U.S.-China hotline could help avert crises, political science professor says

A direct hotline between powerful nations—the so-called “red telephone”—is an iconic tool in managing international crises. Yet as University of Chicago Political Science Professor Robert Pape points out, “no such working connection exists between the U.S. and China.” This is especially troubling, he says, because “the East Asian region has experienced a number of territorial disputes as China has continued to rise.”

The lack of a formal hotline between the two global powers was one of the topics discussed at an April 30 event on Capitol Hill about managing the increasingly frequent crises in Asia. The conference, “Beyond the Pivot: Managing Asian Security Crises,” was co-sponsored by the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST), directed by Pape, and the Congressional U.S.-China Working Group, co-chaired by Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois.

The meeting brought together policymakers and scholars, including a group of Chinese scholars who had participated in a conference CPOST organized last fall at the UChicago Beijing Center.

“There have been some worrisome signs in Asia and a number of fairly low-level conflicts that the U.S. has taken seriously,” Pape said. “It’s important to think about how the U.S. and China can take steps to avert crises, such as taking steps toward establishing a working hotline to provide direct communication between the two governments.”

Some of those Chinese scholars who participated in the Capitol Hill event will come to the UChicago campus for an academic conference in early May. That event will be sponsored by the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security (PIPES) speaker series at the Harris School of Public Policy, CPOST, the UChicago Center for East Asian Studies, and the Confucius Institute.

“CPOST provides value to policymakers, like Sen. Kirk and his colleagues, through peer-reviewed research,” Pape said. “Our goal is to reduce security threats and increase regional stability.”