Two-day discussion on Asia coming to Vail Symposium |

Two-day discussion on Asia coming to Vail Symposium

Daily staff report
The first night of the Vail Symposium event will cover China's global leadership and America's trade agreement with China. The second night of the event will cover China's becming a democratic state and how the world will respond to China's growing power.
Special to the Daily


What: The Rise of Asia in the 21st Century: What It Means for the United States

with Johanna Kao, Jamie Metzl, John Pomfret and Brad Setser, moderated by Greg Dobbs.

When: Tomorrow and Thursday. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; program from 6 to 8:45 p.m.

Where: Donovan Pavilion in Vail.

Cost: Tickets are $45 for both evenings prior to midnight on the day before the program; tickets are $60 after midnight and at the door. Tickets are also available to attend one evening of programming.

More information:

Watching the news, there’s no doubt that Asia is a topic of conversation in the political sphere. Whether it’s discussing trade agreements or speculating on the reach of Asian political powers, it’s a hot topic. Wednesday and Thursday, Vail Symposium will present a special two-night, four-session program to discuss the rise of Asia in the 21st century and what it might mean for the United States.

“Our geopolitical programs tend to be up-to-the-minute discussions about what’s going on at that moment with a given topic,” said Kris Sabel, executive director of the Vail Symposium. “This is our only two-night program, but I think it’s necessary to cover the scope of the topic with the incredible speakers we have. It’s going to be an interesting and engaging event that should not be missed.”

On Wednesday, the program will include two sessions. From 6 to 7:15 p.m., John Pomfret will discuss “Is China Ready for Global Leadership and What Does that Mean for the U.S.?”

With the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s Brexit vote, does China have a historic opportunity to seize the reins of global leadership from the United States and the West? What is meant by the China Solution and does it represent a viable alternative to the western world order? China is engaged in a massive international infrastructure project called One Belt, One Road that involves Asia, Africa and Europe. The Chinese insist the initiative will increase connectivity, observers see it as a bid for dominance in global affairs and trade. However, will China’s own challenges of a declining birth rate, shrinking workforce, rapidly aging population and monumental environmental problems halt their ascent? Or, will AI and robotics be China’s trump card?

From 7:30 to 8:45 p.m., Brad Setser will ask, “Does Anyone Win a Trade War?”

The U.S. has now put tariffs on about half of its imports from China and is threatening to put a 25 percent tariff on all imports from China this year. Are the tariffs a justified reaction to China’s failure to live up to the spirit, if not the letter, of its WTO commitments and its import-substituting policies? Or are they an over-reach that will only damage American firms and consumers? Are there alternative tools available to encourage economic reform in China? The trade situation between the U.S. and China changes constantly; Setser will provide an update and interpretation of the latest developments.

Part 2

On Thursday, in session one from 6 to 7:15 p.m., Johanna Kao will present “Hear My Voice: Reflections on Democratic Change in Asia and What Lies Ahead.”

In the past 20 years, East Asia has witnessed profound economic and social change. The broad parameters of the Asian economic story are well known; perhaps less so is the way in which Asian societies have adopted — and adapted — democratic norms. Across the region, countries emerged from periods of authoritarian rule and took on democratic institutions and practices. It can be argued that the region as a whole is more democratic than it was 20 years ago, but perhaps less democratic than 10 years ago. With that in mind, how meaningful have these changes been and are they sustainable? What impact have these transitions had on the lives of ordinary citizens? From her perspective of two decades of work with activists and practitioners in Asia, Kao will share first-hand accounts of the civic and political leaders who have shaped the nature and trajectories of these struggles and the way that ordinary citizens have embraced democratic ideals to effect change over their lives.

During the second session, audience favorite Jamie Metzl will discuss “China and the Coming Post-American World.”

China’s spectacular rise and the largely self-inflicted damage the United States has wreaked on itself has hastened the demise of the postwar international order far more quickly than most anyone could have predicted only a few short years ago. As China seeks actively to recast the international order in its own image, how should America and the rest of the world respond? In a world where competition can be both win-win and zero-sum, what is the right response to the challenge and opportunity of China that increases the potential for mutually beneficial future developments and minimizes the chance of conflict and war?

“Asia is always prominent in the news — now more than ever with China and trade dominating the discussion,” said Claire Noble, program manager for the Vail Symposium. “I am especially excited that Johanna Kao … has joined us to provide insight into some of the other countries in the region that are sometimes overlooked.”

About the speakers

Johanna Kao serves as Asia regional director for the International Republican Institute, bringing more than 20 years of experience in international political development, nonprofit management and citizen empowerment to the role. Kao has lived and worked in Asia for most of her life in some of the region’s most challenging and dynamic countries at critical times in their political development. Working with both established and emerging political and civic leadership, Kao provides strategic advice, facilitates training and skills-building opportunities and manages a diverse portfolio of programs across 17 countries in Asia. Kao was born and grew up in Hong Kong. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in political science and completed her LLM at the University of Hong Kong.

Jamie Metzl is a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, novelist, blogger, syndicated columnist, media commentator and expert in Asian affairs and biotechnology policy. He has served in the U.S. National Security Council, State Department, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as executive vice president of the Asia Society and with the United Nations in Cambodia.

John Pomfret served as a correspondent for The Washington Post for many years. He is the author of the acclaimed book “Chinese Lessons,” and has won several awards for his coverage of Asia, including the Osborne Elliot Prize in 2003 by the Asia Society. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts from Stanford University and was one of the first American students to go to China and study at Nanjing University; he attended Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies as a Fulbright Scholar. During his 15-year tenure at The Washington Post, Pomfret covered big wars and small in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, southwestern Turkey and northeastern Iran. Pomfret spent seven years covering China: one year in the late 1980s during the Tiananmen Square protests and then from 1998 until the end of 2003 as the bureau chief for The Washington Post in Beijing. Pomfret speaks, reads and writes Mandarin; he has been a bartender in Paris and practiced Judo in Japan.

Brad W. Setser is the Steven A. Tananbaum senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations. His expertise includes macroeconomics, global capital flows, financial vulnerability analysis, sovereign debt restructuring and the management of financial crises. Setser served as the deputy assistant secretary for international economic analysis in the U.S. Treasury from 2011 to 2015, where he worked on Europe’s financial crisis, currency policy, financial sanctions, commodity shocks and Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. He was previously the director for international economics, serving jointly on the staff of the National Economic Council and the National Security Council. He did his undergraduate studies at Harvard and post-graduate studies at Oxford and Sciences-Po in Paris.

From his “boots on the ground” news coverage in more than 80 countries around the world, moderator Greg Dobbs is a professional speaker on global affairs, the author of two books and a journalist for almost 50 years, spending most of his time as a correspondent for two American television networks. Greg is the winner of three Emmy awards and the Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists; Dobbs was inducted into the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame in 2017.

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