Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Sen. Kerry’s Approach to China as Secretary of State
Press Release

RELEASE: Sen. Kerry’s Approach to China as Secretary of State

Read the full column here.

Washington, D.C. — As the U.S. Senate begins Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) confirmation hearing for secretary of state today, the Center for American Progress released “Sen. Kerry’s Approach to China as Secretary of State,” which discusses the Obama administration’s current relationship with China, how Sen. Kerry would manage that relationship, and the broader need for the next secretary of state to emphasize a bilateral, rules-based approach in all negotiations.

Beyond the immediate issues, such as dealing with the dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, a broader aspect of U.S. policy toward China needs attention: The United States and China have no shared vision for what their future bilateral relationship could or should look like. If confirmed as the next secretary of state, one action that Sen. Kerry could take is to draw more closely the connections between the international system of rules, China’s attitude toward it, and the future of the U.S.-China relationship. He would need to make clear that the bilateral relationship depends on China’s willingness to live by international rules.

When they meet with their Chinese interlocutors, Sen. Kerry and his team should present this concept to China. Whether China eventually accepts it, however, there are some specific steps Sen. Kerry and his team should take to move toward a more rules-based future. These steps include:

  • Making a no-holds-barred campaign for Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea to increase U.S. leverage and credibility as a champion of rules
  • Continuing to advocate for countries involved in disputes in the South China Sea to adopt a Code of Conduct
  • Pushing for international norms and rules of acceptable behavior in cyberspace and greater agreement on the applicability of the laws of armed conflict in cyberspace
  • Continuing to support the negotiation and adoption of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities
  • Working with friends and allies to continue encouraging China to adhere to existing rules

Finally, Sen. Kerry and his team should make the rhetorical case for a positive future vision of the bilateral relationship based on rules.

Read the full column here.

To speak with Nina Hachigian, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].