A senior State Department official calls managing relations with China Washington's top foreign policy challenge, placing it ahead of combating terrorism and preventing a nuclear-armed Iran.
Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, calls the Chinese relationship "the most important issue for U.S. foreign policy," further signs that the Obama administration's strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific region is well under way.
While some in foreign policy and national security circles regard China in the same light as the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Campbell told a Center for a New American Security-sponsored forum in Washington that is not a proper comparison.
The U.S.-China relationship "is much more complicated and much more sophisticated" than was the intense competition between Washington and Moscow, Campbell says.
One reason: China is the holder of much more U.S. debt than any other nation or institution. One quip making the rounds in Washington on that matter is if Beijing got tough on Washington, not only would it cripple the United States's ankles but it would do permanent damage to its own knees.
Another, Campbell says, is something most China hawks miss: U.S. and Chinese officials work closely on a number of issues. Why? "Why do not have a choice," Campbell explains, adding: "We need to be involved in a sustained effort with China."
John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter.