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On September 29, the APARC China Program hosted Thomas Fingar and Stephen Stedman for the program “Rebuilding International Institutions.” The program, which was moderated by China Program Director Jean Oi, examined the future of international institutions such as the United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO), and World Health Organization (WHO) in our evolving global political landscape. While Fingar and Stedman acknowledged that such institutions facilitated attainment of unprecedented peace and prosperity after WWII, they also asked difficult questions: Are these institutions still adequate? And if not, how will we change them?

Shorenstein APARC Fellow Thomas Fingar kicked off the session by asking whether or not US-China tensions would impede cooperation on major global challenges, or if those challenges were so serious as to render such rivalries immaterial. Perhaps the most obvious example of such a crisis is the current COVID-19 pandemic. The efforts to curb the virus’ spread not only by individual countries, but also by international organizations like the WHO, have proven largely inadequate. According to Fingar, our existing institutions need to be reformed or supplemented to deal with these types of threats. However, such an overhaul of our international systems will be difficult, he says.

How, then, will we go about such a massive project? Stephen Stedman, Deputy Director at Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), responded by explaining that the current failure of international cooperation makes such undertakings tough. Globalization has been a double-edged sword: On one hand, more contact, perhaps inherently, leads to increased tension. The resurgence of traditional notions of sovereignty in 2010, kickstarted by the opposition of countries like Russia and China to what was seen as UN overreaching, has led to a reduction of international cooperation overall. On the other hand, Fingar posits that our interconnectedness may force us toward cooperation despite rivalries as we face more and more transnational threats. International institutions create rules to organize and manage our many interconnected relationships so that we can deal with our problems effectively and reduce friction.

Stedman also pointed to the upcoming US elections and the major impact their outcome will have on how these problems are addressed—or not. In the last four year, the United States has pulled back significantly from international institutions and agreements, leaving a gap that China has started to fill. Furthermore, despite the US’s retreat from international responsibility, the country still remains a critical actor in global initiatives. China’s embrace of a global leadership role is not inherently negative, but its future relationship with the US will need to be “managed in a way that you get greater cooperation and not just paralysis.” Stedman says that it is likely that progress will need to be made on a bilateral front in order to have productive conversations about international issues with China.

Concluding on an optimistic note, Fingar voiced his hope that the current tensions and negative perceptions between rivals might ultimately “be mitigated by success in dealing with a common problem,” because “experience does shape perceptions.”

A video recording of this program is available upon request. Please contact Callista Wells, China Program Coordinator at with any inquiries.

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Explaining the New Confrontation Between Russia and the West

Power. Policy. People 

July 6th, 2015

5:00 pm - 6:30 pm 

U.S.-Russia relations have reached a new low.  For thirty years, American presidents believed that the end of the Cold War ushered in a new era of cooperation with Moscow, and Russian integration into the West.   That hope has now ended. In parallel, Russian leaders also sought to deepen ties with the United States and build closer relations with Western institutions. Today, however, Russian leaders and commentators describe the United States as an adversary. In turn, American and European leaders have instituted unprecedented coercive measures against Russia in response to Russia’s intervention into Ukraine.  What happened?  How did we go from the end of the Cold War thirty years ago to a new period of confrontation? In his lecture, Professor McFaul will examine several explanations for this tragic set of developments, drawing on both his theoretical knowledge from his academic career as well as his practical experiences as a U.S. government official. 

Michael A. McFaul is the director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, professor of political science, the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, all at Stanford University. He also works as a news analyst for NBC News. McFaul served for five years in the Obama administration, first as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House (2009-2012) and then as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation (2012-2014).  This summer, he is in residence at the Stanford Center at Peking University as a Mingde Distinguished SCPKU Visiting Fellow.  


Stanford Center at Peking University

The Lee Jung Sen Building Peking University

No.5 Yiheyuan Road

Haidian District

Beijing, P.R.China 100871

Michael McFaul Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Stanford University
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Michael McFaul, a Stanford political scientist and former U.S. ambassador to Russia, has been selected as the next director of the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Stanford Provost John Etchemendy and Ann Arvin, the university’s vice provost and dean of research. McFaul will succeed Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, who was nominated in July as an associate justice of the California Supreme Court and elected Tuesday.

McFaul takes the helm of FSI in January.

"Stanford has long been a home for scholars who connect academia to policy and public service, and Professor McFaul is the embodiment of that model," Etchemendy said. "We are grateful for Mike's service and confident he will be a strong leader for FSI."

Arvin said McFaul is a strong fit for the position.

“Professor McFaul’s background as an outstanding scholar and his service as an influential ambassador give him a vital perspective to lead FSI, which is Stanford’s hub for studying and understanding international policy issues,” she said. “His scholarship, experience and energy will keep FSI and Stanford at the forefront of international studies as well as some of the most pressing global policy debates."

McFaul has been a faculty member in the department of political science at Stanford since 1994.  He joined the Obama administration in January 2009, serving for three years as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House. He then served as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation from 2012 to 2014.

McFaul already has a deep affiliation with FSI. Before joining the government, he served as FSI deputy director from 2006 to 2009.  He also directed FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) from 2005 to 2009.

During his four years leading CDDRL, McFaul launched the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship program for mid-career lawyers, politicians, advocates and business leaders working to shore up democratic institutions in their home countries. He also established CDDRL’s senior honors program.  From 1992-1994, McFaul also worked as a Senior Research Fellow at FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

“I am thrilled to be assuming a leadership role again at FSI,” McFaul said.  “FSI has become one of the premier institutions in the country for policy-relevant research on international affairs.  I look forward to using my recent government experience to deepen further FSI’s impact on policy debates in Washington and around the world.”

Arvin said McFaul’s previous positions at FSI and CDDRL will make for a smooth transition in the institute’s leadership.

“His familiarity with FSI’s history and infrastructure will allow him to start this new position with an immediate focus on the institute’s academic mission,” she said.

McFaul is also the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and plans to build on his long affiliations with both Hoover and FSI to deepen cooperation between these two premier public policy institutions on campus.

He has written and co-authored dozens of books including Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should, How We CanTransitions To Democracy: A Comparative Perspective (with Kathryn Stoner); Power and Purpose: American Policy toward Russia after the Cold War (with James Goldgeier); and Russia’s Unfinished Revolution: Political Change from Gorbachev to Putin.

“In so many ways, Mike represents the best of FSI,” said Cuéllar, who has held leadership positions at FSI since 2004 and begins his term on the California Supreme Court in January. “He knows the worlds of academia and policy extremely well, and will bring unique experience and sound judgment to his new role at FSI.”

McFaul currently serves as a news analyst for NBC News, appearing frequently on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC as a commentator on international affairs. He also appears frequently on The Charlie Rose Show and The Newshour, as well as PBS and BBC radio programs. He has recently published essays in Foreign AffairsThe New York TimesPolitico, and Time

McFaul was one of the first U.S. ambassadors to actively use social media for public diplomacy. He still maintains an active presence on Facebook at amb.mcfaul and on Twitter at @McFaul.

McFaul received his B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and his M.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Stanford University in 1986.  As a Rhodes Scholar, he completed his D. Phil. in International Relations at Oxford University in 1991.

“Since coming here in 1981 as 17-year-old kid from Montana, Stanford has provided me with tremendous opportunities to grow as a student, scholar, and policymaker,” McFaul said. “I now look forward to giving back to Stanford by contributing to the development of one of the most vital and innovative institutions on campus.” 


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