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A nation must think before it acts.
The Obama administration’s China policy should maintain continuity in a relationship that is generally stable and positive, and one that is crucial to addressing global economic issues, security situations in East Asia, and other international problems. Still, adjustments are necessary to advance U.S. interests amid evolving challenges. Such adjustments should include foregoing needless politicization of issues and making likely empty threats in favor of approaches that engage China’s self-interest and principles it officially accepts. U.S. policy also must focus more on the implications of China’s rise.
The Obama administration’s China policy can build on several strengths. China policy was comparatively successful during most of the Bush administration–an assessment that is widely shared, including among many who will make or influence China policy under Obama. Early tensions had become relatively distant memories by the end of an administration that closed with President Bush’s attendance at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies and China’s muted reaction to the eleventh-hour consummation of a long-pending package of arms sales to Taiwan.
The Obama administration begins with significant good will in China. In 2008, participants in Chinese foreign policy processes and policy intellectuals were more supportive of the out-of-power party’s candidate than in any U.S. presidential election in at least two decades. Despite concerns that an Obama presidency and an expanded Democratic majority in Congress might mean tougher lines on trade and related matters, they saw Obama as more likely than his opponent to continue the Bush-era China policy. Unlike in many recent elections, the non-incumbent party’s candidate did not make the prior administration’s “too soft” China policy a major campaign issue. Republican candidate John McCain’s talk of an alliance of democracies and early-Bush-era-like skepticism toward engaging North Korea suggested to China that continued Republican rule was more likely to disrupt the status quo. Chinese sources also welcomed the presence of Clinton administration veterans among Obama’s appointments to handle China policy and foreign policy. Such staffing promised experienced, steady hands and continuity with another era of generally positive U.S.-PRC relations.
Positive attitudes were reinforced for some in the Chinese policy community by Obama’s more multilateral approach to international issues. On this view, multilateralism was needed to address pressing problems such as North Korea, terrorism, and climate change and would give China a surer role in shaping international responses. Especially for more liberal Chinese policy elites, the election of a member of a racial minority–especially an African American–was a welcome breakthrough that undercut residual PRC shibboleths impeding innovative and collaborative dealings with Washington.
More fundamentally, leaders in both capitals recognize that the U.S. and China have broadly compatible interests on major issues. The still-unfolding international economic crisis and the chronically crisis-prone Korean peninsula and Taiwan Strait are high-profile examples.
China’s long-growing confidence abroad and now-rising insecurity at home can improve prospects for bilateral cooperation even though they also raise obstacles. Although China’s new power and assertiveness internationally sometimes stiffen resistance to prescriptions emanating from Washington and global institutions serving (in Chinese critics’ views) American interests, they also reflect a China that is more confident and secure than at any time since the early nineteenth century. China’s leaders thus have both the resources and will to play more significant and, sometimes, more cooperative roles in addressing international problems. While the PRC regime’s concerns about social unrest–exacerbated by the current economic crisis–mean that Chinese policy might become less inclined to bear costly international burdens, or more tinged with virulent nationalism, Beijing’s domestic anxiety also gives its generally pragmatic leadership strong reasons to cooperate abroad where such a strategy promises to help with internal problems.
The new and most immediately pressing issue for U.S. economic policy toward China is securing its cooperation in addressing the global economic crisis. Here, the U.S. agenda benefits from relative consistency in Chinese and American interests. Despite its pointed criticism of the U.S.’s role in causing the crisis, China was generally cooperative at the U.S.-convened G20 financial summit in Washington in November 2008. It announced a $586 billion domestic stimulus package that resonated with U.S. calls for China to rely more on internal demand for growth. Beijing signaled a commitment to continuing purchases of U.S. debt, which Washington will need to sell in copious quantities to finance its recovery plan and which Beijing recognizes is necessary to sustaining the value of its massive U.S. dollar asset holdings and to speed recovery in one of China’s key export markets.
Beyond pressing such preliminary or short-term measures, U.S. policies will face greater skepticism and resistance from Beijing. Although the Obama administration benefits from a clean slate and overlap between Beijing’s and Obama’s critiques of earlier under-regulation of the U.S. financial industry, this is likely too little to assure cooperation. In several contexts, including at the bilateral Strategic Economic Dialogue near the end of the Bush administration, President Hu Jintao’s comments at the G20 summit, and Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech at the 2009 Davos Economic Forum, PRC officials and commentators have made clear that they blame U.S. regulatory failures and business practices for the global economic calamity and expect China to play a major role in reforming international financial structures. Although Chinese leaders and policy thinkers appear to understand that China is not ready to lead in shaping this international regime, their pointed critique is likely to persist. With the U.S. continuing to seek, and hold, so prominent a place, Beijing will have the inclination, and luxury, to attack America’s role and agenda and the Washington Consensus approach to international economic policy. While this is partly posturing, it nonetheless risks impeding useful collaboration.
In seeking Chinese cooperation, U.S. policymakers must take account of prickly Chinese politics. Although the “Beijing Consensus” has little meaning anywhere and limited traction in Chinese political circles, and although there is much skittishness and uncertainty about whether the “Chinese model” is replicable or should be exported, Beijing’s chafing at Washington’s continuing dominance is genuine. So too is Beijing’s sharply increased disdain for the once-proud Anglo-American capitalist model and its once-arrogant proponents. Moreover, there is genuine resentment at many levels in China that a country with a per capita income of around $3000 is asked to bail out the world’s largest, and one of the richest, economies from troubles of its own making. Such sentiments sharpened with the big losses to Chinese investors–including a recently established sovereign wealth fund that is burdened with high expectations–on large stakes acquired in U.S. firms, especially in the financial sector.
While U.S. aims will be well served by avoiding moves that needlessly resonate with these touchy issues, prospects for cooperation in addressing the economic crisis remain good, given the thirty-year history of deepening bilateral trade and investment ties and the common interests it has produced. This interdependence also underlies the most enduring and serious issues in U.S. economic policy toward China. These include the trade imbalance, surpassing $250 billion annually, and vast Chinese foreign exchange reserves, now around $2 trillion, to which it contributes. While both numbers have grown alarmingly, the problems have changed qualitatively during the last decade. The bilateral trade gap that was once part of roughly balanced international trade for China has become part of a very large Chinese global trade surplus, approximately 8.5 percent of GDP in 2008. Under these conditions, the U.S. can more effectively criticize China’s inappropriate trade and currency policies and practices and call for China to take measures to close the trade gap. Such charges have become less vulnerable to being rebuffed as blaming China for a bilateral imbalance solely attributable to the U.S.’s low domestic savings rate and other American policies and practices that have contributed to the U.S.’s vast global trade deficit.
China’s global imbalance, unlike a merely bilateral one, creates economic perils for China that give Beijing self-interested reasons to heed Washington’s calls for remedial policies. Among those dangers are inflationary pressures and very limited options for handling enormous foreign exchange reserves. As a presidential candidate, Obama invoked the vulnerabilities that come with U.S. dependence on Chinese lending, warning that it is “hard to say no to your banker.” As president, he can benefit from the obverse of that axiom: When you owe your banker lots of money, he has a problem–especially when the borrower is the world’s largest economy, an indispensible consumer of Chinese exports, and the issuer of the principal international reserve currency. Beijing has few alternatives to investing its foreign reserves in dollar-denominated debt, securities, and ownership stakes. Such assets and U.S. markets are irreplaceable in providing the deep, broad, and liquid markets China needs to put such enormous funds to work. U.S. policymakers need not fear that China will divest dramatically from U.S. markets and assets or shift foreign reserve holdings sharply away from dollars. To the limited extent that China can, it has already embarked on that path and has ample reason to do so apart from concerns, or desires to retaliate, prompted by U.S. criticisms and policies.
The Obama administration has latitude, and internationally legitimate grounds, to press China on policies and practices that limit market access for U.S. exports, that unfairly promote Chinese exports, and that keep the value of the renminbi artificially high. U.S. policies addressing these and kindred issues can and should invoke consistency with China’s self-interest and proclaimed aims. These include a shift toward greater reliance on domestic demand from dependence on export-driven growth, which faces constraint from the world’s limited capacity to absorb Chinese production, protectionist pressures in importing countries, and erosion of China’s comparative advantage in low-tech sectors that had been mainstays of the Reform-Era export economy. Recent months have brought welcome developments, including Beijing’s backing away from heavy reliance on tax rebates for exporters, its nearly $600 billion domestic stimulus package (although only a portion of that constitutes new spending), and holding fast to the ongoing project of building a stronger social safety net.
While the U.S. can and should push this agenda, policymakers must recognize the limited potential for progress, including on some of the most vexing and important issues. For a regime that sees providing jobs as vital to social stability, limited near-term alternatives to export industries as means for job-creation, and mounting job losses–now in the tens of millions among migrant workers who toil disproportionately in export-oriented and construction industries–amid the global recession, there are compelling reasons to resist calls for export-harming measures, including trade policy reforms and currency revaluation. So too, China’s very high personal savings rate, which depresses consumer spending and undermines domestic demand, will remain intractable until China creates a viable social security and health care system and more robust consumer credit markets. Also, China’s large and rising portfolio of U.S. dollar-denominated holdings make currency revaluation costly and unappealing for Beijing.
To secure achievable gains, U.S. policy must contain the impact of moves that, to Chinese eyes, “politicize” economic issues or make empty threats. Talk from U.S. politicians of banning broad categories of Chinese exports (even if partly reflecting valid safety concerns), branding China a currency manipulator and triggering retaliatory measures, or imposing sanctions on Chinese goods equivalent to the asserted undervaluation of the renminbi are recent examples of these phenomena. So too, the politically charged backlash that has greeted contemplated PRC investments in U.S. firms provokes complaints and suspicions in Beijing about American double-standards and hypocrisy and, in turn, wariness about investing in the U.S. that can undermine the recycling of PRC foreign reserves and U.S. access to needed capital.
While many U.S. complaints have sound bases, and while domestic political reasons may compel leveling charges and threatening actions that raise tensions with China, U.S. policy should work to minimize damage to bilateral relations. Although Chinese understanding of U.S. politics and policymaking is vastly improved from a generation ago and although even the most thorough Chinese understanding of U.S. aims and interests will not prevent opportunistic or disingenuous Chinese policy, the U.S. can gain by offering reassurance that the more extreme measures debated in Washington will not be implemented and by making tailored arguments that invoke indisputable U.S. rights and interests. For example, U.S. criticisms that focus on Chinese violations of specific WTO obligations and U.S. complaints against China before the WTO dispute resolution body can reduce the evasion and pushback Beijing employs when facing more sweeping and general U.S. condemnations of “unfair” Chinese trade practices or, worse, broad assaults on liberal international trade principles that have helped produce the cavernous bilateral trade gap.
So too, U.S. policy should pursue effective assurances that China’s sovereign wealth fund and major state-linked companies meet international standards and play by market rules when investing in the United States. This is more promising than an approach that frames concerns about the motives and effects of PRC investment in broad-brush terms that risk being dismissed as reflecting an “anti-China” agenda and denounced as telling China that its hoard of dollars is not broadly spendable in the United States.
U.S. policy can and should stress the obverse of China’s grievances, pushing Beijing to address Washington’s concerns about Chinese regulation of inbound investment. U.S. positions should, and often do, acknowledge the great progress China has made in liberalizing its foreign investment regime, the tremendous gains this has produced for China, and the benefits reaped by American consumers and companies. Especially in the face of Beijing’s complaints about U.S. restrictions on Chinese investment, U.S. policy can and should address the more restrictive stance in some sectors in Beijing’s most recent foreign investment “catalogue”; signs that review of mergers and acquisitions under China’s new Anti-Monopoly Law are stricter for foreign purchasers; delays in reaching a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) that comes as close as possible to other investor-friendly U.S. BITs; shortcomings in China’s enforcement of arbitral and court judgments won by U.S. parties in trade and investment disputes; and problems with protection of U.S. intellectual property rights (IPR).
On IPR issues, assertions of U.S. rights and interests are best combined with emphasis on Chinese obligations and interests. The obligations come primarily from the WTO and its intellectual property agreement. Infringement harms Chinese interests by deterring U.S. firms in IP-intensive industries from investing in China, which undermines China’s policies of promoting higher tech and research and development sectors. Infringement also contributes to the bilateral trade imbalance and resulting frictions, by undercutting sales of legitimate U.S. trademarked, copyrighted, and patented goods in China and by generating sales of Chinese counterfeit goods in U.S. and third-country markets.
U.S. policy must recognize, however, that IPR issues are likely to remain frustrating. U.S. aims would be well served by a more fine-grained and disaggregating approach to IPR issues, distinguishing, for example, between violations that are exceedingly difficult for Chinese authorities to control, such as pirate CD factories and knock-off clothing production in small Chinese towns, and infringements that are more easily addressed or that have high per-infringement value, such as misappropriation of complex proprietary technology and inadequate protection–or recognition–of patents. U.S. policy also should resist larding well-founded complaints with exaggerated measures of the costs of piracy, such as those produced by multiplying the number of unauthorized units estimated to be sold in China by the price charged for legitimate units. If the near-term problems can be managed, much longer-run prospects are relatively promising. Chinese producers are beginning to generate valuable intellectual property, creating influential PRC constituencies for stronger IPR protection. Spurred by government policy, China may move relatively quickly along the arc of shifting self-interest from piracy to protection, much as Taiwan did decades before and as the U.S. itself did much earlier.
Product safety recently has become another contentious issue in U.S. policy toward China. Here too, the U.S. has legitimate complaints about Chinese legal and regulatory failures. In this area as well, U.S. policy should and already has appealed to China’s interests, both in avoiding a calamitous collapse in foreign demand for Chinese goods and in avoiding harm to Chinese consumers that could sap political legitimacy, most notably in the case of melamine-tainted milk products. Once again, U.S. policy is likely to be more effective if it steers clear of moves that PRC critics can cast as validating beliefs that Washington employs double standards to unfairly target China or uses exaggerated safety concerns to limit Chinese exports. On this front, U.S. objectives will gain from investment in, and publicity for, technical and legal assistance to help China improve its product quality inspection and regulation systems.
On security issues, U.S. policy faces relatively manageable challenges in the near term and benefits from a broad coincidence of American and Chinese aims and interests. For now, cross-Strait relations are less a source of conflict in U.S.-PRC relations than at any time in more than a decade. With Ma Ying-jeou having succeeded Chen Shui-bian as president in Taiwan, Washington can avoid the uncomfortable role it had to play in the later Chen years, reining in a Taiwanese president whose moves portended cross-Strait crises, deterring China from escalatory responses and trying to affirm support for Taiwanese democracy while criticizing Chen’s destabilizing use of democratic processes. The completion of long-stalled weapons sales to Taiwan in the closing months of the Bush administration removed a potentially serious irritant for the Obama team. The U.S.’s legal and policy commitments to providing Taiwan with arms, the postponed question of sales of upgraded F-16 aircraft, and items deleted from the 2008 deal mean that weapons transfers will return as a source of friction. But Obama was spared having to decide between approving sales to Taiwan shortly after coming to office (and, in turn, enduring an early setback in U.S.-PRC relations or having to offer mollifying concessions to Beijing) or deferring the long-pushed-for transaction (and thereby unduly raising Beijing’s expectations, and fueling Taiwan’s fears, about the new administration’s approach to cross-Strait issues).
Beijing’s shift under Hu to a policy that stresses preventing Taiwan independence over achieving unification, the rapid progress achieved on cross-Strait economic issues since Ma took office, the reestablishment of “official unofficial” engagement, and progress toward according Taiwan greater international space all bode well for Taiwan-related issues’ not immediately becoming a problem in U.S.-China relations. Still, U.S. policy should not be overly sanguine. Although suspicions have abated, some in Chinese policy circles hew to a zero-sum mentality that Washington will resist rapid and deep cross-Strait rapprochement. While progress is extremely unlikely to go too far and too fast for U.S. interests and a sensible and effective U.S. policy could do little to stop uncoerced integration, the Obama administration still needs to discredit this Chinese view lest otherwise unremarkable U.S. policies and statements concerning Taiwan be over-interpreted in Beijing. Also, Taiwan’s struggling economy and Ma’s now-dwindling support have not yet forced his administration to accommodate the opposition Democratic Progressive Party’s attacks on his cross-Strait policy, but that could change–and bring a resurgence of Taiwan issues as a source of tension in U.S.-China relations–if Ma and his ruling Kuomintang appear to face electoral trouble.
For Washington and Beijing, the often-frustrating Six-Party Talks are likely to remain part of the best among a bad set of choices for addressing North Korea’s nuclear programs. Supplementing that process with more direct U.S.-North Korean engagement, as Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have suggested, could serve U.S. interests and should not prove unacceptable to Beijing, given that China has secured for itself a major role in peninsular affairs, that Washington has promised to retain the Six-Party talks, and that such an initiative would continue the U.S.’s eschewal of forcible intervention or near-term regime change that China feared from the early Bush administration. Although Washington and Beijing have different “best case” scenarios for a post-Kim Jong-Il North Korea, they have strong common interests in avoiding a disruptive transition and, short of that, a deeper crisis amid deteriorating relations between Pyongyang and the recently installed Lee Myung-bak administration in Seoul.
Other important aspects of U.S.-China security relations do not require significant near-term changes in U.S. policy. Greater transparency in China’s ever-rising military spending and PLA doctrine must remain key goals of U.S. policy, especially in an era when each side’s principal scenario for major conflict is a U.S.-China confrontation. Washington should continue to make clear that it accepts China’s legitimate interest in defense modernization, not least because the notion that the U.S. wants to “keep China down” remains stubbornly potent in PRC policy debates. Such Chinese beliefs can harm U.S. interests, including by increasing friction over the U.S. military presence along China’s periphery. At the same time, U.S. policy should continue to stress that assessments of whether Chinese military development is a threat will remain guided by the fact that China faces no major security threats and that the U.S. remains an adequate provider–or leader among providers–of such military-dependent public goods as open sea lanes between East Asia and the Middle East.
On terrorism, Washington must pursue China’s continued acquiescence in U.S. policies, including in the UN Security Council. Obama’s pledge to withdraw from Iraq and show greater respect for international law will help, given China’s intractable criticism of the U.S. presence in Iraq and most international interventions as impermissible breaches of the targeted state’s sovereignty. At the same time, the rising salience for U.S. policy of terrorist groups in Pakistan’s tribal areas and Iran’s nuclear weapons program mean that the Obama administration must press Beijing to use its influence in Islamabad and Teheran and assuage Chinese concerns about the implications of U.S. policies for PRC interests.
Under Obama, human rights (beyond religious freedom, which received relatively much attention under Bush) and democratic governance (defined in more complex terms than the Bush-era emphasis on democracy-as-elections) will regain a more significant place in U.S. policy. This presumably will, and should, include renewed focus on such issues in U.S. policy toward China, even though that will create tension. While the strategy is clear and also serves Obama’s agenda of rebuilding American soft power, tactics for dealing with China are a more subtle question.
Moves to forego torture, close Guantanamo and the like will benefit U.S. human rights policy toward China because they weaken the long-developing PRC tendency to see the best defense as a good offense—rebuffing criticisms with indictments of U.S. practices that suggest American hypocrisy. The venerable practice of presidential and cabinet-level reiterations of U.S. commitments to human rights and pressure on China for poor performance should be continued. To scale it back would risk sending the wrong message. Impact with audiences abroad, including in China, can gain from Obama’s greater emphasis on human rights in U.S. foreign policy and from Secretary Clinton’s early engagement with such issues in China, dating to her participation in the Beijing-hosted 1995 UN Conference on Women.
Calling on China to adopt specific measures that closely follow U.S. models should be avoided. So too should empty threats of sanctions, reminiscent of the pre-WTO era annual review of China’s human rights practices as a condition for renewing China’s trade privileges. Such methods were never effective, fed Chinese nationalist backlash against attempts to foster China’s “peaceful evolution” into a type of regime favored by Washington, and face dimming prospects as China grows more powerful, important to U.S. policy, and insistent on receiving its due as a great power. Recent statements from Hu, Wen and other leaders have made clear that highly prescriptive human rights-related policies, especially ones stressing Western-style electoral democracy, will be rejected.
U.S. policy on Tibet and Muslim minorities in Xinjiang should differentiate insistence on greater respect for human rights from support for independence. As reactions to pro-Tibet protests focused on the Olympic torch relay amply illustrated, such issues are neuralgic for a genuinely popular Chinese nationalism and risk undermining credibility within China for U.S. efforts to promote human rights.
A promising approach will follow two principles. First, cast U.S. policy, where possible, in terms of international human rights norms that the Chinese regime has officially accepted and which have gained ground since Beijing grudgingly endorsed the idea of universal human rights in the early 1990s. This undercuts dismissals of American human rights imperialism and exploits China’s quests for acceptance as a “normal” country and greater soft power. China’s shift to a more cooperative stance in addressing genocide in Sudan during the Bush administration’s waning years suggests this approach’s potential. Maintaining and increasing pressure on China to be a “responsible stakeholder,” as former Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick put it, and not to support international norm-undermining governments is an approach that still holds untapped potential. Second, expand U.S. support, both rhetorical and material, for human rights-promoting efforts that Beijing does not regard as threatening or even unwelcome. These include such varied endeavors as promotion of civil society and “access to justice,” technical support for local election processes, education and training for judges and lawyers, and legal and media reforms that can expose lower-level governmental abuses that the central authorities have an interest in reducing.
Perhaps the most significant change needed in U.S. China policy is, simply, to make China, and the implications of China’s rise, more central concerns in U.S. foreign policy. The Bush-era focus on the war on terror meant less attention to other issues, including the consequences of China’s growing power, assertiveness and influence. While the U.S. pressed an antiterrorism-dominated agenda, especially in Southeast Asia, China extended its influence by playing to regional states’ greater concern with economic issues. With Beijing’s acquiescence in Washington’s antiterrorism agenda looming so large among U.S. China policy goals, and with economic issues crowding out other concerns in the bilateral relationship, Beijing could extract concessions and avoid scrutiny that its actions at home and abroad otherwise would have faced from Washington. With American military resources and security thinking focused on terrorism and Southwest Asia, and with North Korea dominating U.S. attention in East Asia, the U.S. became the incredible shrinking superpower, seemingly much less engaged, influential, and committed to East Asia and its friends in the region.
This benign (for Beijing) neglect is now waning. The international economic crisis underscores China’s qualitatively increased economic clout. The shift in U.S. foreign policy away from an overwhelming concentration on Iraq and terrorism creates more space for addressing security issues in East Asia and China’s rising military prowess. The Obama administration’s promised greater foreign policy emphasis on human rights, climate change energy security, and pandemic diseases portends more attention to China, given China’s outsized contribution to global problems in these areas and the new administration’s opportunity and apparent intention to articulate common interests with China to address, at least, environment, energy and public health issues. Secretary Clinton’s untraditional choice of China and other East Asian states for her first foreign trip, and the inclusion of the State Department’s special envoy for climate change in her delegation, are promising signs. So too are promised moves to raise other aspects of ministerial level dialogues to the stature of the regularly convened and generally successful Strategic Economic Dialogue of the late Bush years. An early visit by President Obama to Beijing as part of a wider Asian trip would help as well, but it should not be undertaken before the groundwork has been laid for a summit that heralds substantive accomplishments.
Refocusing on a rising China and the region that increasingly lives in its shadow is only a first step. While U.S. policy will have to respond to developments as they occur, effective and appropriate policy must heed basic features of the landscape. The arch-realist view has a grain of truth. Beijing’s protestations notwithstanding, the rise of a great power does threaten disruption of established international regimes and friction with the previously dominant power–especially where the two powers have very different political systems and ideologies.
Still, U.S. policy should not overestimate China’s power, nor should it fear (or seek) the remote possibility that China will decline or lapse into chaos. On a per capita basis, China will remain poor for a very long time. Because of draconian population policies, it will go gray before it gets rich. Economic inequality, still-unreckoned costs from pollution and corruption and other ills are cracks in the foundation of China’s power. China’s much-touted soft power is less than it seems, reflecting lesser states’ interest in economic relations with China and China as a counterbalance to an overweening U.S. more than any desire for a Sinocentric order or any embrace of China’s political-economic model.
More importantly, U.S. policy must presume, correctly, that a rising China’s agenda is not immutable, but can be affected by U.S. policy. Petulant, even aggressive, nationalism and revanchist authoritarianism are possible trajectories, rooted at least as much in China’s weakness as in its new strength and made more likely if ill-chosen or poorly explained U.S. policies fuel Chinese paranoia about an American plot to isolate China, keep it down, subject it to double standards or transform it. China’s continuation as a basically pro-status quo power and evolution toward a more liberal and rule-of-law order are possible directions as well, and ones that can be promoted by U.S. policies that accept China’s legitimate ambitions for international influence, articulate a foundation in U.S. interests that Beijing can understand and, where possible, invoke Beijing’s freely chosen commitments and China’s self-interest.