Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Daniel Runde lectures on U.S. leadership on the world stage

Daniel Runde, Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, promoted his new book, “The American Imperative: Reclaiming Global Leadership through Soft Power” during a lecture at Jenkins Nanovic Halls on Tuesday afternoon. In his address, Runde urged the United States to provide a leadership agenda that speaks to developing countries.

1680636212-7ce84f738ba25f3-700x525
International affairs expert Dan Runde spoke Tuesday afternoon in Jenkins Nanovic Halls.


Runde noted that “we’re not in the post-Cold War age anymore” and that America’s position as a unipolar world power is now being challenged, having entered an age of “great power competition” with Russia and China.

“The Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin’s murderous regime can fill voids today that they couldn’t 20 years ago,” Runde pointed out. “They can fill voids in vaccines, they can fill voids in the digital space, they can fill voids in infrastructure, they can fill security voids, they can fill values voids.” 

While there may be a bipartisan consensus that America now faces a threat from China and Russia, “what we don't have in Washington yet is a consensus on what the heck to do about it,” Runde said.

If the United States does not muster a response to this threat, the consequences could be catastrophic, he warned.

“The Chinese Communist Party is hoping to set up an alternate world system. If there’s a world led by the Chinese Communist Party, no one is going to like it,” Runde said.

This fierce competition between the U.S., Russia and China, Runde said, is not likely to take the form of direct military confrontation, but rather a battle of ideas and resources in non-aligned countries throughout the developing world.

“The United States and our allies need to offer a positive, forward-looking agenda that speaks to the hopes and aspirations of other countries as an alternative to a Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin partnership in developing countries,” he added.

If the United States does not provide a vision of leadership for these countries, “they’re going to take their business somewhere else,” Runde predicted.

One of the most important theaters of this great power competition, Runde said, will be Africa.

“A big part of our future is in Africa. There are a billion people in Africa today. 25 years from today there will be more citizens of Africa than all the citizens of India and mainland China combined,” he said.

The agenda that the United States provides in this region has to change with changing times, Runde said. 

“The kinds of things that speak to our friends' hopes and aspirations are changing. This isn't your grandparents’ developing world. It’s not even your parent’s developing world. It’s richer, freer, healthier with a lot more agency,” he explained. 

Runde argued that countries in the developing world are now looking for more infrastructure, technology, education partnerships, trade and investment from the United States, as opposed to just aid.

He also urged diplomats to spend more time in these developing countries and learn the native languages as opposed to simply speaking English or French.

Runde focused on technology as a centerpiece for the competition between the United States and Russia and China. 

“I do not think it’s in our interest to have the digital rails of the future be owned by [China]. It’s not in our interests, it's not in our friends interests. We need an alternative,” he pressed.

Runde also warned against using software owned by China that could be used to surveil Americans. He specifically focused on TikTok, which has been subject to recent scrutiny in Congress.

“This is bad news. This tracks everywhere you go,” he said of TikTok.

While Runde acknowledged that students might enjoy the funny videos they see on the app, he implored his audience to think more deeply about China’s intentions in promoting the app in the United States.

“Did you know, on mainland China, they restrict the use of Tik Tok [to] … only 1 or 2 hours?” he said. “Why is it allowed here? It’s almost like a new opium. It’s almost like they’re exporting something. It’s almost like they’re doing it on purpose.” 

He also warned against progressive Democrats and isolationist Republicans who want to see the United States withdraw from a leadership role on the world stage. 

While Runde said he hasn’t heard any proponents of this view, “say they’re cool with China leading the world,” that could be the consequence of such a policy.

He pointed to international institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations as proof of this notion, arguing that if the United States refuses to lead here, China will.

“There are some unfortunate things about the multilateral system,” Runde conceded. “But, if we have a fit and quit, guess what? China can fill that void.”

Despite the threat posed by China and Russia and the looming specter of conflict between the two nations, he urged for greater understanding between the peoples of these countries and the United States. 

“We need people-to-people connectivity,” Runde explained. “We should make Chinese students in the United States welcome. I think it’s one of our strengths.”

As he recommended seeking understanding with China, Runde also reaffirmed the need for the United States to stand up to the country and assert its role as leader of the international system.

“Leadership is a choice,” Runde stated. “ I’m arguing that we need to lead.”