Power Struggle

This week Opportunity 08 takes a closer look at the future of U.S.-China relations, and how the next president will need to establish a constructive relationship with China soon after taking office.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice travels to East Asia this week for another round of talks focusing on nuclear disarmament in North Korea. With less than one year left in President Bush's term, Rice's current round of talks with China, South Korea and Japan will be key to getting an accurate declaration of North Korea's nuclear programs.

Of particular importance will be Secretary Rice's talks with China, whose rapidly expanding economy is gaining leverage for the nation in East Asia. Along with that dramatic economic rise has come a corresponding increase in political influence, and China is now the hub of an integrated East Asian community of nations, underscoring the importance of establishing a solid U.S-China relationship under both current and future administrations.

Jeffrey Bader and Richard Bush, Asian policy experts at the Brookings Institution, recommend that the next president embrace a strategy of engagement with China, convincing Chinese leaders that they can best promote their country's national interests by collaborating with the US and other great powers.

"The next president should stress to the Chinese our shared national security interest in preventing North Korea and Iran from becoming nuclear powers," Bush, a former State Department official argues.

With so much on the line for the US and China, Secretary Rice's trip next week will be vital to ensuring ongoing collaboration. Notes Bader, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center, "the next president will engage China during a critical phase in that country's power trajectory. If we treat China as an enemy, we will acquire an enemy; but if we treat China as a potential partner, we will gain cooperation and strength."

Supporting background material, is available at Opportunity 08.

About the Experts and the Project

Jeffrey A. Bader Jeffrey Bader is director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. Bader, who has worked at the State Department, the National Security Council, and the United States Trade Representative's office during his 27-year career with the U.S. Government, is an expert on U.S.-China relations.

Richard C. Bush III Richard Bush is the director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. His two-decade public service career spans Congress, the intelligence community and the U.S. State Department. He currently focuses on China-Taiwan relations, U.S.-China relations, the Korean peninsula and Japan's security.

Opportunity 08 Opportunity 08 aims to help 2008 presidential candidates and the public focus on critical issues facing the nation, presenting policy ideas on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy questions. The project is committed to providing both independent policy solutions and background material on issues of concern to voters.