Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska spoke to more than 300 graduate students Thursday concerning United States’ foreign relations and the importance of countries working together to solve world-wide problems.
Hagel’s speech was part of the opening ceremonies for the U.S. Foreign Policy Colloquium, which brought together 200 students from the People’s Republic of China, who are studying in the United States, and 15 American students to examine American foreign policy.
The senator, who serves as the co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, focused on the United States’ relationship with China.
“China is not one monolithic country or one monolithic government,” Hagel said. “It is vast and complicated, and draws from different dynamics…we as Americans have to understand that…before we can shape a policy that is relevant and realistic and has some reason to succeed.”
China is a rapidly changing nation, and while it still faces issues such as poverty and human rights abuses, it is important for the United States and China to “get their relationship right,” Hagel said.
“The wiser course of actions with most nations is to move them into the world order as quickly as possible,” Hagel said. “They then assign themselves to transparency, obligations and commitment. This enhances their society and their people.”
The senator compared the world’s conditions today with its situation 55 years ago, following World War II. He said nations have common interests and need to build coalitions to address them, especially through strengthening multinational organizations such as the United Nations, NATO and World Bank. Although he said foreign relations have not been perfect, in an age of nuclear technology, “we’ve done well.”
“Terrorism, HIV, SARS and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are threats to the world, and if we are to deal with them it requires a global response,” Hagel said.
Hagel discussed the “ripples around the world” from other nations, noting that North Korea should “top the list on the agenda.”
Following his lecture, Hagel answered student questions for about 20 minutes. When one student asked if Hagel was a realist or idealist, and which was the best for foreign policy, the senator replied that both ideologies are necessary.
“You have to be a realist enough to understand the reality of whatever you’re dealing with, but you have to be an idealist to realize that the world can be more just,” he said.
Hagel’s lecture kicked off the three-day colloquium, co-sponsored by the Elliott School of International Affairs, National Committee on United States-China Relations and Coca Cola. The programming featured representatives from various institutions that are instrumental in foreign policy making, including former ambassadors and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.