The China Focus

President Carter’s decision to normalize diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China in 1979 changed both countries and the world. Facilitating expanded bilateral trade, investment, and people-to-people exchange between the two countries has allowed East Asia to enjoy relative peace and prosperity for decades.

However, the U.S.-China relationship is now under immense strain. Since 2009, the Chinese Communist Party has veered from the path of “reform and opening” that encouraged slow and steady progress toward political and economic liberalization. Washington began to criticize China’s attempts to revise the international system, and Beijing responded by accusing the U.S. of containing China’s rise. As President Carter wrote in February 2021, “government officials in both countries have adopted rhetoric and policies that reflect the hostility that Vice Premier Deng and I sought to calm in 1978.”

The Carter Center remains committed to preserving the legacy of President Carter and Deng Xiaoping’s historic decision while adapting to the demands of the 21st century. This requires navigating a bilateral relationship fraught with global crises, ideological divergence, human rights crises, nationalist tension, and the looming threat of conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Through its research, workshops, and online engagement initiatives, the China Focus fosters greater dialogue, exchange, and critical reflection on the past, present, and future of U.S.-China relations.

Conducting Research

The Carter Center produces original scholarship that provides action-oriented insights for advancing U.S.-China engagement. This includes working with numerous other think tanks and nongovernmental organizations on the “Finding Firmer Ground” report series. The Center also conducts research on Chinese public opinion about the United States and international conflicts.

Reducing Misperception

The China Focus organizes a range of activities designed to enhance mutual understanding of American and Chinese interests. These include closed-door dialogues between scholars and opinion leaders, public webinars, an annual conference involving young scholars, and online content that explores key sources of misunderstanding in U.S.-China relations.

Its research and programming has been cited across the internet, including by The Guardian, Bloomberg, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, War on the Rocks, The Diplomat, The China Project, and more.

Engaging the U.S. and China Online

In 2000, The Carter Center helped launch a website on village self-government in China that quickly became one of the most comprehensive websites on grassroots democracy in China. In the following decade, the Center launched ChinaElections.org, which became the most visited political reform portal inside and outside China, along with ChinaTransparency.org.

Today, The Carter Center publishes three websites focused on bilateral relations and U.S.-China public opinion. These are the English- and Chinese-language U.S.-China Perception Monitor websites (now inaccessible in mainland China) and the Chinese-language China-America Stories website (currently accessible in mainland China). Content includes a wide variety of interviews with American and Chinese scholars, insightful analyses of U.S.-China relations, surveys of Chinese public opinion, profiles of key opinion leaders in the bilateral relationship, translations of influential commentaries into English or Chinese, and more.