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 24: US–China outlook: pragmatism or confrontation

Robert Sutter


This chapter examines the context of Sino–US relations since the Cold War to offer an assessment on whether or not the impact of President Xi Jinping is leading to a widely anticipated power shift where rising China is superseding declining United States in intensifying rivalry for influence in the Asia-Pacific region. Xi’s often bold and highly publicized foreign policies are more assertive and harder for the United States to deal with, but substantial constraints dissuade the Xi government from confronting the United States. The constraints include serious domestic Chinese problems, strong and growing US–Chinese interdependence, and power realities in Asia that illustrate China’s surprisingly mediocre record in expanding influence in this critically important region where the United States registers stronger not declining influence. Assertiveness and periodic bluster of Xi’s foreign policy probably will continue, but they are seen as married with pragmatic management of serious disputes, thereby reducing the likelihood of confrontation that is not in the interests of either power.

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