Rebalancing United States-China Relations

Policy Brief 13
Michael Swaine and Minxin Pei

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Listen to the authors discuss their policy brief and Bush's trip to China in a recent Carnegie briefing:
Bush to China: Beyond Rhetoric? February 12, 2002


President George W. Bush's visit to China this month is an opportunity to do far more than make rhetorical commitments to a constructive U.S.-China relationship. The post-9/11 context, China's accession to the WTO, and Beijing's impending leadership change converge to make important improvements possible. Policy adjustments on key security issues and a new attitude toward Chinese political reform would lay the basis for a balanced, long-term China policy that could command broad political support in the United States.

Direct U.S. presidential leadership is especially crucial for managing the four core security issues: Taiwan, missile defense, non-proliferation, and counter-terrorism. Washington should reaffirm its "one China" policy, clarify its intent on missile defense, and press China to fulfill its obligations to non-proliferation agreements.

A forward-looking strategy also demands that the United States abandon its ambivalence toward the support of Chinese political reform. It should, instead, provide leadership to promote democratic institutions and the rule of law in China.

Michael Swaine is senior associate and codirector of the China Program. He specializes in Chinese security and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Previously he served as research director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Policy at the RAND Corporation.

Minxin Pei, senior associate and codirector of the China Program, conducts research in Chinese politics, economic reform, East Asian politics, U.S. relations with East Asian countries, and democratization in developing countries. Before joining the Carnegie Endowment, he was a faculty member of the politics department at Princeton University. He is the author of Future Shock: The WTO and Political Change in China (Carnegie Endowment Policy Brief No. 3).

The Endowment's new China Program was launched in October 2001. Its research on political economy, security studies, and rule of law will be conducted through partnerships with Beijing's Central Party School and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

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