Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Sports and International Politics – The Olympics in Tokyo

The 2020 Olympics and Paralympic games were postponed for the first time in history due to the coronavirus. But, Japan is committed to the games in the summer of 2021. It is a powerful reminder of the importance countries attach to hosting and participating in international sporting events. 

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies presented a conversation on value, importance and impact of the Olympics and international sports on foreign policy. Leading foreign policy experts from the Korbel School and from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan will provide analyses on what the games mean for countries, athletes and the world. The program will be moderated by Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center.

Tokyo, Japan | Getty Images

Professor Koji Murata – Professor of political science at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan

  • The 1940 Olympics in Tokyo were cancelled because of WWII. Later, Japan hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics. The Olympics totally changed Tokyo and it became a modern city.
  • Fifty-six percent of Japanese respondents are opposed to Tokyo’s Olympics and 36 percent said they should be cancelled. Only 9 percent think they should be held. If they’re cancelled, $45 billion will be lost, while $20 billion will be lost if held without any audience and $14 billion if they are grossly simplified.
  • Elections in Japan will be held this fall after the Olympics. If the Olympics are successful, national sentiment will be increased and Prime Minister Suga will be able to maintain his position and cabinet.
  • Two concerns remain: How many countries will attend, and how the Japanese government will organize the Olympics for Japanese society.

Professor Timothy Sisk – Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver and Director of the Institute for Comparative and Regional Studies at the school

  • Issues in the news today regarding EU sanctions against China bring up the issue of participation with regard to Beijing’s winter Olympics in 2022.
  • Should athletes be held hostage to international politics? The ancient Greeks had a truce around the Olympic spirit. The International Olympic Committee Rule 50 states that sports and politics are separate.
  • If the voices of a Beijing boycott succeed, it puts the Olympics in jeopardy for the long-term.
  • The United Nations and international development organizations see sports as a lever. From the IOC perspective, they are building a tolerant society around the world — using “sport diplomacy” to bridge international rivalries.
  • The Tokyo Games are seen as a “coming out” from the pandemic. The Chinese had offered to vaccinate athletes, but it wanted to use a vaccine China prefers. Vaccines will not be mandatory, but uncertainty exists around select groups of athletes having access to vaccines. 
  • In the same way that we saw our political conventions go online successfully, televising the Olympics and moving to a remote approach through technology may provide a good viewing experience. 

Professor Sisk used an extensive PowerPoint on the many aspects of politics and sports, especially the Olympics, studied by academics, including international, diplomatic, social psychological, sociological and commercial.

Monday, April 12, 2021

How Our European Allies View America

What do our European allies think of America today – and did the 2020 election change their views? For better or for worse? Some allies have openly worried whether they could trust a country that elected Trump in 2016, even if he left office. The photo above is from the turbulent G7 Summit in Canada in 2018.

A program hosted by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research will present a first review of international public opinion before and after the 2020 election and discuss the implications for American foreign policy in the future.

The program is part of Crossley Center’s series of public opinion research and commentary on major issues of American domestic and foreign policy for the University of Denver community and public.


Join us on Zoom
April 21, 2021
11:00 am MT

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Can China Be Deterred?

From the East China Sea to the South China Sea, including Hong Kong and Taiwan, the risk of conflict has increased in recent years. Can a cohesive alliance strategy hold off China’s mounting aggression on territorial disputes? Can deterrence prevent war? 

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, with the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver, assembled a panel of experts on March 31 that discussed the threats and options for the U.S.-Japan alliance. The panel focused on the issues that have made Asia the U.S.’s primary foreign policy arena, Japan its critical ally, and China the competitor. The first trip abroad of the American Secretaries of State and Defense were to their counterparts in Japan. Japanese Foreign Minister Motegi said on March 16th that the “free and open international order is greatly challenged by attempts to change the status quo by force and progress of authoritarian system.” Secretary Blinken agreed: “China uses coercion and aggression to systemically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law.”

The panel was moderated by Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center. The panelists shared these key points:

Mr. Tsuneo “Nabe” Watanabe – Senior fellow of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation 

  • Japan is a frontline country against an aggressive China — similar to Germany’s role in the Cold War between Russia and the U.S.
  • Japan is now taking a stronger stance in promoting stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific. It’s good to know that U.S. leaders support a U.S.-Japan alliance.
  • Cooperation among the U.S., Japan, the Republic of Korea and other Indo-Pacific countries is critical for shared security and peace; South Korea and others remain cautious.
  • China is determined to challenge territorial disputes in the area and its Coast Guard has become a military-like force.
  • Many in Japan remain reluctant to arm itself, despite aggression by China to seize sovereign territories — we’re wary of entrapment and wary of abandonment.
  • If the U.S. started military engagement to defend Taiwan, Japan is a target of Chinese military action and some people are very worried about that. The majority in Japan clearly think Japan needs to work with the U.S. It is very clear that Japan would take sides with the U.S. over China – or even Russia – because of the strength of the U.S.
  • The misinformation in the world is really important. Some Japanese people – not the majority – still believe that Trump won and Biden cheated his way to victory. If a country really wanted to divide Japan and the U.S., it could use misinformation warfare. That could be possible in the case of Taiwan. We should be very careful about perceptions.

Ms. Dina Smeltz – Senior fellow on public opinion and foreign policy, Chicago Council on Global Affairs 

  • American opinion toward Japan over the past 40-some years remains positive and has risen in the last decade (to 65% favorable).
  • Japan’s attitude toward the U.S. was at a low point during the Trump Administration (from 68% favorable during the Obama years down to 24%; now at 41%)
  • Japanese people still consider the U.S. its most important ally (66% opposed to 9% for China)
  • Americans, although tired of endless war, would support use of force if North Korea attacked Japan (from 48% in 2015 to 64% in 2018). 
  • The U.S. is generally reluctant to engage in military force against China because of its perceived might — only 44 percent would support Japan in a conflict with China over disputed islands, and 40 percent would support Taiwan if invaded by China.
  • US views of China are the lowest (32% favorable) since 1978; it sees China as a rival, not a partner — and this is becoming a bipartisan sentiment.
  • Americans are now paying attention to issues associated with the Indo-Pacific.

Professor Lewis K. Griffith – Professor and director of the International Security and Homeland Security Programs at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies 

  • In 2005-2006, during the Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld intended to declare that China was America’s greatest threat; Secretary of State Rice vehemently argued the need to downplay the rivalry. 
  • After Trump singled out China as a foremost threat and Biden, from the opposing party, has maintained that stance, the posture is now policy.
  • With the bounds of the US/China relationship established, we must formulate a clear strategy
  • Japan has also signaled that China is perceived as a rival and Australia is leaning that direction; the political costs have gone down in openly confronting China.
  • Given where we are now, and with China not willing to retreat, we need to answer these questions: Can a deterrent strategy from a coalition of countries not include containment? Should defense of Taiwan be the West Berlin of the policy? How do we affectively signal to China the commitment of the U.S. and its partners?

China Allies With Illiberal and Authoritarian Regimes

While the Biden administration is working to reconstitute America’s alliances discarded and disparaged by the Trump administration, China is accelerating its foreign policy strategy of creating alliances with those who share dislike of the West, especially its sanctions. China’s concern has escalated due to sanctions having been recently imposed over suppression of political rights in Hong Kong and the oppression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

The alliance with Russia has been developing since 2018, cemented with visits and agreements between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Most recently, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in China to jointly protest sanctions, When asked about sanctions, Lavrov said “It’s [the West’s] form of democracy” not theirs. And Wang added his view of sanctions “will not be embraced by the international community,” a reference to their belief that many members of the UN share an anti-Western sentiment on this issue.

China partners with another U.S. sanction target with oil. Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, joined China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, in Tehran to sign a trade agreement to help Iran to evade U.S. sanctions.

Biden’s First Press Conference: “Prove Democracy Works”

At President Joe Biden’s March 25 first press conference of his administration, foreign policy was not a noteworthy topic. But, in a typical low-key remark, Biden said:

“I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just with China.”

Which is rather existential for Joe Biden. But, the new administration has been very forceful about China’s repression in Uyghurs and Hong Kong, threats to Taiwan, and intellectual and cyber theft, among other concerns. Biden discussed China’s President Xi:

 “He [Xi] doesn’t have a democratic - with a small ‘d’ - bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy.”

He also said Xi joins Russian President Vladimir Putin as believing “autocracy is the wave of the future” and democracy can’t function in a complex world.

Biden’s First Press Conference

President Biden holds his first press conference,
March 25, 2021 | Photo: Chip Somodevilla

Domestic policy, that is America’s ability to solve its main national problems, is now central to a successful foreign policy, and according to Biden, “prove democracy works.”

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Asia Top U.S. Foreign Policy Theater

Asia is now the U.S. primary foreign policy theater, Japan its critical ally and China the topic. To explore these changing circumstances, The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, with the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, the Center for China-US Cooperation and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver, convened a four-panel program of experts in March that addressed foreign policy and public opinion amid the threats and opportunities China presents.

As director of the Crossley Center, I presented a scan of the foreign policy news from the Biden administration, recent polling and highlight comments of the March panel presentations. The following summarizes the presentation.

New Era in U.S.-China Relations

  • Asia is now the U.S.’s primary foreign policy theater, Japan its critical ally and China the topic
  • Very different China from 2012, it’s the Xi era
  • U.S. policy is beyond “China will evolve,” the pivot to Asia and transactional strategies
  • Allies wanted, Japan in prime position, Quad, Europe needed, votes in UN
  • Americans see China as threat, it lost world opinion – COVID-19
  • China and the U.S. are now in competitive engagement 
  • Values and ideals will be main instruments of competition, use diplomacy, development aid and financing, communication: autocracy vs. liberal democracy
  • Domestic policy is critical to foreign policy, “Get our house in order”

The conclusion is that a new era has been launched in U.S.-China relations. It is now the primary focus of America’s foreign policy and it is affecting domestic policy from resolving the pandemic, addressing infrastructure and strengthening democracy.

Friday, April 2, 2021

New Era in U.S.-China Relations

Secretary Tony Blinken’s first exchange with China’s Communist Party’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, became heated before they finished their opening remarks and the two pushed protocol aside as each attempted to make its case in full force. The four-minute photo op became a 1:15-minute debate over the flaws and ill-intent of each country. The media described the exchange as “testy,” “frothy” and “rocky.” At the conclusion of the exchange, it was clear a new era had begun for China and U.S. relations.

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, with the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies, the Center for China-US Cooperation and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver convened a panel of experts on March 24 that addressed foreign policy and public opinion amid the threats and opportunities China presents.

Free and Open Indo-Pacific and China – Key Points

Professor Koji Murata – Professor of political science at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan

  1. Former President Trump was relatively popular in Japan because of his tough stance on China
    and his solid relationship with Former Prime Minister Abe.
  2. While President Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Suga’s relationship is undetermined, Biden is taking a tough stance on China and trying to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance as well as promote multilateral alliances.
  3. Biden and Suga have some background similarities that could help the relationship: both are in their 70s, are part of former presidents’ cabinets, are from humble backgrounds and are pragmatic politicians.
  4. Forecasts show that China’s GDP will surpass that of the U.S. by 2028, and also that India’s population will surpass that of China’s by 2035.
  5. Japan is on the frontline in the power struggle between the U.S. and China 

Professor Suisheng “Sam” Zhao – Professor of foreign policy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in Denver and director of the Center for China-US Cooperation

  • China doesn’t like the concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific because it suspects the motive is to contain its rise to power.
  • Southeast Asian countries are very cautious about China; the Philippines, Singapore, other small nations are reluctant to take sides.
  • Xi Jinping is engaging in a campaign to assert power – the dragon is roaring back to reclaim its rightful place in the world.
  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative has become the second-largest international development program — larger than the World Bank’s — in its attempt to strengthen ties with developing countries.
  • The Chinese-Russian partnership has developed beyond anyone’s expectations and the driving force is their concern about the U.S. meddling in their neighborhood.
  • China is influential in the “E-7” — emerging countries, including India, Iran, and Mexico — which in 2015 overtook the G7 GDP and, by 2035, is expected to double that of the G7.
  • Alongside China’s increased maritime power, it has become more assertive in its territorial disputes in the South and East China seas; its continued actions and rhetoric regarding taking back Taiwan have grown extremely dangerous.

Professor Floyd Ciruli – Professor of public opinion and foreign policy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

  • The Biden administration is focusing its full attention on Asia. Its first meetings were with Japan and leaders from Australia and India.
  • The initial meeting with China set the tone for competition with engagement on some issues, such as climate change, but disagreement on values, such as human rights, rule of law and democracy.
  • China and Russia have developed an alliance that is anti-U.S. and reversed the shift that began with Nixon in 1971 (50-year swing).
  • China’s behavior toward Hong Kong and Taiwan shows a stepped-up and aggressive assertion of territorial claims.
  • China’s behavior related to COVID-19 has led to an unfavorable shift in U.S. and democratic countries’ opinions away from China and its leaders. China is seen as a threat in the U.S.
  • A new era in U.S.-China relations will involve considerable competition; the primary U.S. platform will be ideals and values.