Image of Photo of Prof Jeffrey D. Sachs
photo by Gabriella C Marino

US Grand Strategy and intellectual and political exchange among the US, China and Europe

The China Centre lecture on Wednesday 20 October 2021 was given by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor and Director, Center for Sustainable Development in the Earth Institute, Columbia University; SDG Advocate for UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the Sustainable Development Goals; and President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs’ lecture addressed the relationship between China and the USA. In Professor Sachs’ view, China is not a ‘hegemonic aspirant’ but it has the capabilities necessary to re-assume the place in the world that it formerly occupied. Jeffrey Sachs observed that China’s escape from poverty is a major development achievement, while Huawei’s 5G capability has the potential to make a valuable contribution to upgrading the world’s telecommunications system. China has no wish to take over the world, but the USA is reluctant to relinquish its own hegemonic position. Professor Sachs expressed concern that the USA is tipping the world into a New Cold War.  A consensus has developed across the American political spectrum in which China is regarded as an adversary. Jeffrey Sachs expressed concern at the negative attitude towards China adopted by NATO, which was established with the purpose of containing the USSR. He cautioned that US policy on Taiwan risked provoking confrontation with China. Repeated reference to the possibility of a ‘Peloponnesian War’ risked contributing to that very outcome. Professor Sachs emphasised that dialogue with China was essential to the resolution of common challenges such as climate change. 

A wide array of issues was raised in the Q&A session. These included: the role of the CPC in relation to human rights and individual freedom in China; the significance of increased business activity by Western financial firms in China; the choices facing China in response to the rise of Western hostility; the role that UN-based institutions can play in achieving a cooperative outcome for the relationship between China and the West; the lessons that can be learned from the Cuban missile crisis for US-China relations; the positive role that cooperation can play in international relations; the dangers posed by informational asymmetry and misunderstanding of intentions in China and the USA; and the role of Confucian and Aristotelian philosophy in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned economics professor, bestselling author, innovative educator, and global leader in sustainable development. He is widely recognized for bold and effective strategies to address complex challenges including debt crises, hyperinflations, the transition from central planning to market economies, the control of AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, the escape from extreme poverty, and the battle against human-induced climate change.

Professor Sachs serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, where he holds the rank of University Professor, the university’s highest academic rank. Sachs held the position of Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University from 2002 to 2016. He is President of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a commissioner of the UN Broadband Commission for Development, and an SDG Advocate for UN Secretary General António Guterres. From 2001-18, Sachs served as Special Advisor to UN Secretaries-General Kofi Annan (2001-7), Ban Ki-moon (2008-16), and António Guterres (2017-18).

Jeffrey Sachs has authored and edited numerous books, including three New York Times bestsellers: The End of Poverty (2005), Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet (2008), and The Price of Civilization (2011). Other books include To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace (2013), The Age of Sustainable Development (2015), Building the New American Economy: Smart, Fair & Sustainable (2017), A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism (2018), and most recently, The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions (2020).

Professor Sachs was the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership. He was twice named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders and has received 35 honorary degrees. The New York Times called Sachs “probably the most important economist in the world,” and Time magazine called him “the world’s best-known economist.” A survey by The Economist ranked Sachs as among the three most influential living economists.

Prior to joining Columbia, Professor Sachs spent over twenty years as a professor at Harvard University, most recently as the Galen L. Stone Professor of International Trade. A native of Detroit, Michigan, Jeffrey Sachs received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard.