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The Complex Domestic Politics of U.S.-China Relations

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While geopolitical tensions continue to define much of the U.S.-China relationship, changing domestic politics in both countries — often underappreciated and little understood — have become a major factor in this great power rivalry. Over the past decade, domestic political forces in both countries have had increasingly negative impacts on U.S.-China ties further exacerbating difficult relations between the two. What domestic changes in both countries are influencing the relationship, in what ways, and to what effect?

To answer these questions, the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis (CCA) hosted an in-depth discussion with three former senior officials: Evan Medeiros, senior fellow for foreign policy at the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis and Penner and Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service; Elizabeth Economy, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; and Liza Tobin, senior director for economy at the Special Competitive Studies Project. 

Bates Gill, executive director of the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis, moderated the discussion and helped the audience understand the changing domestic politics behind U.S.-China relations in both countries, as well as the broader challenges of formulating China policy in Washington today.

The event also served to launch the latest new report from the Center for China Analysis, The New Domestic Politics of U.S.-China Relations, authored by Evan Medeiros.

This event was co-sponsored by the Asia Society Policy Institute and the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues.


Evan S. Medeiros is a senior fellow for foreign policy at the Asia Society Policy Institute’s Center for China Analysis. He is also a professor and Penner Family Chair in Asia Studies in the School of Foreign Service and senior fellow at the Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University. He served for six years on the staff of the National Security Council under President Obama as director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia and then as special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia. Medeiros holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science, an M.Phil. in international relations from the University of Cambridge, an M.A. in China studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and a B.A. in analytic philosophy from Bates College.

Elizabeth Economy is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Most recently, from 2021 to 2023, she served as senior China advisor for U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. Economy was previously at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she served as the C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and director for Asia Studies for over a decade. She is an acclaimed author and expert on Chinese domestic and foreign policy. Her most recent book is The World According to China (Polity, 2022). She received her B.A. with honors from Swarthmore College, her A.M. from Stanford University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Liza Tobin is the senior director for economy with the Special Competitive Studies Project. Prior to joining SCSP, Liza served on the National Security Council staff as China director, where she led the development of multiple U.S. strategies and policies related to China, including trade and economics, climate and the environment, military issues, and China’s influence beyond the Indo-Pacific. Prior to serving at the NSC, Tobin worked for more than a decade in various capacities as a China specialist for the U.S. government, including as a senior advisor at the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and as an economic analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as in various roles in the private sector and academia. In addition to her B.A. in China studies, she holds an M.A. in international relations with concentrations in China studies and international economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a graduate certificate from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies.

Bates Gill (moderator) is executive director of the Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis. Prior to joining the Asia Society, Bates held a number of research and leadership positions in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the United States, including as director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His most recent book is Daring to Struggle: China's Global Ambitions under Xi Jinping (Oxford, 2022). He received his Ph.D. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia.