U.S. Policy Toward China: Recommendations for a New Administration

Task Force on U.S.-China Policy

February 2017 - With a new administration in the White House, maintaining what is perhaps the country’s most crucial bilateral relationship remains a critical issue. Organized by Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations and the University of California San Diego’s 21st Century China Center, members of a high-level Task Force on U.S.-China Policy offer their expert recommendations for the Trump administration.

The Task Force on U.S.-China Policy comprises a group of prominent China specialists that include former U.S. government officials, scholars, and think tank researchers, many of whom served under both political parties and every U.S. president since the Nixon administration. Its goal has been to reflect on how the U.S.-China relationship has evolved and to draft a set of recommendations for the incoming presidential administration on how the United States can best advance its interests given the current political climate. We hope this report can also provide the starting point for a public conversation on these vitally important questions.


Executive Summary (PDF)

Executive Summary (Chinese) (PDF)

Full Report (PDF)


US panel warns Trump change on one China policy 'dangerous' [Associated Press]

China Expert Says Mattis Reaffirmed Alliances in Asia [Bloomberg TV]

Former Obama adviser: China anxious about Trump [CNN]

Experts back Trump’s tough line on China trade [Financial Times]

Donald Trump and China on dangerous collision course, say experts [The Guardian]

Task Force Urges Better U.S. Engagement with China [New York Times]

Task force urges US to work with China on North Korean threat [Nikkei Asian Review]

The Future of the U.S.-China Relationship [PRI/WNYC]

Any US shift away from one-China policy would by ‘exceedingly dangerous’ [SCMP]

How Trump could put U.S.-China relations on the right track [Washington Post]


中国问题专家:美抛弃“一中”政策极其危险 [BBC Chinese]

美学者:中国崛起与美国利益可以“兼容” [Caixin]

美重量级学者谏言特朗普对华政策 强调对华应建立良好关系 [Global Times]

美部分专家力挺特朗普对华采取强硬贸易立场 [Financial Times Chinese]

中国问题专家呼吁特朗普认真对待中美关系 [New York Times Chinese]

美专家建言川普:对华强硬但坚守一中政策 [Voice of America Chinese]

财经观察:美国“知华派”建言新政府勿改对华基本战略 [Xinhua]

Task Force Co-Authors

Task Force co-authors endorse the overall findings of the report, with individual dissents included at the end of the report. They participated in their individual, not institutional, capacities.

Charlene Barshefsky is Senior International Partner at WilmerHale. She joined the firm after serving as the U.S. Trade Representative — the chief trade negotiator and principal trade policymaker for the United States — from 1997 to 2001, and acting as deputy USTR from 1993 to 1996. As the USTR and a member of the President's Cabinet, she was responsible for the negotiation of hundreds of complex market access, regulatory and investment agreements with virtually every major country in the world. She is best known internationally as the architect and chief negotiator of China's historic WTO agreement, as well as global agreements in financial services, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, high-technology products and cyberspace.

Kurt M. Campbell is chairman and chief executive officer of The Asia Group, LLC, a strategic advisory and capital management group specializing in the Asia-Pacific region. He also serves as chairman of the Center for a New American Security, as a non-resident fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, as a member of the Defense Policy Board at the Pentagon and is on the board of directors for Standard Chartered PLC in London. From 2009 to 2013, he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he is widely credited as being a key architect of the “pivot to Asia.” For advancing a comprehensive U.S. strategy that took him to every corner of the Asia-Pacific region, Secretary Hillary Clinton awarded him the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award (2013).

Thomas J. Christensen is the William P. Boswell professor of world politics of peace and war and director of the China and the World program at Princeton University. At Princeton he is also faculty director of the Masters of Public Policy program and the Truman Scholars program. From 2006-2008 he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia. His most recent book, The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (W.W. Norton, 2015) was an editors’ choice at the New York Times Book Review. He received his MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and PhD in Political Science from Columbia University. 

Elizabeth C. Economy is the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Economy has published widely on both Chinese domestic and foreign policy. Her most recent book, with Michael Levi, is By All Means Necessary: How China's Resource Quest is Changing the World. She is the author of The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future, which won the 2005 International Convention on Asia Scholars Award for the best social sciences book published on Asia, and was listed as one of the top ten books of 2004 by the Globalist. Dr. Economy received her AM from Stanford University, and her PhD from the University of Michigan.

Karl Eikenberry is the Oksenberg-Rohlen distinguished fellow and director of the U.S.-Asia Security Initiative at Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific research center. He served as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from May 2009 until July 2011 and had a 35-year career in the United States Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant general. His military assignments included postings with mechanized, light, airborne, and ranger infantry units in the continental United States, Hawaii, Korea, Italy, and Afghanistan as the Commander of the American-led Coalition forces from 2005–2007. Ambassador Eikenberry is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, earned master’s degrees from Harvard University in East Asian studies and Stanford University in political science.

M. Taylor Fravel is an associate professor of political science and a member of the security studies program at MIT. His first book, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, was published by Princeton University Press in 2008. He is currently completing a book-length study of major change in China's military strategy since 1949, entitled Active Defense: Explaining the Evolution of China's Military Strategy. Dr. Fravel is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He serves as the Principal Investigator for the Maritime Awareness Project co-sponsored by the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA.

Melanie Hart is a senior fellow and director of China policy at Center for American Progress. She focuses on U.S. foreign policy toward China and works to identify new opportunities for bilateral cooperation, particularly on energy, climate change, and cross-border investment. Her research also covers China’s political system, market regulatory reforms, and how China’s domestic and foreign policy developments affect the United States. Before joining CAP, she worked as a project consultant for the Aspen Institute International Digital Economy Accords project. She also worked on Qualcomm’s China business development team, where she provided technology market and regulatory analysis to guide Qualcomm operations in Greater China.

Winston Lord was U.S. Ambassador to China 1985-89 under President Reagan. He served as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs 1993-97 under President Clinton. In the 1970s he was Special Assistant to National Security Advisor Kissinger and then Director of the State Department Policy Planning Staff. During this period he was on every China trip and attended every meeting that Presidents Nixon and Ford and Dr. Kissinger had with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping, and was one of two American drafters of the Shanghai Communique. Outside of government, his service has included President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Co-Chairman of the International Rescue Committee, and Chairman of the National Endowment for Democracy. 

Evan S. Medeiros is Managing Director, Asia at Eurasia Group where he leads the firm's research of the Asia-Pacific. In June 2015, he stepped down from the position of special assistant to the president and senior director for Asian affairs at the White House's National Security Council (NSC). In that role, he served as President Barack Obama's top advisor on the Asia-Pacific and was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy toward the region across the areas of diplomacy, defense policy, economic policy, and intelligence affairs. In total, Dr. Medeiros served on the NSC staff for nearly six years and was actively involved in U.S.-China relations, including by developing the initial proposal for the Sunnylands Summit and planning the president's successful summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in fall 2014. He holds a doctorate in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has written several books and journal articles on a range of Asian security issues. 

Andrew J. Nathan is the Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. He studies the politics and foreign policy of China, political participation and political culture in Asia, and the international human rights regime. Professor Nathan’s books include Chinese Democracy (1985), The Tiananmen Papers (2001), China’s Search for Security (2012), and Will China Democratize? (2013). He has served at Columbia as director of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and as chair of the Political Science Department and is currently chair of the Morningside Institutional Review Board (IRB). He is the regular Asia book reviewer for Foreign Affairs and a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Contemporary China, China Information, and others. Professor Nathan received his MA in East Asian Regional Studies and PhD in Political Science, both from Harvard University.

Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 15 books, ten of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Nation, and The New York Review of Books. His most recent book is Wealth and Power, China’s Long March to the 21st Century with John Delury (Random House, 2013). Schell worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and has traveled widely in China since the mid-70s. 

David Shambaugh is a professor of political science & international affairs and director of the China Policy Program in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program, Center for East Asian Policy Studies, and John L. Thornton China Center at The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He has been a member of the board of directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, International Institute of Strategic Studies, U.S. Asia-Pacific Council, and serves on a number of editorial boards and academic review bodies. Professor Shambaugh has written or edited more than 30 books and more than 300 articles and chapters. His most recent books are: China’s Future (Polity Press/John Wiley, 2016) and The China Reader: Rising Power (Oxford University Press, 2016).  

Susan L. Shirk is Chair of the 21st Century China Center and Research Professor at UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State (1997-2000) where she was responsible for U.S. policy toward China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Mongolia. She founded and continues to lead the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, an unofficial forum for discussions of security issues. Her book China: Fragile Superpower helped frame the policy debate on China policy in the U.S. and other countries. Her most recent book Changing Media, Changing China was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press.

James B. Steinberg is University Professor of social science, international affairs, and law; and former dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University from July 2011 until June 2016. Prior to that, he served as Deputy Secretary of State, serving as the principal Deputy to Secretary Clinton. From 2005-2008 Steinberg was dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. From 2001 to 2005, he was vice president and director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, where he supervised a wide-ranging research program on U.S. foreign policy. Steinberg’s most recent book is Strategic Reassurance and Resolve: US-China Relations in the 21st Century with Michael O’Hanlon (Princeton University Press, 2014).


Task Force participants joined in discussions and meetings of the Task Force but are not signatories of the report. They participated in their individual, not institutional, capacities.

Jeffrey A. Bader
Brookings Institution

Paul Gewirtz
Yale Law School

David M. Lampton
Johns Hopkins University

Douglas H. Paal
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

J. Stapleton Roy
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Michael D. Swaine
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace






This project was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with additional support from The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, Henry Luce Foundation, Janet and Arthur Ross Foundation, and Harold and Ruth Newman.