Forty years after the normalization of relations between the U.S. and China, the bilateral relationship has entered a new period of uncertainty and faces challenges fundamentally different from those of the past four decades. As China has grown much stronger–economically, technologically, and militarily–U.S. policy towards China must adjust. There is no ready template for a relationship between two powers that are so deeply interdependent, yet increasingly see one another as rivals.  The policy of “engagement” that has defined the U.S.’s approach to China since Washington and Beijing normalized relations in 1979 has faced withering criticism of late. Some see a “new Cold War,” or worse, as likely–and perhaps necessary. The issues in U.S.-China relations are wide-ranging, globally important, and will pose persistent challenges for decades ahead.  The need for original thinking, and new voices, is urgent.

At this critical juncture in U.S.-China relations, Penn’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China has convened a diverse group of leading, mostly “next generation” China scholars and analysts to develop actionable policy recommendations and reach an audience of policymakers and the public, with advice from senior advisors with experience in government and policy-related fields, the project organizers, and other expert commentators.

The Project focuses on six areas: National Security; Trade and Competitiveness; Technology; Human Rights, Law, and Democracy; Climate and Environment; and Research, Education, and Academic Freedom.

Project activities include: webinars led by senior advisors (May 2020), a plenary virtual conference presenting (and providing feedback on) draft policy papers (June 2020), a series of webinars featuring the policy paper-writers in each of the six project areas (September-October 2020), briefing sessions for journalists, policymakers, and policy influencers (Fall 2020 through 2021), multimedia products (recorded webinars, podcasts, and more), media appearances by project participants, and public sessions (on line and, COVID-19 conditions permitting, in person) at venues at Penn (including Perry World House), in Washington, D.C., New York, and other U.S. venues, and at the Penn-Wharton China Center in Beijing.

The Project on the Future of U.S.-China Relations draws on the Center for the Study of Contemporary China’s convening power, Penn’s rich expertise on contemporary China, the generous commitments of our project participants from academia and think tanks, and collaboration with the Next40 Initiative.  The Project is supported by generous commitments from the Penn’s China Research and Engagement Fund and the Henry Luce Foundation, with additional support from the Foreign Policy Research Institute.