Tensions between China and the United States have reached their most severe levels since both countries normalized diplomatic relations more than forty years ago. With confrontation having moved beyond disagreements on trade, defense and human rights toward a clash of systems and values, how should a new Biden administration go about pulling back from the new cold war?

In a Dec. 2, 2020 webinar co-hosted with Network 20/20, leading China experts Susan Thornton, Cheng Li and Joseph Battat discussed the current state of affairs and what both sides must do to de-escalate a conflict between two countries responsible for 40 percent of the world’s economic output.



Susan Thornton recently joined Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center as a Senior Fellow following a distinguished 28-year career at the Department of State. Thornton was Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the first 18 months of the Trump administration and led East Asia policy-making amid crises with North Korea, escalating trade tensions with China, and a generally deteriorating environment in the United States for international economic and diplomatic engagement. She was the architect of the diplomatic pressure campaign on the North Korean regime, structured the administration’s initial approach to China, and developed the administration’s trademark Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Cheng Li (ICWA fellow in China, 1993-95) is Director and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Li is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a Distinguished Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at University of Toronto, a nonresident fellow at Yale University’s Paul Tsai China Center, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is currently completing a book manuscript with the working title Xi Jinping’s Protégés: Rising Elite Groups in the Chinese Leadership.


Joseph Battat (ICWA fellow in China, 1976-82) is a Senior Lecturer of Global Economics and Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Battat joined the World Bank Group in 1989 where he held a number of positions over a period of twenty six years, including the head of the Foreign Investment Advisory Services. Previously, he was a member of the faculty, School of Business, Indiana University, teaching, conducting research, and consulting with Fortune 500 multinational companies interested in the China market (1982-89).



Top photo: President Donald Trump visits China in November 2017 (PAS China, Wikimedia Commons)