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Agenda for a New Great Power Relationship

The Washington Quarterly, Winter 2013/2014, pp 65-78.


  "Well begun is half done", Aristotle once said, meaning that beginning a project well makes it easier to do the rest. Yet, this may not be true of China-U.S. relations during Obama's presidency. Although the Obama administration secured a smooth transition from the George W. Bush years and attached high priority to relations with China during its first year in office, bilateral relations turned downward over the rest of Obama' first term, leaving a legacy of growing mutual suspoicion and rising competition between the two countries, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. In spite of the November 2009 bilateral agreement to build a "positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship," the two sides missed opportunities for more cooperation while mishanding and even misguiding bilateral ties on some points.
  The next several years are crucial for China-U.S. relations. Beijing is now under a new leadership that is more self-confident and more attentive to its public opinion. The further narrowing of the power gap between China and the United States will inevitably generate more anxiety in Washington. The competition between the two counties in the Asia-Pacific may pick up momentum. At the same time, the world's two largest economies will need to coordinate to promote global governance in an era when regional and global challenges are only getting more complicated. It is indeed high time to reset China-U.S. relations-for the long-term interests of both countries as well as the entire world.