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Past Event

U.S.-China relations in historical context

Past Event

U.S.-China relations in historical context

Content from the Brookings-Tsinghua Public Policy Center is now archived. Since October 1, 2020, Brookings has maintained a limited partnership with Tsinghua University School of Public Policy and Management that is intended to facilitate jointly organized dialogues, meetings, and/or events.

With the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping approaching, headlines in the United States about China have been dominated by concerns about China’s economic expansion and stock market volatility, cyberespionage, reclamation activities in the South China Sea, and—most critically—China’s reemergence as a global power. However, this prevalent narrative tends to mask the important history of both the enduring issues and profound changes in the bilateral relationship—a history that can help provide the context for actions taken by both countries today and prevent misunderstandings and policy mistakes that could shake the world community.

On September 21, the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion that helped illuminate the historical context of the U.S.-China relationship. Three leading China historians presented accounts of U.S.-China relations during different periods in history, shedding valuable light on how historical perspective can help guide relations in a challenging time and in the long-term.

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Opening remarks

A historical perspective on U.S.-China relations


Warren I. Cohen

Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus - University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)


Mark C. Elliott

Vice Provost for International Affairs and Professor - Harvard University

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