Methodology

The primary goal of this report is to provide recommendations to Chinese and American civil society about how the bilateral relationship can be preserved and how engagement can be expanded. Although civil society is understood differently in the U.S. and China,[1] it can be broadly defined as organizations which are “generally non-profit distributing and self-governing, and operate in the public sphere.”[2] For the purposes of this report, these include non-governmental organizations, business and trade associations, think tanks and research institutes, philanthropic and religious missions, and educational institutions. Notably, the Chinese authors involved in this report felt strongly that their research should focus on recommendations for the Chinese and American governments.

In developing these recommendations, this report employed a unique framework inspired by the American and Chinese diplomatic communities to identify, classify, and prioritize bilateral and international matters of concern. This intellectual exercise helped guide the authors in selecting which issues were analyzed.

Academics, professionals, and researchers from both the U.S. and China were first recruited into two independent teams to draft the report in parallel. One team consisted of authors residing in the People’s Republic of China, while the other team consisted of authors residing in the United States of America. Each team was tasked with identifying and categorizing bilateral and international issues into three broad categories: (1) issues over which the U.S. and China have mutual interest in cooperation, (2) issues over which the U.S. and China should conduct dialogue, and (3) issues over which the U.S. and China must commit to peaceful management of their disagreements. Each team identified the issues categorized independently of one another, and items in each category were left unranked.

Once categorized by both teams, the lists were exchanged, and mutually convergent issues were identified. Convergent issues constituted the foundation of this report. Each list can be found below:

[1] We acknowledge that the Chinese conception of civil society differs somewhat from that of the US, see page 3-4 of Elizabeth Knup 2019, “The Role of American NGOs and Civil Society Actors in an Evolving US-China Relationship,” https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/peace/china/china-program-2019/knup.pdf

[2] Ibid., 3.