26 Oct 2023 03:44

In Memoriam: Jeffrey A. Bader, from February 2022

This week on Sinica, we're running an interview with Jeffrey Bader from early last year. We learned on Monday morning that Jeff had died, and we dedicate this interview to his memory.

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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with Jeff Bader, who served as senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council during the first years of the Obama presidency, until 2011. Now a senior fellow at the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institute, Jeff was deeply involved in U.S.-China affairs at the State Department from his first posting to Beijing back in 1981 continuously for the next 21 years, through 2002. He later served as U.S. ambassador to Namibia and was tapped to head Asian Affairs at the NSC after Obama took office. Jeff is the author of a fascinating book on Obama’s China policy, Obama and China’s Rise: An Insider’s Account of America’s Asia Strategy. In this conversation, he offers a candid critique of the Biden China policy to date.

Note that this conversation was taped in mid-February — before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and before the Department of Justice announced the end of the “China Initiative.”

Note that this conversation was taped in mid-February — before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and before the Department of Justice announced the end of the “China Initiative.”

3:23 – How viewing China over 40 years of rapid development has shaped the way Jeff thinks about China

8:54 – Jeff Bader’s critique of the Biden administration’s China policy

19:40 – Is it important to have a China strategy?

24:55 – Right-sizing China’s ambitions: Is Rush Doshi right?

31:17 – Defining China’s legitimate interests

38:31 – Has China already concluded that the U.S., irrespective of who is in power, seeks to thwart China’s rise?

43:16 – How can China participate in the rules-based international order?

47:52 – Is it still possible for Biden to change his tune on China?

52:57 – How much room does Biden have politically? Can he exploit to electorate’s partisan divide on China?

59:54 – What is the “low-hanging fruit” that Biden could pluck to signal a lowering of temperature?

1:12:09 – Jeff Bader’s precepts for better understanding of — and better policy toward — China

Recommendations

Jeff: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom, a book by Stephen Platt about the Taiping Civil War focusing on Hong Rengan.

Kaiser: Re-recommending two previous guests’ recommendations: Iaian McGilchrists’s The Master and his Emissary recommended by Anthea Roberts; and Unfabling the East: The Enlightenment’s Encounter with Asia by Jurgen Osterhammel, recommended by Dan Wang.

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