Speaker: Beckley, M. (Tufts University)
Date: 11 January 2019
SMA hosted a speaker session presented by Dr. Michael Beckley (Tufts University) as a part of its Future of Great Power Competition & Conflict Speaker Series. Dr. Beckley began his presentation by stating that the US’s economic lead over China is actually larger than most estimates display. He explained that traditional estimates often do not account for a variety of variables, such as China’s “massive wealth and security burdens.” Thus, Dr. Beckley has created a framework that measures China’s economic wealth in net terms (rather than gross terms) and accounts for these additional costs in his book, entitled Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World’s Sole Superpower. He then explained that China faces competitive disadvantages in several key areas, including economics, technology, trade, and the military sphere. Furthermore, Dr. Beckley stated that while China is increasing its military presence in the region, its neighbors are adopting a similar playbook in order to prevent China from dominating the air and sea. He then spoke about how the US’s large number of allies and defense partnerships allow it to assert coercive leverage over nations like China and Russia. He emphasized that Russia and China compete just as much as they cooperate, and he argued that “regional balance in dynamics is more important than global balance in dynamics.” Dr. Beckley also stated that although the US has the most potential for future growth and a military / economic lead, it still has the potential to lose this lead. To conclude his presentation, Dr. Beckley explained what this all means for world politics / US policy and discussed how the US should engage with China in the future.
Ms. Rachel Esplin Odell (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) then asked a series of questions to initiate the Q&A portion of the telecon.