Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Foreign Service Veteran David Rank Surveys the Post-Trump US-China Relationship

Posted by Xiaowei Wang, radiichina.com

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In June 2017, Trump announced that the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. After the announcement, media coverage in the US shifted to China’s emerging role in the world, a country that was often referenced in less than congenial terms during Trump’s campaign. Whether the US’s intentions to leave the Paris Treaty had immediate impacts was irrelevant (the earliest possible US withdrawal date is not until November 4, 2020) — it signaled the continued US retreat from larger international policies.

Many protested Trump’s withdrawal. Among them was David Rank, who left his post as acting ambassador to China after 27 years of working in the foreign service. Since his departure from China, Rank has been traveling around the US after many years abroad. His very public Washington Post op-ed has also led to a number of speaking appearances, including one evening that I was lucky enough to attend at the 1990 Institute/UCSF Hastings Law school. ...
Radii: You mentioned the TPP, of which Facebook was a big supporter. What do you make of tech companies acting more and more like state powers, where you have Mark Zuckerberg performing public diplomacy, making speeches in Mandarin and asking Xi Jinping to name his second child ?

David Rank: I joined the State Department in 1990. It was a very different world. We didn’t have cell phones, we didn’t have email, we barely had CNN. So the world moved more slowly and everything was government to govern with. I was at a conference not long before I resigned — it was the US, India and China discussing long-term strategic issues. Everything on the agenda was something that wasn’t really a traditional state-to-state interaction, things like terrorism or internet governance. So all these things are bigger than the state and nation states, or below the nation state, but in the traditional stuff of diplomacy is just a much smaller slice of how we interact — that’s the way the world is, right? It’s more connected. And I suppose it’s natural that we haven’t figured out how to do it right. You know, is Mark Zuckerberg American? He’s an American citizen but is Facebook an American company? It is, but when they go to France they try and look French as possible.

Our take on internet governance is very, very different from the Chinese take on internet governance, to name an example. And the job that the Chinese state has taken on, of monitoring internet content, we’ve left that to Mark Zuckerberg. And I think that’s the right way to do it. It’s sort of ironic. I worked for the government for 25 years. I don’t think that’s the right place to be making those decisions. If someone’s going to make a bad decision on internet governance, on content and that sort of thing, my hope, my personal view is that there should be a lot of people making that mistake before someone from the government does. ...

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