- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains

About the Project

U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains is a 24-month joint project between NBR, the Institute for China-US People-to-People Exchange, and the Institute of International and Strategic Studies, both at Peking University. This project is made possible by the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and seeks to produce a forthright examination of the challenges in establishing greater trust and cooperation in U.S.-China relations in strategic domains and bilateral exchanges. The goal of the research and discussions is to produce pragmatic recommendations for U.S. and Chinese policymakers in order to strengthen the most important bilateral relationship in the Asia-Pacific. In 2016, the project culminated in a series of analysis papers co-authored by American and Chinese experts, under the guidance of eminent scholars from both the United States and China.

Op-ed Series

The op-eds below, based on the project, are written for media publication.

"Investment in U.S.-China Relations Starts with People" in China-US Focus, by Travis Tanner and Zhao Minghao

"Can the United States and China De-Conflict in Cyberspace?" in War on the Rocks, by Adam Segal and Tang Lan

"Use Outer Space to Strengthen U.S.-China Ties" in War on the Rocks, by Brian Weeden and Xiao He

"Both Sides Now: How the U.S. and China Can Talk Each Other Out of a Nuclear Arms Race," in Defense One, by Elbridge Colby and Wu Riqiang

"What are Mil-Mil Ties between the U.S. and China Good For?," in War on the Rocks, by Roy D. Kamphausen and Jessica Drun

The Issues

As China rises, Beijing and Washington are struggling to establish a robust foundation on which to build their bilateral relationship. While both sides seem to agree on the general need to develop a new type of major power relations, the details of how the concept will be practically applied remain unclear. Although there is already cooperation on issues such as climate change and trade, progress has been difficult to achieve in the world’s strategic domains—maritime, nuclear, space, and cyberspace.

The American and Chinese national security communities have both produced copious amounts of analyses on these four domains. While many of these analyses are insightful and sophisticated, they lack three fundamental characteristics that this project will contribute: a consideration of the strategic domains in total, the joint development of concepts and proposals, and a focus on policy impact. Furthermore, the project will examine how issues related to these domains have been discussed in military-to-military interactions as well as scholarly people-to-people exchanges to produce recommendations for more fruitful bilateral engagement.

2015 Beijing Track 2 Conference

The National Bureau of Asian Research along with the Institute on China-US People–to-People Exchange and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies, at Peking University, jointly convened a Track 2 conference in Beijing from March 28–29, 2015. Leading scholars and experts from the United States and China engaged in frank and forthright discussions on the interests of both countries in four strategic domains—maritime, space, nuclear, and cyberspace—and two modes of bilateral exchanges—people-to-people and military-to-military—in order to examine how to move U.S.-China relations forward in these areas.

The discussion panels were moderated by a senior U.S. or Chinese scholar and featured short presentations of each country’s interests and perspectives by a team of mostly mid-career analysts from the United States and China. Following the presentations, senior experts from both sides offered their assessment and constructive criticisms before an open discussion with all of the participants. The dialogue focused on areas of convergence as the basis for cooperation and areas of divergence to identify steps for managing tensions and crises.


For more information, including upcoming events and ongoing research, please contact:

Alison Szalwinski
Director, Political and Security Affairs

Project Op-eds

Addressing Strategic Domain Issues in U.S.-China Relations

Op-ed on the significance of strategic domain issues in U.S.-China relations by project directors Travis Tanner (100,000 Strong Foundation) and Wang Dong (Peking University) with Roy Kamphausen (NBR).

Personal touch enlivens Sino-US ties

Op-ed on the strategic importance of people-to-people relations by project directors Travis Tanner (100,000 Strong Foundation) and Wang Dong (Peking University).

Report: U.S.-China Relations in Strategic Domains

This report assesses U.S.-China relations in the maritime, nuclear, cyberspace, and space domains, as well as through the lens of people-to-people and military-to-military exchanges. Employing an innovative approach to represent both U.S. and Chinese perspectives, the members of the study team jointly examine opportunities for collaboration.

U.S.-China Relations: From Strategic Domains to the International System

On April 19, 2016, leading experts, including former U.S. and Chinese officials, addressed the potential for conflict and cooperation between the United States and China on critical issues in bilateral relations and international governance. Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III (ret.), former Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, delivered the keynote address. Learn more.

Enhancing U.S.-China Military-to-Military Exchanges

In advance of the September 2015 meeting between Presidents Xi Jinping and Barack Obama, Roy Kamphausen (NBR) outlines challenges in U.S.-China military-to-military relations and discusses the opportunity provided by the upcoming summit to make new progress.

Stabilizing China-U.S. Nuclear Dynamics

Writing in advance of President Xi Jinping's September 2015 U.S. visit, Wu Riqiang (Renmin University) maintains that maintaining stable nuclear relations between China and the United States is critical to both sides as well as the rest of the world.

Assessing the Sino-U.S. Strategic Interaction in the Maritime Security Domain

Christopher D. Yung (U.S. Marine Corps University) explores the maritime dynamics within the U.S.-China relationships ahead of the Obama-Xi summit.

Building a New Type of U.S.-China Military-to-Military Relationship

Major General Yao Yunzhu, director of the Center on China-America Defense Relations at the PLA’s Academy of Military Science, discusses the recent positive developments in U.S.-China military-to-military relations.

Countering U.S.-China Strategic Rivalry by Elevating People-to-People Exchange

Travis Tanner (100,000 Strong Foundation) explains why the upcoming summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping is an opportunity to strengthen the U.S.-China relationship, specifically by encouraging progress in the P2P domain.

Stabilizing Cybersecurity in the U.S.-China Relationship

With cyber issues sure to be high on the agenda at the upcoming presidential summit, Adam Segal (Council on Foreign Relations) examines the role of the cyber domain in U.S.-China relations and highlights areas of tension and of common interest for both sides.

Promoting Strategic Stability in the Midst of Sino-U.S. Competition

In advance of the summit between President Obama and President Xi, Elbridge A. Colby (Center for a New American Security) discusses the role of nuclear stability in the U.S.-China relationship and suggests recommendations for the two leaders.

An Opportunity to Use the Space Domain to Strengthen the U.S.-China Relationship

Brian Weeden (Secure World Foundation) discusses the U.S.-China relationship in space and provides recommendations for managing tensions and promoting positive engagement ahead of the presidential summit.