Andrew J. Nathan (above), a professor of political science at Columbia University who specializes in Chinese politics, SAYS we shouldn’t expect any big change in American relations with China no matter who gets elected president in November:
U.S. China policy is likely to remain on much the same track it has been on since the Nixon presidency: cooperation in the economic rise of China through the provision of capital, technology, education, and access to U.S. markets, combined with efforts to bring China into compliance with global norms, jawboning on human rights, and maintenance of a sturdy defence posture in Asia—in short, engagement. Even if the Republican candidate wins and tries to push China harder on economic issues, he will encounter firm pushback from a new Chinese leadership headed, if current expectations are fulfilled, by a self-confident and assertive Xi Jinping. After a year or so the usual tropism will assert itself, by which a new president reverts to the norm on China policy. That dynamic was visible when Reagan defeated Carter and tried to recalibrate Taiwan policy, when Clinton defeated Bush I and tried to assert a stronger human rights policy, and when Obama defeated Bush II and tried to establish a more cooperative relationship with China. In all cases the new policy proved to be less workable than the old one.