“It’s a moment where we look and realize that we have a competitor
that is ahead of us,” Coons said. “I think the most important piece of
the Sputnik moment that I’m trying to reference is that we significantly
increased investments in the United States — in our own research
abilities, in our own education — and American public education was
refocused on being competitive in the space age.”
That last part should be our goal, Coons added. When the astronauts
from the Apollo 11 launch made it to the moon, they left medals to honor
U.S. and Russian astronauts who lost their lives in developing rockets
and related technology. It was a symbol of healthy competition, which is
the direction the United States needs to go with China, Coons said.
While much of their conversation focused on the current concerns,
Donilon and Coons emphasized the importance of looking to the future.
“We need to stop thinking about the rise of China and China as a
future competitor,” Coons said. “They are here. They have arrived.”
China has a very rich and complex history that Americans must better
understand and put in proper context to make smarter foreign policy
decisions, Donilon said. However, he said, the U.S. also needs to make an effort.
“The piece that nobody’s really discussing is we have discussions about China, focused on trade, and we’re really hyper focused on trying
to change their conduct,” Donilon said. “We want to ask ourselves, ‘What
do we need to do?’ That seems to me, Senator, to be the missing piece
of the China strategy thus far. What is the United States going to do to
meet the competition?”
Article by Carlett Spike; photos by Evan Krape