For many, Vogel’s passing adds to the perception that the influence of the old generation of China experts is declining, as anti-China rhetoric seems to have become the new political correctness on the US relationship with China.
“Even heavyweight figures like former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have also lost influence,” reads a commentary titled “The world needs more scholars who have deep understanding about China” in Ming Pao, a Hong Kong-based paper.
Considered one of the most famous diplomats and a renowned strategist on China who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, Kissinger, who will turn 98 in 2021, was removed from the Defense Policy Board on December 14 in a sudden purge of veteran experts by the Trump administration.
“As politicians like [former] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and self-claimed China experts like Peter Navarro tried to revive McCarthyism, objective and rational voices of scholars who genuinely know China have been drowned out by the fanfares of radical and extremist China hawks,” it added.
Michael Swaine, director of the East Asia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a US think tank, tweeted that the passing of Vogel is “a huge blow to the field, especially at this critical time, because Ezra was a major supporter of the effort to inject greater sanity and balance into US thinking about China.”
In an article run by the State-owned Global Times on January 5, the paper quoted Douglas Paal, vice president of studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former special assistant to President George HW Bush, as saying that younger generations of scholars on China studies in the US did not experience the dark periods of World War II or the Cold War, and lack first-hand experience of the potential catastrophic consequences of great power struggles.
“The majority of the new generation of China researchers can neither speak fluent Chinese, nor have extensive experience of living in China, and they lack the in-depth knowledge of China’s history and reality,” reads the article, “The result is they primarily perceive the US-China relationship from the perspective of a zero-sum game and safeguarding US supremacy.”
According to Ren Yi, unlike Vogel who is open-minded and genuinely respected his research subjects, many younger American scholars and journalists, including those who speak Chinese and live in China, tend to have a condescending attitude and an ideological bias against China.
“I really think Vogel’s aspiration transcended that of most Western and Chinese scholars,” Ren said, “What he did was something truly great,that was promoting the mutual understanding and respect of different civilizations for the sake of a better future for all humanity.”