Chinese President Xi Jinping and First Lady Peng Liyuan arrive at Paine Field in Everett, Washington, September 22, 2015.
David Ryder / Reuters

China’s rise poses two broad challenges for U.S. foreign policy: how to deter the People’s Republic from destabilizing East Asia and how to encourage it to contribute to multilateral global governance. Although China is not yet a military peer competitor of the United States, it has become powerful enough to challenge U.S. friends and allies in East Asia and to pose serious problems for U.S. forces operating there. And although China is still a developing country with significant domestic problems, it has become an important enough actor that its cooperation is necessary to solve global problems such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, and international financial instability.

At the end of President George W. Bush’s second term, the U.S.-Chinese relationship was heading in the right direction on both fronts. Under President Barack Obama, significant progress has been made on some issues, but the

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  • THOMAS J. CHRISTENSEN is William P. Boswell Professor of World Politics of Peace and War at Princeton University and the author of The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (Norton, 2015), from which this article is adapted. From 2006 to 2008, he was U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
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