Handbook of US–China Relations
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Handbook of US–China Relations

Edited by Andrew T.H. Tan

This Handbook addresses the key questions surrounding US–China relations: what are the historical and contemporary contexts that underpin this complex relationship? How has the strategic rivalry between the two evolved? What are the key flashpoints in their relationship? What are the key security issues between the two powers? The international contributors explore the historical, political, economic, military, and international and regional spheres of the US–China relationship. The topics they discuss include human rights, Chinese public perception of the United States, US–China strategic rivalry, China’s defence build-up and cyber war.
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Chapter 11: The US rebalance to Asia: implications for US–China relations

Paul J. Smith


The US ‘rebalance to Asia’ policy announced in 2012 reflects a steady deterioration in US–China relations and the growing reality of a ‘security dilemma’ dynamic between Washington and Beijing. To understand the current trajectory and evolution of US–China relations, it is helpful to view the overall relationship in terms of three key phases: (1) hostility phase (1949–69); (2) rapprochement and convergent interests phase (1970–89); and (3) bifurcation phase (1990–present), featuring warm and robust social and economic relations juxtaposed with cold and hostile security relations. The third phase is most dangerous because the achievements that are perceived in the two countries’ cooperative social and economic relations obscure the insidious deterioration of the two countries’ security relationship. Thus, the military and security realm remains the weakest link in the overall Beijing–Washington comprehensive relationship and, moreover, could be the source of major conflict in the years or decades ahead. In order to avoid any major bilateral rupture, the United States and China must find ways to build strategic trust and to focus on long-term security challenges in which both countries share common interests.

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