U.S.-China Relations and the 18th Party Congress: Uncertainty Amidst Political Transition
The Honorable Richard L. Armitage
Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy
Director of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States,
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Christopher K. Johnson
Senior Advisor and Freeman Chair in China Studies, CSIS
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With a once-in-a-decade leadership transition in China and a U.S. Presidential election both slated for the fall, relations between the world's leading power and its fastest rising power are facing tremendous uncertainty. Although both sides have repeatedly expressed a strong desire to maintain healthy ties during this sensitive political time, subtle pressures in the relationship have been quietly building behind the scenes. In Beijing, a distracted leadership keen to avoid controversy during the succession period has largely deferred an authoritative assessment of the implications of the U.S. strategic rebalancing toward Asia for China's security, allowing suspicions of U.S. intentions to mount. In Washington, China is featuring in the U.S. presidential contest in a way it hasn't for more than a decade, and there will be substantial turnover in the U.S. team managing Asia policy regardless of the outcome. How the two leaderships address these fundamental challenges going forward will shape the future course of the most important bilateral relationship in the 21st century.