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Columbia University students
Leadership students

Columbia University students

The graduate students contributing here are members of "Leadership Development" at course at Teacher's College, Columbia University, taught by On Leadership panelist Todd Henshaw.

Our debt to China

Q: In the past week, China and Israel have issued sharp rebukes to President Obama and his approach to issues relating to trade and West Bank settlements. As a world leader facing political challenges at home, is this the right moment for Obama to show toughness and resolve and risk escalating the confrontations or to demonstrate patience and diplomacy in trying to defuse them?

Obama has shown the world and his constituencies that he has a listening ear -- arguably to a fault. But in today's more complex economy, the U.S. president cannot parade around bullying nations into compliance -- it just isn't that simple. China's sharp words are an in-your-face awakening to the reality that the U.S.. is no longer the only economic super power in the world. So it's in the U.S.'s best interest that Obama respond with diplomacy.

So when Obama looks at China, he needs to remember that they are his number one creditor, and touted by economic scholars to be the next economic super power. -- Martin Gonzalez

Stubborn for years to come?

While the United States' trade standoff with China and its desire to foster a lasting peace in the Middle East are two very different issues, the policy of past U.S. administrations has yet to yield fruitful results on either one. President Obama should approach both keeping in mind the central theme of his presidential campaign: change.

Obama must recognize his ability to exert more pressure on Israel than past administrations have, comforted that Israel will likely not want to seriously damage its long-term relations with its closest ally. For there to be any hope for peace Obama should use his influence to mitigate inflammatory attitudes.

The U.S. has considerably less clout with China. Swaggering after years of economic growth and its continued emergence as a world power, China may continue to be stubborn for years to come. Obama should get tough not by fighting the trade issue alone, but by fighting broader ideological issues such as free speech, which may nurture the existing democratic undercurrents in China. Google has done Obama a favor and set the table with its dispute and threat to shut down its Chinese site. -- Lindsey Fermo

A drop of Diplomacy and Tact

As a world leader, it is imperative to be deliberately strategic regarding the approach to foreign relations...whether it be China, an emerging superpower angered at the recent Dalai Lama visit, or our good old ally Israel that probably wants us to turn a blind eye toward the West Bank settlement issue. That said, alliances can change - just like the president's approval ratings. Obama is not just the president of a country. He is a global figure in a fast paced international world where everyone is watching. Whether or not our people or other countries see it, we need to adopt a more strategic long term vision - one that is global and inclusive.

Now, if Obama were thinking just about the short term tactical decisions regarding the trade relations, preserving alliances, or even this beast called "healthcare overhaul," of course, he might not want to dive headlong into turbulent international waters, but it's impossible to do that in this day and age. We are a global superpower and the world looks to us for cues - whether they admit it or not. Further, we are constantly judged - usually for being too involved, but also when we try our hand at quiet diplomacy. So either way, there is going to be some kind of backlash.

I was overseas for seven years as an expat during the George "Dubya" years, and I experienced firsthand the results of a leader that did not embody diplomacy and tact. Did George "Dubya" show toughness and resolve? Yes. Was he able to balance this with diplomacy in the face of confrontation? No. This is what President Obama is trying to do. It's not an issue of finding the right time, or even choosing between the two. It's a long term stance that balances the two with strategic vision and hopefully a better way of packaging the presentation. -Sharon Ha

By Columbia University students

 |  March 16, 2010; 6:38 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Um, the chinese are a doomed race of people thanks to blind devotion to communism?

HELLO! are you hearing yourself? we should be sad. we should be screaming for justice and human rights. we should also be self aware...

Posted by: ShazzaNYC | March 16, 2010 11:33 PM
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A stupendous failure starting with Nixon, that I will continue ignoring. The Chinese are a doomed race of people thanks to blind devotion to communism. Follow liberty home.

Posted by: tossnokia | March 16, 2010 9:10 PM
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Martin re read my statement I said nothing about easy I said we could and I did not add any ramifications’ for us.

Do you always twist a person’s words to make your argument more palatable if so maybe you ought to consider a career in the political realm. I hear the GOP is always looking for people who never let a fact get in the way of an argument.

Posted by: scon101 | March 16, 2010 4:13 PM
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Your argumentation over-simplifies the matter, and fails to consider not just where the US is today, but where its headed. Your assertion that the US can easily enact heavy trade tariffs and inflict anarchy on China is not only clumsy, but it's blind to the fact that the US is likewise vulnerable. Take the Sept 2009 imposition of 35% tarrifs on China-imported tires. While Obama is trying to coddle the local industry, he has ultimately made it more expensive for the struggling American to afford it. And has it improved US production in any way? Not in the last 7 months at least. US tariff imposition subjugated local demand.

That's what happens when Americans sneeze -- they get it all over their hands.

So if by an ivory tower you mean delusion of absolute economic strength, you're most welcome to come down.

Martin Gonzalez

Posted by: MartinGonzalez1 | March 16, 2010 2:56 PM
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Oh please. Another apologist saying we have no clout. get a grip man we sneeze and the premier faints. Their whole economy is built upon exports and can fold faster than a house of cards.
if we enact any kind of heavy trade tariffs their goverment will fall and anarchy will reign supreme and they know it.

Go back to your ivory tower and try spinning another tale because this one has no clothes.

Posted by: scon101 | March 16, 2010 12:26 PM
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