Monday, June 14, 2021

Videos Now Available on Japanese Diplomatic Program

Watch Japanese and U.S. foreign policy experts discuss the new era in U.S.-Japan relations under the Biden and Suga administrations as they address the challenge of China and the goal to maintain a free and open Indo Pacific.

  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific and China session was held on March 24, 2021

  • Free and Open Indo-Pacific and the Quad session was held on March 29, 2021

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

President Biden’s First 100 Days – Key Points

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, as
Vice President Kamala Harris (L) and House Speaker Nancy
Pelosi look on, April 28, 2021 | Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

The first 100 days of a new presidency is an historical standard established during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s rush to meet the crisis of the Great Depression in 1933. The number of days is arbitrary and the standard subjective, but it has been used by presidents, politicians, the media and historians as an early indicator of leadership style and policy ever since.

University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, with the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Center on American Politics, hosted a presentation by political scientists and experts who reviewed President Joe Biden’s First 100 Days in office and the implications for America’s future domestic and foreign policy.

Tom Cronin - Former President of Whitman College, McHugh Professor of American Institutions at Colorado College

  • The Democratic Party has unified, while the opponents are as fractured as they’ve ever been. The Republican Party has no message and no messenger. That won’t last. Their strategy will be to pounce on failures.
  • One of Biden’s chief challenges will be keeping the Democratic Party together. Biden has so far been a left-of-center moderate liberal, rather than ultra-liberal. He needs to stay the course in order to keep the center alive.
  • Work on police reform, infrastructure and immigration could possibly bring lawmakers across the aisle together for compromises.
  • A lot of people are worried about climate change and COVID, but many are deeply worried about the health of our democracy.
  • Biden deserves credit for getting Xi and Putin to join him on climate change discussions.

Andrea Benjamin - Professor of African and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma

  • A veteran delegate at the Democratic Convention stated that if Blacks, especially Black women, don’t show up, Democrats won’t win.
  • The word for people of color is accountability. On Day One, Biden signed a racial justice executive order. We are watching closely to see if he comes through.
  • U.S. cities have had a majority of people of color for a long time, but they have few black mayors. Republicans totally dominate in many states with large black and brown populations. Yes, the country is growing more diverse, but it’s not translating to political power.
  • [Actions Biden could take for Black and Brown voters:] African Americans have high student loan debt, and he could follow through with loan forgiveness and moving funding to historically Black Colleges and Universities. He could work on voting rights and access. Wealth disparities and health disparities also need to be addressed.

Seth Masket - Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver

  • Biden learned from the experiences of the Obama administration. The work that Obama did reaching out to Republicans was probably not a wise move. Many of the concessions he made probably hurt the economic recovery and bought Obama no Republican votes. Biden learned not to wait around for compromise.
  • He has the smallest margin possible in the Senate and a very narrow margin in the House. Ted Kennedy died 9 months into the Obama administration and ended the majority in the Senate. It’s possible that some Senators also may not be there though the end of 2022. He is trying to get as much done as possible as soon as possible.
  • On highly salient issues, the parties are as polarized as we’ve ever seen. They don’t speak the same language. Democrats are doing things they’ve said have been needed for years. Republicans are worried about Dr. Seuss and hamburgers.
  • Immigration was a misstep from Biden. He was trying to rapidly ratchet down the amount of immigrants, and saw pushback from Democrats.

Floyd Ciruli - Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

  • Biden focused on the pandemic and the economy. They were the public’s top priorities.
  • It was a winning strategy. He now has a positive approval rating and strong approval on handling vaccinations and relief checks. He is 10 points higher than Trump after his first 100 days in 2017.
  • To maintain Democratic Party unity, Biden issued a record number of executive orders, reversing many of Trump’s orders. His appointments rewarded many constituencies. The relief legislation was massive, which also helped assuage the left wing of the party.
  • Style and tone matter and Biden’s low-key style and moderate language were welcomed by Washington and the country. Not dominating the daily news cycle with daily commentary and insults was judged positively.
  • The administration mastered Zoom and has voided gaffs. The White House staff is functioning well and the chaos and leaks of the previous four years have mostly receded.

Jeremy Haefner – Chancellor of the University of Denver

The Chancellor asked what grade would the presenters give Biden: he received four A-’s with caveats related to immigration, social justice issues and the looming 2022 election.

Read more on the Biden Gets an A- for First 100 Days blog.

View the discussion from the May 4 panel.

Watch Video

Friday, May 14, 2021

Video Now Available on “President Biden’s First 100 Days”

Did Biden make the grade in the first 100 days? Hear nationally known professors rate President Joe Biden in a discussion led by University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner with professors Tom Cronin, Andrea Benjamin, Seth Masket and Floyd Ciruli.

The May 4 program was sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Center on American Politics.

Watch Video

Biden Gets an A- for First 100 Days

President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, as Vice
President Kamala Harris (L) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on,
April 28, 2021 | Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

The University of Denver panel of political scientists and experts asked to grade President Joe Biden’s first 100 days settled for an A-, with a few caveats.

The group, made up of professors Tom Cronin, Andrea Benjamin, Seth Masket and Floyd Ciruli, saw Biden overcoming a disastrous transition and benefitting from low expectations. His success with managing the vaccination program and passing the massive relief legislation were high points that earned him the first positive public approval after President Trump’s four years. Having avoided gaffs and given several successful presentations, including press interactions and a speech before Congress that helped drive his agenda.

In the discussion, which was moderated by Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, I pointed out that, while focused on the pandemic and economic relief, he also signed a record number of executive orders (42) to reverse what Democrats considered Trump’s most egregious actions and help handle the myriad of constituencies and issues needed to maintain Democratic Party unity. Also, he used appointments to address constituent and party agendas. In addition, the massive relief expenditure ($1.9 trillion), which was more than twice President Obama’s economic stimulus of 2009, helped assuage liberals that their concerns about economic support and inequity were getting attention.

The group suggested Biden’s lowering the rhetorical volume and heat contributed to his success. Style and tone matter – Trump was the un-Obama, very loud, hostile, anti-establishment (including for Republicans McCain. Flake, Bush and Romney) and especially in opposition to the media. Whereas Biden is the un-Trump – very low-key, focused on a moderate tone, a sharp contrast in behavior and language. He’s deliberately not dominating the news cycle everyday with personal commentary and opinion.

The generally upbeat assessment had several caveats. Immigration management appeared repeatedly in for criticism. The understandable tension between humanitarian improvements and the surge of new arrivals was not anticipated, accompanied by mixed messages and not well- managed as it developed. The administration argued the lack of information and cooperation during the transition contributed to the chaos, but the political damage with both supporters and immigration opponents was done. From the left, there was criticism that there are many expectations that have not been met and political realists pointed out that there is a significant chance Biden could lose his majority in both houses of Congress next year.

So, a good 100 days, but many challenges in the next 600.

Trump Really Didn’t Like Merkel and It Mattered

Former President Trump made clear in actions and statements that he did not like Angela Merkel, chancellor of the Federal Republic. His public criticism began early in the 2015-16 campaign over his views of her poor handling of immigration. And, it continued into the administration with numerous references to his long-term belief Germany was a NATO defense freeloader and taking advantage of the U.S.’s friendship on trade. He believed European unity was more an economic threat than security benefit. His penchant for hyperbole and opposition to the German-Russian gas pipeline led him to argue that Germany was controlled by Russia. Interactions with Merkel tended to range from perfunctory to rude from White House visits to G-7 summits. It finally led the normally diplomatic and cautious Merkel to announce that Germany and Europe need to begin to think beyond depending on the U.S.

Not surprising, the hostility affected public opinion. In a series of European-wide polls, Germany consistently scored the least favorable toward the U.S. For example, more than half of Germans believed “Americans can’t be trusted” (53%) and 73 percent believed the U.S. needs major reform.

Although President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken are dedicated to restoring trust and rebuilding the partnership, and there is residual good will in Germany, a great deal of damage was done.

View a more detailed political account on the discussion of what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


European Governments Dealing With Pandemic, Recession and Two Key Elections

President Macron and Chancellor Merkel are leading their parties into elections with considerable uncertainty. Along with dealing with surging pandemics and lagging economies, Russia has been staging a military build-up near Ukraine, adding even more tension.

In describing the political environment of a country or region (EU), knowing the approval rating of the leader and their governing coalition and the date of the next election is important. Macron’s popularity (41%) has been highly vulnerable due to various unhappy constituents, and now crime and violence is a major issue. The right, especially far right nationalists, are a threat in next year’s election. In Germany, Merkel remains popular (72%), but her coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union have been losing local elections and haven’t settled on a candidate to replace Merkel as she steps down. The left, especially the Greens, have been gaining strength in an election scheduled later this year.

See video of political scientists discussing what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Read blog: Biden’s Task – Restoring Trust

Biden’s Task – Restoring Trust

In a recent poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations, Europeans in 11 democracies expressed major reservations concerning America’s political stability and dependability as an ally. A majority (61%) of the population believe the U.S.’s political system is broken and a third of Europeans don’t think they can depend on the U.S. for defense (53% of Germans). Very importantly for the Biden administration, Europe believes China is on the rise and they should be neutral between the rising U.S. and China competition.

When media, academic and political opinion leaders are asked why the huge distrust in the American system, they cite the circumstances around the 2020 election, the system’s general gridlock and the chance in 2022 conditions could get even more fractured. The question one hears most often is: How could Donald Trump, after his track record, get 74 million votes?

See video of political scientists discussing what our European allies now think of America at an April 21 event sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Heidi Ganahl a Frontrunner to Take on Governor Polis

University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl |
Photo via Colorado Times Recorder
Gabrielle Bye in an April 29 post in the Colorado Times Recorder collects political impressions about Republican CU Regent Heidi Ganahl’s possible run for statewide office in 2022. My bottom line assessment was she could be a frontrunner contender, but Colorado is still a major challenge for Republicans. My quotations follow.

Ganahl a Top Contender

Pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli believes that Ganahl is a top contender to run for another statewide position in 2022.

“She would be a front-runner for almost any position in the state, and one of the few people that would have some statewide credibility,” Ciruli told the Colorado Times Recorder. “…With both Republicans, and I would say–I don’t think the public knows her that well–but what I would say would be the ‘attentive public.'”

Additionally, Ganahl, as a female entrepreneur in an education role, also gives her an advantage, says Ciruli.

“I think being a woman would also help; being involved in education, I think, is very positive for her,” said Ciruli. “I know Republican leaders are often putting together panels or speaking groups, and they almost always like to have her and recommend her. So I think my opening statement that she would start in a very good position is true.”

An Uphill Battle in Colorado

“The real question is,” said Ciruli, “…can a Republican take this on, given the recent track record at least since 2018, which brought, as you know, the Democrats to every constitutional office in the state, and was reinforced by Cory Gardner, and the president doing so poorly in 2020? So, that’s the difficult road.”

That being said, Ganahl still has a fighting chance, Ciruli believes.

“Being the governor is not an easy job these days,” Ciruli said with a chuckle, pointing to yearly polling during the onset of the pandemic, when Governors Cuomo and Newsom were popular. “…Now, [governors] are just struggling, and Mr. Biden is at maybe 54% popularity. Mainly because they had to make so many difficult decisions, and this pandemic has not gone away. It keeps resurging and disappearing, and of course, we’re so polarized over whether you want to wear masks and whether we should close things down. So I do think the governor has some vulnerabilities, because he’s been the governor in a very difficult time.”

Ciruli also suggested that some pandemic points of contention, like whether or not to open the schools, can give Ganahl a platform to run on.

Compared to other members of the GOP who are easily categorized as extremists, Ganahl carries a more moderate image, both analysts said.

“That may be the benefit of being a regent, which is seen as a little less partisan, even though we all know obviously that there are Democrats and Republicans [on the board],” Ciruli said.

Will Colorado’s New Congressperson Be a Democrat or Republican?

Colorado’s redistricting process over the next several months will be the major factor in deciding the partisan composition of the 2022 congressional delegation. In a KOA interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, I pointed out that all seven of the current congressional districts will be significantly changed because they are all over 720,000 in population – the new size of Colorado’s districts. The Denver district of Diana DeGette has 852,000 residents, and Ken Buck’s 4th district on the Eastern Plains, including Douglas County, is the largest with 868,000. Even the smallest district – Lauren Boebert’s Western Slope 3rd district – has 756,000, or about 36,000 over the new guideline.

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli & Marty Lenz
Colorado’s population increase over the last 10 years was twice the national average of 14.8 percent and added 744,000 new people, or about the size of a congressional district. The new district will be primarily located in the Front Range where the bulk of the new population settled. Because of the state’s current partisan disposition, it will likely lean Democratic, but it could be very competitive, For example, combining Republicans in Douglas, western Arapahoe, south Jefferson and possibly north El Paso counties create a seat that Republicans could win.

Of course, parties and other advocates will do everything they can to shape the partisanship of the final district maps, but there are always surprises. In the 2000 census, Colorado got its 7th district, which was placed in western and northern parts of the metro area. The first winner was Republican Bob Beauprez, but in 2006, Democrat Ed Perlmutter won the seat and has held it since.

Voters in 2018 created a new independent commission to review the census data, gather public input and weight the legal criteria, including equal population, compactness, keeping cities and communities together where possible, and new criteria of competiveness. The commission is assisted by State Legislative staff and must send their recommended map to the Colorado Supreme Court in time for it to reach a decision by December 15. Given the delays in the arrival of the census data, the commission will have a tight timeline, and Colorado politicians an anxious fall.

Climate Summit – A Diplomatic Success for Biden

Pledges on climate change have had mixed impact over the more than two decades since the first agreements (Kyoto Accords in 1997), but President Biden’s recent climate summit was at least a diplomatic success demonstrating there is an international constituency for the issue and after a four-year absence, America could still lead on it.

Biden assembled country leaders virtually, including most of Europe and major countries in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina), Asia (China, Japan, India, Australia), Africa (South Africa, Nigeria), Middle East (Turkey, Saudi Arabia) and U.S. neighbors (Mexico and Canada).

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, summarized much of Europe’s and other democratic allies’ sentiments when she said:

“I’m delighted to see that the United States is back to work together with us in climate politics, because there can be no doubt about the world needing your contribution if we really want to fulfill our ambitious goals.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes part in the virtual
international climate summit with President Biden,
April 22, 2021 | Pool photo by Kay Nietfeld

Coercive Diplomacy – Russia and Ukraine

Wall Street Journal headlines:

  • U.S. warns Russia over Navalny’s Care, 4-19-21
  • Biden’s hardline on Russia splits Europe, 4-20-21
  • Russia moves forces near Ukraine border, 4-21-21
  • Putin retains popularity despite wave of protest, 4-21-21
  • Putin intensifies warning as protests widen, 4-22-21
  • Russia to scale back Ukraine border force, 4-23-21

The Wall Street Journal headlines capture Vladimir Putin’s latest foray into threats and mobilization and the Western democratic countries’ pushbacks. The West had their last experience with Mr. Putin in March 2014 as he absorbed Crimea and destabilized Eastern Ukraine.

As of the end of April, it’s uncertain if there will be a real incursion – most experts believe not – or just another of his exercises in diplomatic coercion. The benefits for Putin are:

  • It distracts from Alexei Navalny and the protests
  • It gins up Russian nationalist sentiments just as he gives annual speech. It helps maintain his 60 plus percent favorability.
  • It tests Mr. Biden, NATO and European resolve and unity
  • It warns Kiev’s leadership to keep its distance from NATO and the West – “the red line”
  • It promotes division and chaos in democracies. Putin’s long time objectives.

If Putin sees diplomatic or military weakness, he will exploit it.

Russia Takes the Crimea

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center; Defense Minister Sergei
Shoigu, left; and the commander of the Western Military District
Anatoly Sidorov, right, March 3, 2014 | AP photo

Polling in 2020 and Its Future

Polling predicted a very good Democratic year in November 2020, which didn’t happen, or at least not as predicted. But, polling has already started in 2021 concerning the president, national politics and the 2022 election. What happened in 2020? Has polling changed because of it? If not, will it or were the problems mostly related to the pandemic and Trump’s unique candidacy? Join pollster and DU professor Floyd Ciruli for a conversation on what happened to polling in 2020 and its future.

OLLI will host a presentation on June 29, 2021 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am MT. More information on OLLI, click here.

Market Likes Start of Biden Program

Donald Trump believed his re-election was assured regardless of the public dislike of his personality, much of his behavior and some of his policies because the stock market was up. Adjoined with his claim was that if Joe Biden was elected, there’d be a market crash and pension fund losses. He was wrong on both claims. The stock market recovered strongly after the pandemic-caused downturn, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the public’s assessment of his COVID-19 mismanagement. Also, contrary to his prediction, the market has continued to climb since Biden became president, up 10.5 percent as of April 21, 2021.

President Biden has been rewarded by investors because he adopted a limited focused strategy. He prioritized the essential elements for concerned Americans and the economic recovery: get everyone vaccinated and put money into the economy. One additional priority he’d like to pass – infrastructure – has elements his liberal base want and items he believes are needed to compete with China. He’s already signed is a stack of executive orders, which undo the most aggravating Trump policies, and finally, he’s had an aggressive appointment process that has brought in a diverse group of ready-to-go professionals.  So far, the Democratic Party is holding together.

The market likes this approach. So do the polls. Biden remains at the mid-50 percent level, a near miracle in these polarized times, and ten points ahead of Trump four years ago.

The table shows the Dow Jones average by dates in the Trump presidency (Jan. 20, 2017, 19732, to Jan. 20, 20201, 30930).

See: Market Crosses 30000 in Year of Historic Disruption

Monday, May 10, 2021

Video Now Available on “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? 

Hear international public opinion experts discuss the impact of the 2020 election and the implications for American foreign policy in the future. It 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. 

The April 21 program was supported by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the University of Denver’s Political Science Department.


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Colorado Political Experts Assess the First 100 Days

The first 100 days has been a noted presidential milestone since FDR took office in 1933. It has become an historical standard in assessing new presidents’ accomplishments against their campaign promises and the public’s and Washington’s early expectations.

The Crossley Center, with the Korbel School and the Center on American Politics, presents a panel moderated by University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner on “President Biden’s First 100 Days.” I will join the Chancellor and noted political scientists Tom Cronin, Andrea Benjamin and Seth Masket who will comprise the panel. (See background on presenters here).

Four years ago on May 1, 2017, the Crossley Center, as part of its public engagement programming, sponsored a 100-day assessment of former President Trump. In spite of near-saturation media coverage and a few popular accomplishments, including the Neil Gorsuch confirmation and missile strikes in Syria, Trump’s approval rating declined to 42 percent at the 100-day mark after a weak start, and disapproval soared to well above 50 percent. (See blog: Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump; Not Good)

President Biden, after a chaotic transition, is benefiting from a modest honeymoon with his 100-day approval at 53 percent, or about 10 points higher than Trump’s at this point. Join the panel as it compares, contrasts and assesses Biden’s first 100 days. (See blog: Difficult Midterm Election Shapes Biden’s 100-Day Strategy)

Floyd Ciruli
Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

MAY 4, 2021
11:00 am MT


President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Emergency
Banking Act into law, March 9, 1933 | AP photo 

Friday, April 23, 2021

President Biden’s First 100 Days

The first 100 days of a new presidency is an historical standard established during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s rush to meet the crisis of the Great Depression in 1933. The number of days is arbitrary and the standard subjective, but it has been used by presidents, politicians, the media and historians as an early indicator of leadership style and policy ever since. In 2021, what are the expectations? What were Biden’s early wins and misses, and what’s next?

Join University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Center on American Politics in a presentation by political scientists and experts to review President Joe Biden’s First 100 Days in office and the implications for America’s future domestic and foreign policy.


MAY 4, 2021
11:00 am MT

Sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and Center on American Politics

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Difficult Midterm Election Shapes Biden’s 100-Day Strategy

Joe Biden understands he has little time to accomplish the legislative agenda he believes his election provided him. He has wisely focused on the public’s highest priorities of pandemic management and COVID-19 financial relief. Infrastructure, his next big item, is a lower public priority, but has powerful constituencies. It will be a longer project, but doable in the first year.

Biden’s main hazard to passing legislation is the well-established history of a new president’s first midterm election being a disaster. The average since Ronald Reagan’s first midterm election is a House of Representatives loss of more than 40 seats. And, of course, Democrats only have a four-seat majority in the House and are tied in the Senate.

Democrats hope Biden’s performance will help make a difference in the November 2022 outcome. The data in the National Dashboard today:

  • Presidential approval is a net 12 points positive, with Biden now at 53 percent approval in RealClearPolitics ratings (similar rating at 538 – 53% to 41%). Biden has slid down a couple of points from his opening at 55 percent as Republican partisans have turned more negative.
  • The public’s view of the direction of the country has improved and is now at 44 percent, up from 39 percent last year, with still 49 percent believing its going in the wrong direction. Also, the Dow is up 11 percent in 2021 for a very positive first quarter.
  • The Democrats have 218 seats, the Republicans 212 and 5 are vacant. Hence, if 4 House seats shift, Kevin McCarthy becomes the Speaker. Both parties have extreme factions that are hard to govern, but Republicans have the advantage today.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Guiding Principles of the New China

China after 2012 and the ascension of Xi Jinping to his presidency is dramatically different than pre-2012 China. It is guided by a series of principles that are repeated by leadership in their domestic statements and documents, used by the foreign ministry and published by sanctioned media. The first principle, “a century of humiliation,” refers to the period from 1839 to 1949 when Western and foreign powers intervened and dominated the Chinese Empire. It is a nationalist argument for China to resist all foreign interference and maintain control of its territory. Many additional principles flow from it, such as “people of Asia must run affairs of Asia.” China interprets criticism and sanctions as interference in its sovereignty and core interests, which includes control of Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Guiding Principles

  • Century of humiliation
  • China’s rise is inevitable
  • U.S. is in irreversible decline
  • People of Asia must run affairs of Asia
  • West is trying to stop China’s rise
  • Battle of narratives, not values

Some, such as the first principle, have been around for decades, but others are new. Frequently stated in the Xi era are “China’s rise is inevitable,” accompanied by “the U.S. is in irreversible decline,” which has become a common view referenced among other criticisms of the West’s handling of the 2008 economic collapse and the U.S.’s 2020 pandemic response. Of course, any actions that the U.S. and the West in general are taking in Asia are described as attempts to stop China’s rise. 

Finally, with the “battle of narratives, not values,” China promotes the view that it believes in democracy, but it is their version and the American version is grossly flawed. Witness the events and surrounding claims of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020 and the long-running November 2020 “stole the election” drama. 

Guided by these principles, the West can expect a very competitive environment during the Xi era.

Free and Open Indo-Pacific: The Quad

Can the Quad shift from a concept to reality?

President Joe Biden’s first multilateral meeting was to host the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) in its first meeting of heads of government since it was conceived more than a decade ago. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan described the summit of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. as a “critical part of the architecture of the Indo-Pacific.”

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 sponsored a panel of leading foreign policy experts from Japan and the U.S. on the potential for a joint strategy and unified actions to defend the rule of law and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Quad: President Joe Biden (top left), Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide
Suga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister
Scott Morrison participate in the virtual Quad meeting,
March 12, 2021 | Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Professor Nobukatsu Kanehara – Senior advisor to the Asia Group, Tokyo; Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Abe; Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Secretariat.

  • In the late 1980s through the 1990s, one by one many Asian nations turned to democracy. First, the Philippines (1986), then the Republic of Korea (1987), then the maritime Asian nations. Taiwan’s leader succeeded in turning Taiwan into a true democracy. We have to expand this liberation to all of Asia.
  • The big challenge is China. When China joined the WTO (2001), Japan thought this was a new China and that it wouldn’t go back to Mao’s extremism. Unfortunately, China has stepped into Soviet shoes and is standing against the West.
  • Xi is like Mao: He wants to make a great legacy by conquering territories without the consent of the people. 
  • China will be larger than the U.S. in terms of economic size by 2030. If nations like India, Australia, Japan, the U.S. and others come together, China won’t become a global hegemon, but remain a regional hegemon. 
  • When we talk about the CPTPP, everyone joins in; when we talk about military affairs and strategies, not many raise their hands. 
  • Xi is a man of the sword. He’s a fighter and is determined to take back Taiwan. There’s no NATO here with nuclear weapons and tanks. We have to show that we’re in alliance and China isn’t in an advantageous position. We wish to expand Quad and have others join — Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore — to 10 or even 20 countries.
  • Japan is now an aging nation and more of its national budget is going to Medicare and pensions. We can’t keep pace with China. Technology and well-crafted strategy are needed. We can’t face China by quantity; we have to do it by quality.

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

  • The Quad started in 2004 in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami. The countries met to coordinate a response. The Quad died after 2007, but Trump revived it. In 2019 the Quad began to have meetings at a ministerial level to talk about regional issues. Biden is interested in reviving the Quad as it begins to address China. With four democracies working together in the Indo-Pacific, is it more symbolic than substantive?
  • Polling shows clearly that democracy is declining and authoritarian governments are increasing. American democracy, in particular, is in trouble. Biden says “America is back,” but it’s back in a new time.
  • The pandemic is a landmark for authoritarianism. It’s a way for China to prove that its authoritarian system was more effective in dealing with crisis and that it controlled the spread and quickly recovered economically. China was the only major country in 2020 that had positive economic growth.
  • China has abandoned traditional diplomacy and foreign policy. Its own interest cannot be compromised and it’s willing to go to war over them. 
  • U.S. allies and the Quad (the liberal democracies), continue to share values, but they’re more interested in the damage to their national interests by China. Even on security issues, each has a different interest than the U.S.
  • The U.S. has 60-100 allies. China only has North Korea and Pakistan, and its most powerful ally, Russia. China has trouble with its neighbors.

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.
  • This is a very different China from 2012; it’s the Xi era. U.S. policy has also shifted beyond the optimistic viewpoint that “China will evolve,” the Obama administration’s initial pivot to Asia, and President Trump’s transactional trade-related strategy.
  • The U.S.’s China strategy of competitive engagement needs allies. Japan is in a prime position. The Quad is now activated and support from European allies is important. Votes in the UN will be valuable.
  • China and Russia have developed an alliance that is anti-U.S. and has 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 among Americans.
  • A new era in U.S.-China relations will involve considerable competition. Values and ideals will be the main instruments of competition. The U.S. will use diplomacy, development aid and financing, and communication strategies. It will present a contrast between autocracy vs. liberal democracy.
  • Domestic policy is critical to foreign policy; we must “get our house in order” (Biden).

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

Xi Era

Delegates applauded Chinese President Xi Jinping as he arrived for opening
session of China's National People's Congress, March 2021 | Andy Wong/AP

Xi Jinping became president of China in 2013, launching what will be seen as a new era in the nation’s steady climb to first rank of nations and securing himself a near-cult status frequently compared to that of the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong.

Most of Xi’s work has been within his country. The West finally took notice as China began to assert power in Asia and beyond. But Xi and his allies have been working for years to prepare for this moment. Communist Party leadership was shaken by the rapid collapse of the USSR in 1991. One of his initial actions was ensuring the party’s discipline, loyalty and involvement in all aspects of the rapidly growing economy.

Strengthening the military was important in protecting national unity, securing Xi’s position and preparing for the projecting of power. His adoption of a corruption campaign was no doubt needed, given the amount of party and government corruption and the public’s view of its prevalence. But, it was also useful for removing rivals. Most recently in Hong Kong, a patriotism test is used to screen local legislative candidates. Xi and the party have dramatically increased censorship and are using new technology to surveil the internet and all manners of transactions and movement.

In 2018 and 2019 party meetings and national Congress, Xi made explicit his national dominance by eliminating the expectations of term limits and the public perception of collective leadership. Xi’s “thoughts” on socialism with Chinese characteristics were embedded into the constitution, making clear his undisputed leadership. Only Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping have had similar treatment of their political doctrines.

Receiving the most notice is China’s assertion of foreign policy and military power, not only off its coast, but as far as the Middle East, Africa and Latin America – in fact, globally. China is now and intends to continue to exercise world influence, especially to secure its economy, and because it saw a clear opportunity from a dearth of leadership in the U.S. and Britain in the Trump-Brexit period. After years of a philosophy of low-key accumulation of power (Deng 1990: “hide your strength, bide your time”), China under Xi is reaching for control of its core interests – Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and significant influence globally. But the effort has costs, and China is finally receiving pushback, with the U.S. in the forefront. 

Video Now Available on Sports and International Politics – Olympics and Tokyo

Nations fight to host an Olympics and Japan’s intent on its delayed event being a success. Hear a presentation from Professor Koji Murata of Kyoto, Japan, and Professor Tim Sisk from the Korbel School discuss what the Olympic Games mean for countries, athletes and the world.

Tokyo, Japan | Getty Images

The March 23, 2021 program was supported by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver.


See blog post on the presentation:
Tokyo Needs its Olympics

Japan Becomes Critical Ally

At the beginning of the Donald Trump presidency, Japanese Prime Minister Abe worked quickly and energetically to befriend him. He helped provide stability for Japan in a highly disruptive presidency. Even more importantly for Japan’s position in the Biden presidency, Abe became the advocate and architect for liberal internationalism in Asia. From helping construct a successor to the abandoned TPP, to describing a free and open Indo-Pacific as an aspiration, Abe and Japan were filling in for an absent America.

Of course, being only miles from China, Japan is a frontline country in the new region of maximum competition and possible conflict. It appreciates America’s deterrent. But for America, they are also an essential ally to build the coalition that will resist China’s new foreign policy expansion, including in the East China Sea where the two countries have competing claims.

America is anxious to see improvements in Japan’s relationship with South Korea and, of course, an increase in its defense capability, both legally and in resources.

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.