Bipartisan Task Force: US-China Relations facing a “Blank Slate”

The ascension of Donald Trump to the oval office has cast a cloud of uncertainty on US-China relations. Will Mr. Trump take a more aggressive stance on issues of trade? Will we see a greater US military presence in hotspots such as the South China Sea? Will China supersede the US in global leadership roles? Answers to these questions are far from clear, and with China also taking stronger, more aggressive stances on international issues, the urgency to find channels for US-China cooperation is high.

In early February, a bipartisan US-China task force composed of leading China-focused academics, policymakers, and business leaders convened to publish a 72-page report offering recommendations for the new Trump administration regarding policy towards China. Orville Schell, Director of the Center for US-China Relations at the Asia Society and a co-author of the report, explains that one of the key motivations for the report was to provide direction for China policymakers in Washington uncertain how to proceed in the wake of Trump’s election: “It was as if the slate had been wiped clean, and a lot of confusion had been thrown into the air. No one knew where it was going to come down, what to propose, and how to think.”

Susan Shirk, Director of the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego and also a co-author of the report, notes that although the Trump administration did ultimately endorse the One China policy- one of the report’s key recommendations- their strategic objectives remain still very much their own. “They’re going to make their own choices”, Shirk says. “But what we hope is that we provide a sound foundation for well-informed analysis and some very concrete, specific recommendations for a public debate on China policy.”

The report has elicited coverage in numerous media outlets. Co-authors and task force members Susan Shirk, Orville Schell, and former US Ambassador to China Winston Lord recently convened at UC San Diego to present some of the task force’s chief recommendations. Video coverage of the event is available below as well as a podcast episode produced by the 21st Century China Center at UCSD.

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Thomas Murphey

was Editor in Chief of China Focus from 2016-2017. As a student at GPS, Thomas studied management and economics with the goal of better understanding the future of business, economics, and politics in the Asia-Pacific. Thomas has written on topics such as Chinese state-owned enterprises, special economic zones, and labor markets.

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