THE FOLLY OF ENGAGEMENT AND DIALOGUE
Brig. Gen. David R. Stilwell
Former Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs
“Engagement” is rightfully seen as the best way to resolve differences between individuals and governments. But what happens when one side refuses to engage meaningfully? Or when the pomp and ceremony of engagement is seen as an end, and not the means to resolving important, pressing issues? Stilwell will use examples of productive and failed engagement, and the conditions that resulted in their success or failure as lessons to assess the potential for the Biden administration to arrest the deterioration of the US-China bilateral relationship. Hint: the relationship is determined by the most attitude of the most negative actor.
David R. Stilwell is the former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and current member of the East-West Center Board of Governors. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary, David R. Stilwell served as the Director of the China Strategic Focus Group at US Indo-Pacific Command in Hawai‘i. He served in the Air Force for 35 years, retiring in 2015 as a Brigadier General then serving as the Asia advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He served multiple tours of duty in Japan and Korea as a linguist, fighter pilot, and commander, and as the Defense Attaché at the US Embassy in China. He was an East-West Center grantee while studying for his Master’s Degree in Asian studies and Chinese language at the University of Hawai‘i and was an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center from 2016 to 2019.
The China Seminar was founded by Dr. Daniel W.Y. Kwok 44 years ago. Under his guidance, it became a signature program of the Friends of the East-West Center (FEWC) in 2009. The program provides an informal venue for China experts, such as scholars, diplomats, and journalists, to present talks on aspects of China that interest the community and members of the Friends. Topics include politics, economics, social issues, history, culture, food, arts, and many other subjects. Though Dr. Kwok has recently retired from his involvement with the program, the FEWC and the East-West Center remain committed to continuing this important program.