Dear President Trump and members of Congress:

We are members of the scholarly, foreign policy, military and business communities, overwhelmingly from the United States, including many who have focused on Asia throughout our professional careers. We are deeply concerned about the growing deterioration in U.S. relations with China, which we believe does not serve American or global interests. Although we are very troubled by Beijing’s recent behavior, which requires a strong response, we also believe that many U.S. actions are contributing directly to the downward spiral in relations.

The following seven propositions represent our collective views on China, the problems in the U.S. approach to China and the basic elements of a more effective U.S. policy. Our institutional affiliations are provided for identification purposes only.

1. China’s troubling behavior in recent years — including its turn toward greater domestic repression, increased state control over private firms, failure to live up to several of its trade commitments, greater efforts to control foreign opinion and more aggressive foreign policy — raises serious challenges for the rest of the world. These challenges require a firm and effective U.S. response, but the current approach to China is fundamentally counterproductive.

2. We do not believe Beijing is an economic enemy or an existential national security threat that must be confronted in every sphere; nor is China a monolith, or the views of its leaders set in stone. Although its rapid economic and military growth has led Beijing toward a more assertive international role, many Chinese officials and other elites know that a moderate, pragmatic and genuinely cooperative approach with the West serves China’s interests. Washington’s adversarial stance toward Beijing weakens the influence of those voices in favor of assertive nationalists. With the right balance of competition and cooperation, U.S. actions can strengthen those Chinese leaders who want China to play a constructive role in world affairs.

3. U.S. efforts to treat China as an enemy and decouple it from the global economy will damage the United States’ international role and reputation and undermine the economic interests of all nations. U.S. opposition will not prevent the continued expansion of the Chinese economy, a greater global market share for Chinese companies and an increase in China’s role in world affairs. Moreover, the United States cannot significantly slow China’s rise without damaging itself. If the United States presses its allies to treat China as an economic and political enemy, it will weaken its relations with those allies and could end up isolating itself rather than Beijing.

4. The fear that Beijing will replace the United States as the global leader is exaggerated. Most other countries have no interest in such an outcome, and it is not clear that Beijing itself sees this goal as necessary or feasible. Moreover, a government intent on limiting the information and opportunities available to its own citizens and harshly repressing its ethnic minorities will not garner meaningful international support nor succeed in attracting global talent. The best American response to these practices is to work with our allies and partners to create a more open and prosperous world in which China is offered the opportunity to participate. Efforts to isolate China will simply weaken those Chinese intent on developing a more humane and tolerant society.

5. Although China has set a goal of becoming a world-class military by midcentury, it faces immense hurdles to operating as a globally dominant military power. However, Beijing’s growing military capabilities have already eroded the United States’ long-standing military preeminence in the Western Pacific. The best way to respond to this is not to engage in an open-ended arms race centered on offensive, deep-strike weapons and the virtually impossible goal of reasserting full-spectrum U.S. dominance up to China’s borders. A wiser policy is to work with allies to maintain deterrence, emphasizing defensive-oriented, area denial capabilities, resiliency and the ability to frustrate attacks on U.S. or allied territory, while strengthening crisis-management efforts with Beijing.

6. Beijing is seeking to weaken the role of Western democratic norms within the global order. But it is not seeking to overturn vital economic and other components of that order from which China itself has benefited for decades. Indeed, China’s engagement in the international system is essential to the system’s survival and to effective action on common problems such as climate change. The United States should encourage Chinese participation in new or modified global regimes in which rising powers have a greater voice. A zero-sum approach to China’s role would only encourage Beijing to either disengage from the system or sponsor a divided global order that would be damaging to Western interests.

7. In conclusion, a successful U.S. approach to China must focus on creating enduring coalitions with other countries in support of economic and security objectives. It must be based on a realistic appraisal of Chinese perceptions, interests, goals and behavior; an accurate match of U.S. and allied resources with policy goals and interests; and a rededication of U.S. efforts to strengthen its own capacity to serve as a model for others. Ultimately, the United States’ interests are best served by restoring its ability to compete effectively in a changing world and by working alongside other nations and international organizations rather than by promoting a counterproductive effort to undermine and contain China’s engagement with the world.

We believe that the large number of signers of this open letter clearly indicates that there is no single Washington consensus endorsing an overall adversarial stance toward China, as some believe exists.

M. Taylor Fravel is a professor of political science at MIT. J. Stapleton Roy is a distinguished scholar at the Wilson Center and a former U.S. ambassador to China. Michael D. Swaine is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Susan A. Thornton is a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and a former acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. Ezra Vogel is a professor emeritus at Harvard University.

The above individuals circulated the letter, which was signed by the following:

●James Acton, co-director, Nuclear Policy Program and Jessica T. Mathews Chair, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Craig Allen, former U.S. ambassador to Brunei from 2014–2018

●Andrew Bacevich, co-founder, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft

●Jeffrey A. Bader, former senior director for East Asia on National Security Council 2009-2011 and fellow, Brookings Institution

●C. Fred Bergsten, senior fellow and director emeritus, Peterson Institute for International Economics

●Jan Berris, vice president, National Committee on United States-China Relations

●Dennis J. Blasko, former U.S. Army Attaché to China, 1992-1996

●Pieter Bottelier, visiting scholar, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University

●Ian Bremmer, president, Eurasia Group

●Richard Bush, Chen-Fu and Cecilia Yen Koo Chair in Taiwan Studies, Brookings Institution

●Jerome A. Cohen, faculty director, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University

●Warren I. Cohen, distinguished university professor emeritus, University of Maryland

●Bernard Cole, former U.S. Navy captain

●James F. Collins, U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation 1997-2001

●Gerald L Curtis, Burgess Professor Emeritus, Columbia University

●Toby Dalton, co-director, Nuclear Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Robert Daly, director, Kissinger Institute on China and the U.S., Wilson Center

●Michael C. Desch, Packey J. Dee Professor of International Affairs and director of the Notre Dame International Security Center

●Mac Destler, professor emeritus, University of Maryland School of Public Policy

●Bruce Dickson, professor of political science and international affairs, George Washington University

●David Dollar, senior fellow, Brookings Institution

●Peter Dutton, senior fellow, U.S.-Asia Law Institute; adjunct professor, New York University School of Law

●Robert Einhorn, senior fellow, Brookings Institution; former assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, 1999-2001

●Amitai Etzioni, University Professor and Professor of International Affairs, George Washington University

●Thomas Fingar, Asia Pacific Research Center, Stanford University; former deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, 2005-2008

●Mary Gallagher, political science professor and director of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan

●John Gannon, adjunct professor, Georgetown University; former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, 1997-2001

●Avery Goldstein, David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations, University of Pennsylvania

●Steven M. Goldstein, associate of the Fairbank Center; director of the Taiwan Studies Workshop at Harvard University

●David F. Gordon, senior advisor, International Institute of Strategic Studies; former director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, 2007-2009

●Philip H. Gordon, Mary and David Boies Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations; former special assistant to the president and Coordinator for the Middle East and assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs

●Morton H. Halperin, former director of Policy Planning Staff at State Department, 1998-2001

●Lee Hamilton, former congressman; former president and director of the Wilson Center

●Clifford A. Hart Jr., former U.S. consul general to Hong Kong and Macau, 2013-2016

●Paul Heer, adjunct professor, George Washington University; former National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, 2007-2015

●Eric Heginbotham, principal research scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies

●Ambassador Carla A. Hills, former United States Trade Representative, 1989-1993; chair & CEO Hills & Company, International Consultants

●Jamie P. Horsley, senior fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School

●Yukon Huang, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Frank Jannuzi, president and CEO, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation

●Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor and Professor of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University

●Marvin Kalb, nonresident senior fellow, Brookings Institution

●Mickey Kantor, former secretary of commerce,1996-1997; U.S. trade representative, 1993-1996

●Robert Kapp, president, Robert A. Kapp & Associates, Inc.; former president, U.S.-China Business Council; former president, Washington Council on International Trade

●Albert Keidel, adjunct graduate professor, George Washington University; former deputy director of the Office of East Asian Nations at the Treasury Department, 2001-2004

●Robert O. Keohane, professor of International Affairs emeritus, Princeton University

●William Kirby, Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School; T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University

●Helena Kolenda, program director for Asia, Henry Luce Foundation

●Charles Kupchan, professor of International Affairs, Georgetown University; senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

●David M. Lampton, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Oksenberg Rholen Fellow, Stanford University Asia-Pacific Research Center; former president, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations

●Nicholas Lardy, Anthony M. Solomon Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

●Chung Min Lee, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Herbert Levin, former staff member for China on National Security Council and Policy Planning Council

●Cheng Li, director and senior fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution

●Kenneth Lieberthal, professor emeritus, University of Michigan; former Asia senior director, National Security Council, 1998-2000

●Yawei Liu, director of China Program, The Carter Center

●Jessica Mathews, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●James McGregor, chairman, Greater China, APCO Worldwide

●John McLaughlin, distinguished practitioner in residence, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, 2000-2004

●Andrew Mertha, Hyman Professor and Director of the China Program, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University

●Alice Lyman Miller, research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

●Mike Mochizuki, Japan-U.S. Relations Chair in Memory of Gaston Sigur, George Washington University

●Michael Nacht, Thomas and Alison Schneider Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; former assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs, 2009-2010

●Moises Naim, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Joseph Nye, University Distinguished Service Professor emeritus and former dean, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

●Kevin O’Brien, political science professor and director of Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley

●Jean Oi, William Haas Professor of Chinese Politics, Stanford University

●Stephen A. Orlins, president, National Committee on U.S.-China Relations

●William Overholt, senior research fellow, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University

●Douglas Paal, distinguished fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●Margaret M. Pearson, Dr. Horace V. and Wilma E. Harrison Distinguished Professor, University of Maryland, College Park

●Peter C. Perdue, professor of history, Yale University

●Elizabeth J. Perry , Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University; director, Harvard-Yenching Institute

●Daniel W Piccuta, former deputy chief of mission and acting ambassador, Beijing

●Thomas Pickering, former under secretary of state for political affairs, 1997-2000; former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 1989-1992

●Paul R. Pillar , nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University

●Jonathan D. Pollack, nonresident senior fellow, John L. Thornton China Center, Brookings Institution

●Barry Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; director, MIT Security Studies Program

●Shelley Rigger, Brown Professor of East Asian Politics, Davidson College

●Charles S. Robb, former U.S. senator (1989-2001) and former chairman of the East Asia subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; governor of Virginia from 1982 to 1986

●Robert S. Ross, professor of political science, Boston College

●Scott D. Sagan, the Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

●Gary Samore, senior executive director, Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University

●Richard J. Samuels, Ford International Professor of Political Science and director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies

●David Shear, former assistant secretary of defense, 2014-2016; former U.S. ambassador to Vietnam

●Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning, State Department, 2009-2011; Bert G. Kerstetter ‘66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

●Richard Sokolsky, nonresident senior fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

●James Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state, 2009-2011

●Michael Szonyi, Frank Wen-Hsiung Wu Memorial Professor of Chinese History Director, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University

●Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state, 1994-2001

●Anne F. Thurston, former senior research professor, School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University

●Andrew G. Walder, Denise O’Leary and Kent Thiry Professor, School of Humanities and Sciences, Stanford University

●Graham Webster, coordinating editor, Stanford-New America DigiChina Project

●David A. Welch, University Research Chair, Balsillie School of International Affairs

●Daniel B. Wright, president and CEO, GreenPoint Group; former managing director for China and the Strategic Economic Dialogue, Treasury Department

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