Thomas J. Christensen, “A New Direction for U.S.-China Relations”


Wednesday, October 20, 2010, 4:00pm to 5:30pm

Thomas J. Christensen, Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University;
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2006-2008)

In a 2005 speech, Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick attempted to set US-China relations on a fundamentally new course. He requested that China become a “responsible stakeholder” by asserting more influence to help solve problems that challenge the stability of the international economic and security order. The speech made clear that the United States was not trying to contain China. Instead, the United States was inviting China to play a greater role on the world stage, albeit for purposes fully consistent with the interests of the United States and most other international actors. Moreover, by emphasizing the importance of US-China cooperation toward third world countries in Northeast Asia, South and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Washington was attempting to transcend the traditional bilateral issues that have dominated US-China relations in the post-Cold War era: trade deficits, relations across the Taiwan Strait, and frictions over China’s human rights record. This new approach to US-China policy has largely remained in place for the remaining years of the Bush administration and into the Obama administration. Professor Christensen will analyze the importance of this shift in the US-China policy and offer an assessment of the progress and setbacks witnessed since the approach was first articulated in 2005.

Thomas J. Christensen is professor of politics and international affairs and director of the China and the World Program at Princeton University. From 2006 to 2008, Professor Christensen served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs with responsibility for relations with China, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Professor Christensen’s research and teaching focus on China’s foreign relations, the international relations of East Asia, and international security. Before arriving at Princeton in 2003, Professor Christensen taught at Cornell University and MIT. He received his BA from Haverford College, his MA in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania, and his PhD in political science from Columbia University.

Professor Christensen has served on the board of directors and the executive committee of the National Committee on US-China Relations and as co-editor of the international history and politics series at Princeton University Press. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2002, he was presented with a Distinguished Public Service Award by the United States Department of State.

Location: CGIS South, Belfer Case Study Room (S020)
1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

An article based on this lecture will appear in Foreign Affairs magazine in March/April 2011.