Dr. David Shambaugh is recognized across the globe as an authority on contemporary Chinese affairs. He has worked with and for the U.S. State Dept., the National Security Council, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Library of Congress. He serves on several editorial boards including International Security and The China Quarterly.
He's a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar and has taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He is currently the director of the China Policy Program at the Elliot School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
On Thursday, Oct. 28, Shambaugh will be the keynote speaker at the 27th annual Frank Church Conference. The theme of the day-long conference at Boise State is "Eagle and Dragon: The U.S. and China in the 21st Century."
Did you have opportunity to know the late Frank Church?
Oh, yes. I was a young student at George Washington University and was quite impressed with his foreign policy views. I thought he was a great candidate so I volunteered to work on his presidential campaign in 1976.
A full generation doesn't know about Frank Church, except for a few references in texts. What would you tell a student today about the late senator?
Not many American senators or congressmen are even aware of the outside world. It is said that two-thirds of the American Congress don't even hold passports. There is a tremendous insularity and parochialism among American politicians these days.
But Senator Church exemplified someone who developed an interest and expertise in international relations. More than that, he sought to shape it. He wound up being the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee. He was very outspoken in questioning the Vietnam War and the Johnson and Nixon administrations' statistics on the war. I would tell young people today that Frank Church is a role model that we don't have in American public and political life today.
What are you witnessing in students' ramped-up participation and interest in Chinese studies?
I can tell you that international relations are in very high demand with this generation, which is a good sign. China is right near the top of their interest. I teach Chinese foreign policy, Chinese politics, Chinese military and security affairs, and U.S.-China relations. Not only do I have a high subscription to my classes, but I have a growing number of students who have been to China, lived in China, or even speak Chinese.
Is China's currency dramatically undervalued?
Well, that's what many of the world's top economists are agreeing on lately. There's been considerable debate about it.
In a recent Newsweek article, Robert Samuelson wrote about the possibility of a trade war with China. Is there some reality to that?
I would hope not. I would hope that both governments would have the sanity and pragmatism to back away from the cliff. There is a protectionist surge in both countries. Having said that, Samuelson's arguments are exaggerated.
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. How big a story is that to the West and how big a concern is that to China?
He's the best known activist and campaigner for human rights in China. He's someone who has advocated political system reform for a number of years and has paid dearly for it. He's now serving an 11-year prison term. It's his third time in prison. The prize is consistent with the ideals of the Nobel committee and the Chinese government isn't very pleased about it.
Have you witnessed a new class of super-rich in China?
Very much so. The middle class is growing, but there is a class of multi-millionaires and billionaires in China that is growing rapidly.
And we've also heard about a significant number of Chinese who own automobiles now.
Absolutely. Everybody wants their own car. But the roads are completely clogged. You can't get over 20 mph. It's an irony that they all want beautiful, powerful cars, but there are so many of them they can't drive them quickly.
For the Western automobile manufacturers, China is nothing short of a savior. We'd go under if it weren't for the China market. G.M. sells more trucks and light trucks in China than anywhere else in the world. Buick sells far more cars in China than it does in the United States. And now, we're seeing Chinese companies buying up some Western automotive manufacturers such as Volvo and Saab.