?"

Hamilton, a Democrat who served 34 years in Congress and chaired the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is a 1952 graduate of DePauw University. "The combination of a technically eye-popping opening ceremony and impressive execution of the Olympic Games demonstrates the lengths to which China went to ensure the world saw the best it had to offer and paid China its due respect," he writes. "China won more gold medals than any other country and its leadership sought such an outcome to be the world's focus for two weeks -- not china flag.gifDarfur, Tibet or democracy. This was a coming-out party of unprecedented size and scope."

With the games over, attention will refocus on China's "troublesome" human rights situation and "daunting" problems. "Income inequality is growing," Hamilton notes. "Inflation is a threat. The country is rapidly aging. The divide between urban and rural quality of life is vast. Corruption is widespread. Global energy resources to fuel its rapid industrialization are limited. And there are horrendous environmental problems. The political system limits the free flow of information, lacks the self-correcting mechanisms of democracy, and stifles creativity. So the government's mission is to preserve stability amid formidable challenges. This task has been particularly burdensome in 2008. An uprising and vicious crackdown in Tibet in March inspired protests around the world, the May earthquake in Sichuan killedLee Hamilton Students 2004-1.jpg more than 50,000, and international outrage over Beijing's ties to the Sudanese government continues." (at left: Hamilton talks with DePauw students in historic East College)

The man who co-chaired the Iraq Study Group and 9/11 Commission states that despite its growing military might, "For now, my impression is that China is focused on economic growth, social stability and national unity -- not outward aggression. At the end of the day -- on North Korea, energy security, the global economy, and even Iran -- we agree with China. It is startling to see China's capacity to allay or aggravate our concerns regarding the economy, energy, the environment and foreign policy." 

Hamilton concludes, "Treating Beijing as a threat only will guarantee that it becomes one. We should seek an enduring relationship that facilitates China's further integration into the community of nations, while lee hamilton color.jpgconstructively engaging China on issues like Tibet, Taiwan, Darfur, the rule of law, and the freeing of political prisoners."

Read the complete essay at IndyStar.com.

Lee Hamilton, the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., is among the scheduled speakers at today's opening session of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Next month, he will come to the DePauw campus to participate in DePauw Discourse 2008: America's Role in the World.

Learn more about him in this recent story.