After four decades of engagement, the United States and China now appear to be locked on a collision course that has already fomented a trade war, seems likely to produce a new cold war, and could even result in dangerous military conflict. Washington has legitimate concerns about Beijing’s excessive domestic political control and aggressive foreign policy stances, just as Chinese leaders believe the United States still has futile designs on blocking their country’s inevitable rise to great-power status.
In this challenging environment for bilateral relations, American policymakers must not lose sight of the expansive dynamism and diversity in present-day China. The caricature of the People’s Republic of China as a monolithic Communist apparatus set on exporting its ideology and development model is subject to intellectual debate. The middle class in Shanghai, China’s most cosmopolitan city, can be a potential force for reshaping U.S.-China engagement, as evidenced by the realms of higher education, avant-garde art, architecture, and the legal profession in the city. It’s under this framework that John L. Thornton China Center Director Cheng Li has written his latest book, “Middle Class Shanghai: Reshaping U.S.-China Engagement.”
On May 14, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings hosted Li for a presentation on the findings from his new book, followed by a panel discussion with leading academics who examined the characteristics and implications of China’s burgeoning middle class for the country and the world.
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