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Congressional Research Service, "China-U.S. Relations: Current Issues and Implications for U.S. Policy," June 14, 2007

This CRS report was prepared by Kerry Dumbaugh, specialist in Asian Affairs.
June 14, 2007

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U.S.-China relations have remained remarkably smooth since late 2001, although there are signs that U.S. policy toward China is now subject to competing reassessments. State Department officials in 2005 unveiled what they said was a new policy framework for the relationship — one in which the United States was willing to work cooperatively with a non-democratic China while encouraging Beijing to become a “responsible stakeholder” in the global system — and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in December 2006 established a U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue with Beijing, the most senior regular dialogue yet held with China. Other U.S. policymakers appear to have adopted tougher stances on issues involving China and U.S.-China relations, concerned about the impact of the PRC’s strong economic growth and a more assertive PRC diplomacy in the international arena. Another matter of growing concern to some is China’s increasing global “reach” and the consequences that the PRC’s expanding international influence has for U.S. interests. To feed its appetite for resources, China has been steadily signing trade agreements, oil and gas contracts, scientific cooperation agreements, and multilateral security arrangements with countries around the world, some of which are key U.S. allies.

Taiwan, which China considers a “renegade province,” remains the most sensitive issue the two countries face and the one many observers fear could lead to Sino-U.S. conflict. But U.S. relations with Taiwan have also been plagued by what some U.S. officials see as that government’s minimal military spending, its failure to enact funding bills that allow it to purchase U.S. weapons offered for sale in 2001, and the periodic independence-leaning actions and rhetoric of its President and other government officials, which U.S. officials have called “unhelpful” to regional stability.

Much U.S. concern about China appears driven by security calculations at the Pentagon and in Congress. Pentagon officials question the motivations behind China’s expanding military budget. A congressionally mandated DOD report concluded Beijing is greatly understating its military expenditures and is developing anti-satellite (ASAT) systems — a claim that gained more credence when the PRC used a ballistic missile to destroy one of its own orbiting satellites in early January 2007. Bilateral economic and trade issues also are growing matters of concern, with U.S. officials and some Members of Congress particularly criticizing China’s massive bilateral trade surplus, its failure to halt piracy of U.S. intellectual property rights (IPR), and its continued constraints on its currency valuation.

This report will be updated regularly as events warrant and will track legislative initiatives involving China. For actions and issues in U.S.-China relations considered during the 109th Congress, see CRS Report RL32804, China-U.S. Relations in the 109th Congress, by Kerry Dumbaugh.

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