David Firestein Speaks on U.S. Presidential Election, U.S.-China Relations during Visit to Beijing

News | November 14, 2012

On a recent trip to China, David Firestein, EWI's vice president for strategic trust-building and track 2 diplomacy, spoke at six Chinese organizations, including five top universities, on the U.S. presidential election, U.S.-China relations, and public diplomacy.

David Firestein Speaks at the Beijing Foreign Studies University

Here's a round-up of some of the extensive web coverage of these events:


Renmin (People’s) University of China

U.S.-China Relations in 2013 and Beyond: Issues, Challenges and Prospects (IN CHINESE)

Firestein maintained that the major themes in U.S.-China relations should be strategic mutual trust and cooperation after the U.S. presidential election and power transition in China. However, he pointed out that there are some key differences between China and the United States—in civilization and culture, ideology, foreign policy doctrine, national interests, diplomatic style, and discursive method—which are sources of distrust in U.S.-China relations. Firestein also noted the shift in the perception of China within the U.S. political discourse over the past decades, as China is no longer seen through a human rights prism. Instead, it is now viewed through a prism of economics and trade. Thus, China has been transformed from a foreign policy to a domestic issue, and is now less a measuring stick for a candidate's personal toughness than a measuring stick for America's national worth. Looking forward to the post-election era, Firestein anticipated challenges but expressed a hope for long-term improvement in the U.S.-China relationship.

Write-up from the RUC school of Marxism Studies (Chinese)

RUC News entry (Chinese)


Western Returned Scholars Association

Choice Point: The U.S. Presidential Campaign of 2012 and Its Implications for America and China

Firestein discussed the 2012 U.S. presidential election and its implications, beginning by introducing the economic context within which the election was taking place; because the United States is experiencing its most serious sustained period of economic weakness since the 1930s, the economic issue had inevitably become the focal point of the presidential election. He also analyzed policy differences between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and their respective strengths and weaknesses, concluding with a prediction that China policy would not be significantly affected regardless of which candidate won the election.

Notice and write-up from the Center for China & Globalization (Chinese)

Write-up from ChinaValue.net


Peking University

Choice Point: The U.S. Presidential Campaign of 2012 and its Implications for America and China

(See WRSA entry for write-up)

Write-up from Peking University's School of Government (Chinese)


China Foreign Affairs University

Choice Point: The U.S. Presidential Campaign of 2012 and its Implications for America and China

(See WRSA entry for write-up)

Write-up from China Foreign Affairs University (Chinese)


Beijing Foreign Studies University

Hearts, Minds and Electrons: Public Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media

With both the theory and practice of public diplomacy deeply influenced by the tremendous changes taking place in the Internet era, David Firestein addressed these developments by raising several questions for students to discuss, including: whether public opinion can influence foreign policy; which part of public opinion should be influenced by public diplomacy; and how public diplomacy’s influence can be measured. He explained how the rise of social media—including blogs, Facebook, and Twitter—has affected U.S. public diplomacy in recent years. Despite the widespread use of social media today, Firestein pointed out that the human factor is still among the most important factors in public diplomacy and that face-to-face interaction remains the most effective.

Write-up from Beijing Foreign Studies University (Chinese)

More video coverage


Tsinghua University

The Dragon, the Donkey and the Elephant: China’s Changing Role in American Politics

There has been much discussion and speculation on how the 2012 U.S. presidential election would affect China. Firestein examined the role that China has played in U.S. presidential elections and, more gnerally, in U.S. politics in recent years and how that role has evolved. Forty years after the process towards normalization of U.S.-China relations began, with the bilateral relationship now entering its fifth decade, he asserted that U.S. China relations are facing new and unprecedented challenges. Two interesting attributes combine to create this complexity: the absence of what Firestein termed "a grand common objective" and a United States undergoing sustained economic difficulties. He also discussed the role played by the U.S. Congress and business community in further complicating the issue of China in the U.S. political discourse. In the end, Firestein concluded that China has become a more complex issue in U.S. politics at all levels.