Debate: Should the U.S. Seek to Contain China?

This panel is co-sponsored with the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy There is a growing divergence among realists and restrainers on the issue of U.S.-China policy. On one side, a belief that Beijing has aims of regional if not global hegemony, and that Washington has a responsibility to its allies and partners to lead the security challenge and contain China’s perceived ambitions. On the other, a belief that the China “threat” has been inflated, that Beijing’s regional ambitions are not a direct threat to the United States, and that its hostility has in many ways been a reaction to aggressive Western behavior. At the very most, the U.S. should help its friends in the region defend itself to balance the power of competing interests but without the US leading the charge. The Quincy Institute has brought together two brilliant speakers (and Quincy Institute non-resident fellows) to argue the question: Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago will argue that China is indeed a threat that needs to be contained, while David Kang of the University of Southern California will argue against containment, and that an aggressive military response is unnecessary and unduly escalatory. Kelley Vlahos, Editorial Director of Responsible Statecraft, will moderate.


John Mearsheimer

John Mearsheimer is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1982. Among his six books, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001, 2014) won the Joseph Lepgold Book Prize, and The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (with Stephen M. Walt, 2007), made the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into twenty-four languages. His latest book is The Great Delusion: Liberal Ideals and International Realities (2018), which won the 2019 Best Book of the Year Award from the Valdai Discussion Conference, Moscow. He has written numerous articles and op-eds that have appeared in International Security, London Review of Books, Foreign Affairs, The Financial Times, and The New York Times. In 2003, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

David Kang

David Kang is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, with appointments in the Department of Political Science and International Relations, East Asian Languages and Cultures and in the Marshall School of Business. Kang is also director of the USC Korean Studies Institute and Vice-Chair of the Political Science and International Relations department. Kang’s latest book is State Formation through Emulation: the East Asian Model, coauthored with Chin-Hao Huang (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). He has authored five other scholarly books, and has published articles in journals such as International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Security. Kang has also written opinion pieces in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and appears regularly in media such as CNN, PBC, the BBC, and NPR.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos (Moderator)

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and Editorial Director of its online magazine, Responsible Statecraft. Previously she served as executive editor, managing editor, and longtime foreign policy/national security writer at The American Conservative magazine. She also spent 15 years as an online political reporter at Fox News.