On November 29, 2017, the National Committee on American Foreign Policy hosted a panel entitled U.S.-China Relations in a New Era. The distinguished panel of experts featured The Honorable Abraham M. Denmark, Director for the Asia Program at the Wilson Center and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia; The Honorable Winston Lord, Chairman Emeritus of the International Rescue Committee and former Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to China; Dr. Shao Yuqun, Director for the Institute of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS); and Dr. Sun Zhe, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar and Co-Director of the China’ Initiative at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Professor Donald S. Zagoria, Project Director for the NCAFP’s Forum on Asia-Pacific Security (FAPS), moderated the program.
Each speaker introduced their personal assessments of two major recent events: the 19th Party Congress in China and President Donald Trump’s first trip to the region. The 19th Party Congress, held every 5 years in Beijing, solidified President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party’s power in China and laid out a plan for “national rejuvenation.” While in Asia, President Trump embraced the pomp and circumstance of his state visit to Beijing. He presented the U.S.’ strategy for the Indo-Pacific but also continued to promote his “America First” policy.
Overall, there was general agreement that the most important relationship in the world is stable for now, with one speaker describing it as both “sweet and sour.” As U.S.-China relations enter a new era, there will be many opportunities and challenges ahead. One, if not the, key challenge for Presidents Trump and Xi is North Korea; and while there is disagreement on how to handle the North Korean nuclear challenge, all four panelists recognized the importance of managing such an issue in order to maintain stable relations.