PS History Department Hosts Discussion With American Diplomat Dr. Daniel R. Russel

Last Wednesday, American diplomat Dr. Daniel R. Russel, who served as the Assistant Secretary of State of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2013-2017, met with Prep School history students and faculty to discuss U.S.-China relations. Currently the Vice President for International Security and Policy at the Asian Society Policy Institute (ASPI), Dr. Russel began the meeting by defining precisely what diplomacy is. “Diplomacy isn’t about arguing. It’s not about debating. It’s about persuading,” he explained. “It’s about getting somebody to do something that they don’t necessarily want to do or getting somebody not to do something that they do want to do and accomplishing that without force.”
According to Dr. Russel, one of the key factors affecting international relations is human agency, something he realized early on in his career: “If I had one great revelation when I joined the State Department and started in diplomacy, it’s that government affairs are conducted by people. Diplomacy is conducted by people.” In other words, who our political leaders are and their underlying motivations matter a great deal. For instance, while “President Obama’s approach to China was based on the belief that the United States would be better off with a stable and prospering China,” President Donald Trump has adopted a much different strategy. “The Trump administration began by defining China as an enemy and has treated China as an enemy,” Dr. Russel said. “And guess what? Bingo—it's gotten an enemy in China.”
How two countries deal with disagreements is another significant influence on the state of government affairs. In a healthy relationship, the two parties involved view any issues that may arise as something for them to resolve together. However, as Dr. Russel described, “In an adversarial relationship, which is definitely where we are right now between the U.S. and China, the bad thing becomes proof that the other side is bad.” Rather than straighten out their problems, two countries at odds will use them to disparage the other side.
Following Dr. Russel’s discussion, Monica Markovits facilitated a Q&A during which the students in her Tufts Seminar on China and the World picked his brain further. “It's very rare that somebody has the opportunity to speak with the actors in politics and eventually history,” commented Ms. Markovits. Both she and her students said Dr. Russel’s visit is a highlight of their year so far. 
You can view the discussion with Dr. Russel here.

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