US-China Joint Assessment Project

Supported by the China-United States Exchange Foundation, the Atlantic Council's Strategic Foresight Initiative has partnered with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) under the Chinese Foreign Ministry to engage in a joint assessment of long-term global trends and their implications for the China-United States relationship. This joint assessment was based on separate Chinese and US global trends assessments. The US side based its assessment on the US National Intelligence Council's Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds report, which the Atlantic Council helped to prepare, and the Chinese side on a 2030 analysis initiated at Peking University. The two sides agreed on the key trends and their implications and looked at various scenarios of how these trends could play out over the next two decades. They concluded that any hopeful global scenario can only be realized if there is close cooperation between China and the United States.
  • China: The Role of Nuclear in Meeting Energy Demand and Climate Goals

    Please join us on Tuesday, September 29 from 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm for a panel discussion on the future of nuclear energy in China. The panel includes nuclear energy experts from government, academia, and the private sector, who each bring unique perspectives on Chinese energy issues.








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  • Beware the Great Clash in Asia: China vs. America Is Getting Dangerous

    Washington has pursued a policy cooperating with Beijing where interests overlapped—but the dynamics in the Asia-Pacific are changing.


    A little bit of honesty in U.S. policy toward Asia could go a long way in piercing the Chinese "victim narrative", which entails China's view that everything it dislikes in Asia is an outgrowth of a U.S. "containment" strategy." Yet loopy as the Chinese narrative is, U.S. public diplomacy inadvertently reinforces it.

    How many times have we heard the mantra, "Our goal is not to counter China. Our goal is not to contain China," stated by President Obama during his April Asia trip, repeated and reiterated by various U.S. officials? Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel summed it up succinctly at the Shangri-la dialogue: "The rebalance to Asia-Pacific was not to contain China. President Obama has made that point very clear. Secretary Kerry has. I have."

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  • Scowcroft Center Launches Report in China

    The Brent Scowcroft Center's Strategic Foresight Initiative launched their recent report China-US Cooperation: Key to the Global Future at an event in Bejing. The report was published in partnership with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and supported by the China-United States Exchange Foundation. An impressive group of speakers and panelists participated in the event. In his remarks, Atlantic Council Board Director Stephen Hadley empahsized the need for China and the US to demostrate the necessity of cooperation between the two countries on global issues to their respective peoples. He continued by saying that the cooperation between the two countries on global issues must be at the center of the bilateral relationship with the success of each being dependent on the other.

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  • A Vision for China-US Relations

    On September 17 the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative hosted a distinguished panel discussion for the launch of the China-US Cooperation: Key to Global Future report, the culmination of a yearlong US-China Joint Assessment Project. For the project, the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Foresight Initiative, housed in the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, partnered with the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) under the Chinese Foreign Ministry to engage in a joint assessment of long-term global trends and their implications for the China-United States relationship. This work was generously supported by the China-United States Exchange Foundation.
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  • Prepared Remarks by C. H. Tung on China-US Cooperation

    Prepared remarks by C. H. Tung, chairman, China-US Exchange Foundation; former chief executive and president, Executive Council of Hong Kong, delivered at a launch event for the reportChina-US Cooperation: Key to the Future on September 17, 2013.
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  • Prepared Remarks by Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai on China-US Cooperation

    Prepared remarks by Ambassador Cui Tiankai of the People's Republic of China delivered at a launch event for the reportChina-US Cooperation: Key to the Future on September 17, 2013.
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  • China-US Cooperation: Key to the Global Future

    A new and unprecedented report prepared by a team of Chinese and American strategic thinkers concludes that the two countries are not adequately addressing critical global challenges of the 21st century. China-US Cooperation: Key to the Global Futurecalls for the creation of a Vision Group of senior American and Chinese nongovernment and former government experts to build on the idea of a new great power relationship proposed by China’s President Xi Jinping.  A China-US Joint Working Group convened by the Atlantic Council in Washington and the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) in Beijing produced the report, with generous support from the China-United States Exchange Foundation.

    pdfDownload PDF (English)
    pdfDownload PDF (Mandarin)

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  • US and China Explore New Relationship

    Barack Obama and Xi Jinping

    It will be some time before the full consequences of the California summit meeting between US President Barack Obama and China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, are revealed. Nixon-Mao it was not. Nevertheless, the well-timed and much-needed unscripted discussion focused on fundamental questions about the US-China relationship which has reached a new level of tension because of mutual distrust and suspicion.

    Xi rightly observed during a preparatory meeting with senior US officials that the US-China relationship, arguably the most important bilateral relationship in the world, is at a “critical juncture.” But based on the eight hours of meetings, the "new model of relations" which both leaders pledged to create remains a largely aspirational goal.

    On the explosive issue of cybersecurity, especially the cybertheft of US intellectual property, the summit's achievement was to stress to Xi the priority of the issue, and as outgoing US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told reporters, place it “at the center of the relationship.”

    In what may prove the most notable outcome of the meeting, Washington and Beijing appeared to move closer on North Korea, agreeing that neither would accept a nuclear North Korea. Beijing is the chief provider of energy and food to the North. Prior to Pyongyang’s third nuclear test in February, China has appeared to place stability on the Korean Peninsula above the nuclear issue. The Obama-Xi summit may have established a basis for closer coordination in managing the nuclear problem and perhaps the eventual reunification of Korea as well.

    If so, such cooperation may help melt the underlying mutual distrust that permeates the relationship. For Beijing, there is fear that the US posture in Asia is designed to "contain" a rising China; for the US, a fear that China seeks to deny the US a preponderant role in the Pacific, there is little evidence that the summit has put the relationship on a more positive path.

    Since 1972, eight presidents, from Richard Nixon to Obama, have pursued a remarkably consistent policy toward China, cooperating where possible and seeking to manage differences. But the relationship may be at a tipping point: The current bilateral relationship as presently constituted is no longer sustainable. Over the course of this decade it will almost certainly either tilt toward being more cooperative or more competitive, toward more collaborative efforts to address global problems and manage regional security in the Pacific or toward confrontation. The direction it drifts toward will go a long way to determining the future shape of the global system. Can new equilibrium in US-China relations, what Xi calls “a new type of relationship between major countries in the 21st century,” be attained?

    Shirtsleeves, schmoozing and long walks can help create familiarity between leaders that could prove helpful in a crisis. Better communication at the top can minimize misunderstandings. But at the end of the day, it is interests and to some extent values, not personalities, that shape a relationship. The world’s two largest economies, the world’s largest creditor and its largest debtor, the two largest energy consumers and Pacific powers, are deeply intertwined. Yet tensions over cybersecurity, trade, currency manipulation, China’s assertive behavior toward territorial disputes in East Asia and, not least, differences in values between a democracy and an authoritarian one-party state have steadily deepened mutual distrust and suspicion.

    It is not, as Obama has rightly pointed out, that a rising power like China and an established power like the US are destined to clash, like Athens and Sparta in ancient times or Britain and Germany a century ago. After all, no country has benefited more from integrating itself into the US-led global system over the past 35 years than China. Since 1980 China’s economy has grown from $202.5 billion to roughly $7 trillion. Despite complaints about playing by rules of the international economic and political system that it did not write, China has been a major beneficiary. Much as it derides the US security alliances in East Asia, the US security guarantor role has provided the stability under which China has prospered.

    At bottom, there is a mismatch in perceptions, which if not altered could overwhelm the relationship. For example, the Chinese blame the so-called “rebalancing” by the US for rising tensions in East Asia. The view of China’s leaders is through the prism of a victim narrative reflecting an era past.

    Thus, rather than US Asia policy being one largely of continuity – enhancing alliances and security partnerships, deepening economic and diplomatic engagement – Beijing sees a US decision to contain China. Even the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the nascent trade accord which China theoretically could join, is viewed as an effort to isolate China. “The Obama administration’s rebalancing toward Asia has to be singled out as a cataclysmic strategic move,” wrote Minghao Zhao, an analyst at a think tank of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee.

    Rather than seeing that nations from India to Vietnam are looking to the US as a counterweight to a China asserting an ever larger footprint in the Asia-Pacific, Beijing is confusing US offshore balancing with containment.

    For its part, the US focuses on cyberattacks, China’s self-proclaimed efforts to become a maritime power build a modernized nuclear arsenal, and its nearly two decades of double-digit growth in defense spending. Beijing’s assertive posture in the East and South China seas are raising questions about China’s intentions.

    Current reality is a kind of mirror-imaging, with the military-industrial complexes in both Washington and Beijing driving a strategic competition cycle of action-reaction. The Pentagon fears China is pursuing an anti-access strategy to curb the US role in the Pacific; the People’s Liberation Army fears the US seeks to contain China and deny Beijing its rightful role as a dominant actor in the Pacific.

    Both sides must get past this. A new type of relationship requires Washington and Beijing to find a balance of interests. Each must come to terms with how the other treats its core interests. The problem is that Beijing views its “core interests” in 19th-century terms – territory, boundaries, sovereignty, while Washington’s core interests are focused on unimpeded access to the global commons – freedom of navigation on land, sea and cyberspace. Thus, Beijing complains about US arms sales to Taiwan or visits by the Dali Lama while Washington is concerned about anti-access to US naval forces in the Pacific, cyberspace violations and anti-satellite efforts.

    Reaching new understandings on respective core interests is a central challenge.

    The current centerpiece of the US-China relationship, the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, has become too large and unwieldy, too much a “check the box” exercise. The Obama-Xi summit was necessary to reinvigorate the relationship. Both leaders would do well to define a new type of relationship by giving priority to a few key issues that can redefine the relationship: developing rules and a code of conduct for cyberspace; agreeing on the respective US and Chinese security postures in East Asia; and demonstrating real cooperation on a big strategic issue such as North Korea.

    Robert A. Manning is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. This piece first appeared on YaleGlobal Online.

    Photo credit: Pete Souza / White House


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  • Banning Garrett the Future of US-China Relations (Euro Atlantic Quarterly)

    Scowcroft Center Strategic Foresight Resident Senior Fellow for Global Trends and Innovation Banning Garrett contributed an article (pdf) to the Spring 2013 issue of Euro Atlantic Quarterly on US-China relations and the outlook for the future.


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