Yan asserted the U.S.-China relationship is experiencing structural disruptions, the resolution of which will have a lasting impact on the two countries. China’s economic achievements over the past 40 years are based on market economy reforms and the development of the private sector, Yan argued. He said the tensions in the U.S.-China relationship are primarily due to the narrowing gap between the two countries’ national strength. Going forward, the United States and China need to address their own domestic problems related to economic growth and technological development before resolving foreign policy issues. Beijing was right to shift from its past policy of keeping a low international profile, Yan said. However, China should focus on strengthening its regional position before moving too quickly into other parts of the globe. The Trump administration has made clear that it will forsake traditional U.S. global leadership roles, Yan said, but China does not yet have the capacity to supplant the United States in the international arena. This new dynamic stresses the need for the two countries to establish a framework that allows for joint leadership, as neither is willing or able to lead unilaterally.
Paul Haenle holds the Maurice R. Greenberg Director’s Chair at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy based at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His research focuses on Chinese foreign policy and U.S.-China relations.
Yan Xuetong is dean of the Institute of International Studies at Tsinghua University and secretary general of the World Peace Forum.