Dr. Andrew Latham

Much of the conventional wisdom surrounding the future of U.S.-China relations tilts heavily in the direction that the two superpowers are on an almost inevitable collision course toward direct military confrontation. If that prediction were to come true, it would be catastrophic for the entire world. But Dr. Andrew Latham, professor of political science and international relations, thinks this view is short-sighted and even dangerous, and he intends to lay out exactly why in his next book “China’s Grand Strategy: A History, 1950-2050.” 

The Charles Koch Foundation recently awarded Dr. Latham $12,800 in support of his book project, which will be published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2023. 

Tell us more about the book. What is your goal in writing it? 

The book explores the evolution of China’s grand strategy and the specific factors, both domestic and international, that shape the way the Chinese Communist Party sees the world and then how the People’s Republic of China (PRC) acts in the world. The argument I want to make is that, despite all the drumbeat about war with China just around the corner, there are some very good reasons to believe that that’s not the case, and that both the United States and the PRC might even find themselves in a situation in which their differences can be managed in a more peaceful way.

What will this grant from the Charles Koch Foundation allow you to do? 

A number of things. I plan to use some of the grant to fund a student-researcher to help me with the project this summer. Another portion will be used to fund a couple of trips to Washington, D.C., to talk to people in the State Department, perhaps in the Pentagon, and especially in the think tank world. 

The Koch name can elicit some passionate feelings, given Charles and David Koch’s legacy in American politics. What’s your response to folks who might be critical of any association with the Charles Koch Foundation? 

When I applied for the grant, it was made clear to me right up front that there are no strings attached. In fact, they prided themselves on having a very light touch. There aren’t a lot of reporting requirements, there are no ideological litmus tests. If there were strings attached, if there were ideological guardrails that I couldn’t go beyond, or if this was in service of some particular ideologically inflected project, I would have stayed far away from it. But it was made very clear to me that that’s not the case.

While doing my due diligence, I came across a New York Times piece in 2019 that talked about the way in which this particular aspect of what the Koch Foundation does is really a point of convergence between left and right on the political spectrum. It’s not in the service of some conservative or radically conservative cause, but in fact, this space that’s being supported by the Koch Foundation is also being supported by the Soros Foundation. The two foundations have come together to fund the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft to support exactly the kind of research that I’m doing. 

So my own initial concerns about the Koch name were allayed very quickly, and with what my research revealed, I felt like I was on very solid and secure ground.

Why is understanding China, and where it’s been and where it’s going, so crucial at this moment in time?

Because there are any number of people in positions of power, and adjacent to people in positions of power, who are pushing us in the direction of conflict – a Cold War 2.0, another global struggle with a superpower – all of which carries with it the possibility of misunderstanding, miscalculation, and war.

And I think – and there are others out there who share my view, but we’re in the minority – that that’s a dangerous way to think about China and the world, and an inaccurate way to think about China and the world. We can do better. The United States is not preordained to enter into any kind of World War with China. But the case has to be made that we don’t have quite as much to fear from China as some people think we do, because it’s the fear that can drive us into the conflict. 

So I see this project as very much in line with my own long history of writing on issues of international peace and security: How can we enhance international peace and security by dispelling some of the more potentially destructive myths that are floating around in the American foreign policy establishment? 

April 19 2022

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