This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping embarks on his first state visit to the United States at a complicated moment in the bilateral relationship. In this podcast with Paul Haenle, former senior director for Asian affairs on the U.S. National Security Council Evan Medeiros explains why he has modest expectations for Xi’s visit and why he believes that the most important aspect of the summit will be the private, strategic discussions between the two leaders.

Medeiros observes that frictions are not a new feature of the U.S.-China relationship, which has long been a mix of cooperation and competition. He says that the core challenge for U.S. policymakers is to balance these two elements by encouraging China to cooperate more while managing areas of competition so that they do not define the relationship. Medeiros notes that the relationship is highly resilient, due to the tireless efforts of U.S. and Chinese policymakers who have deepened communication channels while navigating difficult issues over the years. This strong track record provides what Medeiros believes is a solid foundation for a constructive relationship for the rest of the Obama administration.

Evan Medeiros

Evan Medeiros was special assistant to the president and senior director for Asian Affairs at the White House’s National Security Council staff of President Barack Obama from July 2013 to June 2015. Prior to that, he served as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs and was a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. 

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.