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On December 15, 1978, the United States and China announced the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, ending almost three decades of official estrangement. Since then, the U.S. and China have developed a highly complex and mutually beneficial relationship, albeit with frictions and substantial differences. The U.S.-China relationship has evolved from Cold War competition toward cooperation in dealing with global hot spots, nuclear proliferation, climate change, and the challenge of reshaping the world financial system. Arguably the transformation of the U.S.-China relationship has been the most important geopolitical development of the last third of the 20th century, and the relationship between our two countries will be a powerful vector in shaping the world of the current century.
On December 10, several of the key actors in creating the modern U.S.-China relationship – General Brent Scowcroft and Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski — spoke at Brookings about what the relationship has meant, means, and will mean. In addition, one of America’s foremost scholarly experts on China, Professor Jonathan Spence, offered an assessment of these last several decades in the broad sweep of China’s relationship with the U.S. and the West.
John L. Thornton, chairman of the Brookings Board of Trustees, opened the session. Carlos Pascual, vice president and director of Foreign Policy, and Jeffrey Bader, director of the John L. Thornton China Center, introduced the speakers and moderated questions from the audience.