China and the United States are a bit like squabbling family members: Whatever their differences, they still find a way to get together. These regular gatherings are generally a promising sign for the future of U.S.-Chinese relations, even if the summits themselves often achieve little of substance.
On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew will carry on this tradition, meeting with their Chinese counterparts Wang Yang and Yang Jiechi in the seventh Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. The two-day gathering comes shortly after revelations that Chinese hackers pulled off a massive breach of U.S. government files, gaining access to sensitive information including the Social Security numbers of government personnel. The Chinese government claims it didn’t orchestrate the cyberattack, though it has long accused the United States of staging similar attacks on Chinese infrastructure. The official denial has done little to tamp down mutual suspicion in the Sino-American relationship.
Overall, U.S.-China ties are currently stable, a point reiterated by Chinese President Xi Jinping after Kerry’s visit to China in May. But the U.S. government’s long-term strategy on China appears to be adrift. Over the last two decades, America’s China policy has consisted of two major goals: integrating the Communist Party-ruled country into the U.S.-led global economic order, and maintaining American hegemony in the western Pacific Ocean. Both goals now seem to have stalled.