On April 2, the School of Policy and International Affairs invited Susan Thornton to give a talk on the relationship between the United States and China. Thornton is currently retired from a long career as a U.S. diplomat during which she served as the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs since 2016. During her time as a diplomat, she worked under 10 different secretaries of state.
Thornton is now a guest lecturer at the Yale Law School and a fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center, the school’s institute for Chinese affairs.
The purpose of the talk was to open the discussion on the progress and work that has been put into the U.S.-China relationship and what can be done to repair it.
“China has abandoned the original deal and does not want to continue working with the WTO [World Trade Organization],” Thornton said. But, “Without China, the U.S. economy would not be recognizable.”
According to Thornton, the U.S. now faces the question of “what should we think about for the future?” in its relation to China.
Currently there is no overall consensus on what the U.S. wants from China going forward, according to Thornton. She believes that the U.S. should continue to work with China on diplomacy and get involved in conversations about arms control.
The U.S. government has to figure out if there is any common ground between these two nations because the interests of China could possibly overlap with the interests of the U.S.
Thornton believes that we need to “build a consensus among the U.S. people on Chinese relations that focuses on foreign policy.”
According to Thornton, the U.S. should be cooperating with China more to possibly reach a “transpacific agreement” on transnational challenges such as domestic governance, East Asia security and economic issues.
Thornton concluded by saying that the U.S. can’t afford to be left out of the progress that is being made on technology, as well as new and improved regulations, in regards to China.