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China Focus

Our Goal

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.”

Carterremains 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

Carterproduces 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, Carterhelped 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 , which became the most visited political reform portal inside and outside China, along with .

Today, Carterpublishes three websites focused on bilateral relations and U.S.-China public opinion. These are the English- and Chinese-language websites (now inaccessible in mainland China) and the Chinese-language 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.

Results and Impact

  • In September 2022, the Carter Center hosted the Seventh Annual Young Scholars Forum on U.S.-China Relations. The conference invites young scholars, including postdoctoral students and early career professors, to present their research. At the 2022 conference, three awards named in honor of President Carter were from the University of San Diego, Princeton University, and the University of Southern California.
  • In March 2022, Carterfielded of Chinese public opinion about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and published a of China’s position on the conflict by Chinese academic and policy advisor Hu Wei. The dissent was read millions of times around the world and demonstrated elite debate in China over the Chinese Communist Party’s position on the conflict. Read the .
  • In May 2022, Carterlaunched . The new site makes it possible to continue to reach audiences in mainland China and was created after the U.S.-China Perception Monitor websites were censored for publishing Hu Wei’s article.
  • In February 2021, Carterpublished the inaugural issue of the “Finding Firmer Ground” titled “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of Civil Society and NGOs in U.S.-China Relations.”
  • In 2012, Carterinitiated the Carter Center Forum on U.S.-China Relations in Beijing.
  • In the early 2000s, Cartercreated websites that became important portals for debate about political reform and open government information in China, encouraging democratic awareness and civic culture.
  • In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Carterwas the only nongovernmental organization to be invited by the Chinese government to assist the Ministry of Civil Affairs in standardizing election practices in more than 600,000 villages. To promote better understanding of democracy and its benefits, the Center also sponsored numerous visits by Chinese officials to observe U.S. elections and elections in other countries where Carterwas observing elections.

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Carter Center websites in China have become popular platforms for gathering information and exchanging views on political reform.

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