How Sen. Kerry Should Approach China as Secretary of State

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Confirmation hearings began today for President Barack Obama’s choice for America’s next secretary of state, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). While the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations should ask Sen. Kerry about China, he is sure to continue the broad contours of the Obama administration’s clear-eyed, nuanced, and effective approach to the relationship.

While working to expand areas of cooperation with Beijing, the administration has invested in America’s ability to compete and has not hesitated to push back when Chinese conduct harms the interests of the United States or its allies. The Obama administration has walked a careful line between welcoming a prosperous China that adheres to international norms and standing firm when China’s actions do not contribute to peace and stability. In the president’s first term, the United States deepened alliances in Asia and broadened U.S. economic and political engagement in the region, while also communicating with China—both formally and informally—to an unprecedented degree. This is a “cooperate and compete” strategy and follows a risk-management approach.

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