China and Obama’s Second Term

Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term
Brookings Institution

January, 2013
94 pp.

On the eve of Barack Obama’s second inauguration, The Brookings Institution has compiled a briefing book from a collection of memoranda to the president outlining where and how they feel POTUS should spend his foreign policy time over the next four years. Significantly, five of the fifteen foreign policy challenges the experts identify are related to China.

Most notably, Kenneth Lieberthal suggests in “Bringing Beijing Back In” that it is time to shift away from “The Pivot” and put all effort into engaging Xi Jinping, whom he characterizes as “more open and politically agile than was Hu Jintao.” If nothing else, Lieberthal offers an agenda that will put the initiative in the bilateral relationship back into U.S. hands.

The briefing book is worth a read, if for no other reason than to use it as a baseline against which to evaluate the Administration’s progress in the region. You may argue with the tactics or the approaches, but the Brookings team have done a solid job at identifying the issues. Interestingly – but I would imaging by pure coincidence – The Economist this week makes recommendations not too far removed from those of the Brookings team.

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