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U.S.-China Relations After the Sixteenth Party Congress: Prospects and Challenges

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The leadership changes carried out at the Chinese Party and Government congresses over the past year were widely perceived to have reinforced China's recent moderate approach toward the United States. Few would have predicted such favorable U.S.-China relations given the poor state of relations only two years earlier. Specialists differed on what caused the shift. Some emphasized the change in the Bush administration policy; others, including this author, gave more emphasis to the design of the Bush administration policy. It effectively undercut the previous utility of Chinese pressure tactics toward the United States. Concurrent international circumstances—notably the unprecedented rise of U.S. power and influence throughout China's periphery, as well as Chinese domestic preoccupations associated with incomplete leadership transition at the Party and Government congresses—reinforced good U.S.-China relations. Specialists appeared more uniform in warning that U.S.-China cooperation was contingent, as the recent smooth relationship had done little to resolve major differences in the interests of the two powers. Managing those differences over Taiwan, Korea, and a range of bilateral and other issues represent the essence of the challenges China's new leaders face as they deal with the United States in the first decade in the twenty-first century.


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