Robert Zoellick and America’s “China Challenge”


On March 4, 2020, the Center for the National Interest hosted an off-the-record discussion with Robert Zoellick to discuss his new cover story, “The China Challenge,” which appeared in the March/April issue of The National Interest. The discussion, which was moderated by The National Interest’s editor Jacob Heilbrunn and which featured several prominent academics, journalists, and members of the presidential administration, focused on the complex and intricate challenges facing America as it seeks to address the cataclysmic shifts caused by China’s rise to great power status.

Zoellick is the Chairman of AllianceBernstein, a global investment management firm, and Senior Counselor at Brunswick Geopolitical, an advisory service of the Brunswick Group. He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in public service, including serving as president of the World Bank, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, and U.S. Trade Representative.

In his important and compelling essay, Zoellick argues that the American political class has arrived at a bipartisan policy of denouncing China. Zoellick suggests that a different course, based on viewing China as an adversary but not an enemy, should be pursued by Washington–one that recognizes the tensions in the relationship but also seeks to manage them constructively. Zoellick warns, “a slide into Sino-American conflict—whether intentionally or by accident—would lead to incalculable costs and dangers. The twentieth century painted a shocking picture of industrial age destruction; do not assume that they cyber era of the twenty-first century is immune to crack-ups or catastrophes of equal of even greater scale.”

Robert Zoellick addresses the meeting’s participants, which include Center President Dimitri K. Simes and The National Interest‘s editor Jacob Heilbrunn.