Finding Firmer Ground: A Report on U.S.-China Relations

ATLANTA (Feb. 23, 2021) — The Carter Center today released “Finding Firmer Ground: The Role of Civil Society and NGOs in U.S.-China Relations,” a report that addresses how expanded civil society engagement between the U.S. and China can help stabilize the bilateral relationship.

In the report’s foreword, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter addresses the historical benefits of engagement between the U.S. and China: “Four decades ago, when Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and I announced our decision to establish full diplomatic relations, we knew that we were opening an era of opportunity for both nations. I am proud to have witnessed the benefits that followed, including peace in East Asia, expanded bilateral trade and investment, and a prosperous friendship between the American and Chinese people.”

“Yet, the relationship is under significant strain,” President Carter continues, warning against hostile rhetoric and policies that “threaten to erect walls of mutual ignorance.”

Yawei Liu, the Center’s senior advisor on China, emphasized the report’s focus on the role of civil society in U.S. and China engagement: “The report distinguishes itself by focusing on pragmatic and actionable proposals for nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions to offer a new approach to engagement for the 21st century.”

Barbara J. Smith, vice president of the Center’s Peace Programs, said the relationship that President Carter and Deng Xiaoping formalized 42 years ago has been an anchor for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Although engagement in the coming decade will be of a different nature,” she said, “the Center firmly believes that cultural, educational, and economic interactions between Americans and Chinese citizens must continue.”

The report’s authors and advisors come from various backgrounds, including the American nongovernmental, diplomatic, and policy communities. You can find the full report, including President Carter’s foreward, here.


  • The U.S.-China Perception Monitor (中美印象) is an online publication that explores perception and misperception in U.S.-China relations through insightful commentaries, interviews with experts, and profiles on key figures in the bilateral relationship.