China’s efforts to secure its claims in the Paracel Islands have raised fresh questions about the direction of U.S.-China relations. To many, recurring tensions between the two countries reflect a growing sense of strategic rivalry that must be carefully managed. In this podcast, former U.S. ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy and Paul Haenle discuss the situation in the South China Sea and the broader implications for U.S.-China relations.

Ambassador Roy noted that China’s policy on the South China Sea has been ambiguous on key issues, while also pointing out that China treats specific island chains differently. He stated that U.S. policymakers and observers therefore must be analytically nuanced about how to prudently wield the tools of diplomacy to address the concerns of both countries. Ambassador Roy advised that the United States and China would do well to agree on a code of conduct for the region, and he maintained that these disputes can be effectively settled.

J. Stapleton Roy

J. Stapleton Roy is founding director emeritus of the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. He previously served as the U.S. ambassador to Singapore, China, and Indonesia.

Paul Haenle

Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolian Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former president George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.