Blinken’s Trip to Beijing: U.S.–China Relations at a Crossroads

After five years of rapidly deteriorating relations across the full spectrum of issues, the U.S. and China called a truce last November when Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met in person and voiced a desire to revive communications and avoid conflict. In the first high-level follow-up, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make an official visit to Beijing on February 5–6. But will Blinken’s meetings just be talk, or is real progress possible toward resolving dangerous tensions and reviving cooperation on pressing global issues? On the crucial issues of military tension, technology competition, and climate action, what are the sources of conflict between the U.S. and China and what do the two sides need to do if they are serious about changing the current trajectory? Join us as a panel of experts in these fields reflects on the opportunities and roadblocks facing Blinken and his Chinese interlocutors, with Michael Swaine, Senior Fellow in the Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program; Kendra Schaefer, Head of Tech Policy Research at Trivium China; and Michael Davidson, Assistant Professor, UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and Jacobs School of Engineering. Jake Werner, Research Fellow in the Quincy Institute’s East Asia Program, will moderate.


Michael Swaine

Michael D. Swaine, a Senior Research Fellow at QI’s East Asia program, is one of the most prominent American scholars of Chinese security studies. He comes to QI from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he worked for nearly twenty years as a senior fellow specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy, U.S.-China relations, and East Asian international relations. Swaine served as a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. Swaine has authored and edited more than a dozen books and monographs, including Remaining Aligned on the Challenges Facing Taiwan (with Ryo Sahashi; 2019), Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (with Nicholas Eberstadt et al; 2015) and many journal articles and book chapters.

Kendra Schaefer

Kendra is a partner at Beijing-based strategic advisory consultancy Trivium China. She leads Trivium tech policy research team, keeping investors, companies, and governments briefed on Chinese tech regulation, government data and tech infrastructure projects, and the data and technologies underpinning China's social credit system. She is chief editor of Trivium's premium Tech Daily newsletter, a policy brief on government-driven Chinese tech developments. Kendra also serves as a non-resident fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research. Kendra has been in China since 2002. She began her career as a user researcher and developer, building cross-cultural interfaces for foreign firms entering the China market, and moved into consulting on Chinese interfaces and user behavior.

Michael Davidson

Michael Davidson’s research focuses on the engineering implications and institutional conflicts inherent in deploying renewable energy at scale. He is an assistant professor at UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy and Jacobs School of Engineering. Davidson was previously the U.S.-China Climate Policy Coordinator for the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). He is a Public Intellectuals Program Fellow at the National Committee of U.S.-China Relations from 2021 until 2023. Davidson is also a former Fulbright Scholar and has received fellowships from the MIT Energy Initiative and Martin Family Society of Fellows for Sustainability.

Jake Werner (Moderator)

Jake Werner is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. His research examines the emergence of great power conflict between the U.S. and China and develops policies to rebuild constructive economic relations. Prior to joining Quincy, Jake was a Postdoctoral Global China Research Fellow at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago, a Fulbright Scholar at National Chiao Tung University in Taiwan, and a Fulbright-Hays Fellow at East China Normal University in Shanghai. Jake is also a cofounder of Justice Is Global, a project of the organizing network People’s Action that advocates for reforms to the global economy; a cofounder of Critical China Scholars, a network of academics engaged in public education on Chinese politics and society; and a steering committee member of the Committee for a Sane U.S.–China Policy.