U.S.-China Relations: An Overview of Policy Issues Page: 2 of 65
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U. S.-China Relations: An Overview of Policy Issues
The United States relationship with China touches on an exceptionally broad range of issues,
from security, trade, and broader economic issues, to the environment and human rights.
Congress faces important questions about what sort of relationship the United States should have
with China and how the United States should respond to China's "rise." After more than 30 years
of fast-paced economic growth, China's economy is now the second-largest in the world after that
of the United States. With economic success, China has developed significant global strategic
clout. It is also engaged in an ambitious military modernization drive, including development of
extended-range power projection capabilities. At home, it continues to suppress all perceived
challenges to the Communist Party's monopoly on power.
In previous eras, the rise of new powers has often produced conflict. China's new leader Xi
Jinping has pressed hard for a U. S. commitment to a "new model of maj or country relationship"
with the United States that seeks to avoid such an outcome. The Obama Administration has
repeatedly assured Beijing that the United States "welcomes a strong, prosperous and successful
China that plays a greater role in world affairs," and that the United States does not seek to
prevent China's re-emergence as a great power. China, for its part, has pledged to follow "the
path of peaceful development." Washington has wrestled, however, with how to engage China on
issues affecting stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Issues of concern for Washington
include the intentions behind China's military modernization program, China's use of its
paramilitary forces and military in disputes with its neighbors over territorial claims in the South
China Sea and East China Sea, and its continuing threat to use force to bring Taiwan under its
control. With U. S. -China military-to-military ties improving but still fragile, Washington has
struggled to convince Beijing that the U.S. policy of rebalancing toward the Asia Pacific is not
intended to contain China. The two countries have cooperated, with mixed results, to address
nuclear proliferation concerns related to Iran and North Korea.
While working with China to revive the global economy, the United States has also wrestled with
how to persuade China to address economic policies the United States sees as denying a level
playing field to U. S. firms trading with and operating in China. High on the U. S. agenda is
commercial cyber espionage that the U. S. government says appears to be directly attributable to
official Chinese actors. Other economic concerns for the United States include China's apparent
backsliding on its World Trade Organization commitments, its weak protections for intellectual
property rights, and its currency policy. In recent months, the United States has strengthened
cooperation with China on efforts to combat climate change, while continuing to work with China
on the development of clean energy technologies. Human rights remains one of the thorniest
areas of the relationship, with the United States pressing China to ease restrictions on freedom of
speech, internet freedom, religious expression, and ethnic minorities, and China's leaders
suspicious that the United States' real goal is to end Communist Party rule.
This report opens with an overview of the U.S.-China relationship, recent developments in the
relationship, Obama Administration policy toward China, and a summary of legislation related to
China in the 1 13th Congress. The report then reviews maj or policy issues in the relationship.
Throughout, the report directs the reader to other CRS reports for more detailed information
about individual topics. This report will be updated periodically. A detailed summary of 113th and
1 12th Congress legislative provisions related to China is provided in appendices.
Congressional Research Service
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U.S.-China Relations: An Overview of Policy Issues, report, August 1, 2013; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc806316/m1/2/: accessed October 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.