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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tufts Prof. Michael Beckley talks new book on US-China Relations

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Michael Beckley, Tufts assistant professor of political science, is pictured.

Michael Beckley, an associate professor of political science, spoke to students and community members on Oct. 17 about the launch of his new book, “Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China” co-authored with Hal Brands. A Q&A session with attendees followed Beckley's lecture about U.S.-China Relations.

Prior to the event, Beckley spoke with the Daily about the future of U.S.-China relations.

“I think the two countries are essentially trying to form their own blocs reminiscent of the Cold War, trying to get staunch allies and define themselves against the other,” Beckley said. “We're entering a very hostile period and I would expect … a new Cold War setting and possibly a much higher risk of a hot war over something like Taiwan.”

Beckley’s work has been published in The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy and other publications. He spent time as an International Security Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and has worked for the U.S. Department of Defense, the RAND Corporation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The event was presented by the department of political science and co-sponsored by the Tufts International Relations program. 

Junior Ilan Werblow, an attendee, shared his impressions of the event by reflecting on the discussion of media coverage and the ultimate outcome of escalating U.S.-China tensions. 

“It was really interesting to hear [about] the state of the U.S.-China relations,” Werblow said. “In the media, [China is] portrayed as this rising power [that] will continue rising. … Beckley’s book and talk are very much saying that China was rising, but it’s now either peaking or has peaked. … It’s a very different portrayal than how most other people are writing about [it].”

In his discussion with the Daily, Beckley noted that the number of Chinese students currently studying in the U.S. has declined and predicted more restrictions for Chinese students in the future.  

“I think … it's going to be harder for Chinese students to come to the United States, because the U.S. government is increasing screening,” Beckley said. “They're worried about espionage, and [they] are going to be screening Chinese candidates more thoroughly.”

The Chinese government is also aiming to keep students from going abroad, Beckley explained.

“The Chinese government is trying to bring back talents and smart young people to its own shores, essentially obligating them,” he said. “[It] has even set up overseas police stations to police but also potentially even pressure people to come back to China as it faces such severe demographic problems.”

Beckley suggested that more engagement with foreign affairs could increase awareness of U.S.-China conflicts.

“Most people don't think about [foreign affairs],” Beckley said. “I think it's going to become a much more dominant feature of our lives going forward; our vacation from global politics seems to be shattered at this point.”

Nimah Mazaheri, associate professor and chair of the department of political science, emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for students to hear from leading experts like Beckley.  

“[Beckley has] become one of the most important voices on this topic and provided a great deal of insight for students, for people who are scholars and interested in the topic, but also for U.S. foreign policymakers,” Mazaheri said. “He spends a lot of his time in DC, trying to give them advice that hopefully they will take.”

In November, the department will offer another book launch event with Peter Levine, a professor of political science and philosophy and an associate dean of Tisch College. It will also host a series of pre- and post-midterm election events. 

“I'm hopeful that a lot of our students will want to come to these events to regain the sense of community that … has been lost, and is still in many ways not there, [since] the pandemic,” Mazaheri said.