Former and current members of the State Department discussed the future of the United States’ role in Asia in Gaston Hall Thursday afternoon.
The event,“Forging Consensus: U.S.-Asia Policy in the Next Administration,” was organized by the Korea Economic Institute, the School of Foreign Service Asian Studies Program and Georgetown’s Office of the President.
University President John J. DeGioia introduced the panel, which was comprised of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell and three of his predecessors — Richard Solomon, Winston Lord and Christopher Hill. The panel was moderated by Georgetown Director of Asian Studies Victor Cha, a former member of the National Security Council.
The discussion focused on the members’ experiences in the State Department, particularly with respect to U.S.-China relations, but panelists also spoke more broadly about their perceptions of the balance of power in Asia.
According to Winston Lord, who was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs between 1993 and 1997, each of the panelists had worked to bring China into the spotlight, but Campbell has been the most effective at elevating the country’s profile.
“The real challenge of my period as assistant secretary was trying to salvage this relationship,” he said. “I don’t think we could succeed, certainly not in the way Kurt Campbell has succeeded.”
“I … believe that the 21st century will be seen as the Asian-Pacific century,” said Abraham Kim, interim president of the Korea Economic Institute, and panel moderator.
The members all agreed on the importance of cooperation within the United States to maintain its influence abroad.
“Bipartisanship is not just important in election season. It’s important always,” Campbell said.
“If we get our act together politically and economically, that is the single best thing we can do for our China policy and our foreign policy in general,” Lord agreed.
The panelists also emphasized the importance of China’s own domestic policy.
“I think the issues in China are driven by domestic issues in China,” Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2005 to 2009, said. “It’s not all about us.”
The event concluded with SFS Dean Carroll Lancaster’s presentation of the “Georgetown Asia Award” to Campbell for his service to U.S.-Asia Relations
Ying Sun, a first year student in Georgetown’s new Master’s in Asian Studies Program, said he found the discussion interesting but is not sure how much of it will be applied in U.S. foreign policy.
“I think it’s going to be hard because there are issues within the United States,” she said.
“It’s so obvious that the United States has a lot of a role in Asia,” said Hyeon Young Ro, also a first year student in the Asian studies program.