By Maggie Smolka – January 22, 2013 

Complicated was the term David Lampton used to describe Sino-American relations.  He is the director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins University.  And even though relations have gotten better since then-President Richard Nixon went to China forty-one years ago, Lampton says there is still conflict.

David Lampton

“I think you can put Chinese-American conflicts in three baskets,” says Lampton. “There are security issues, there are economic issues, and there is what you can call the basket of political human rights value issues.”

The most serious concern of the three is security.  Lampton says security relations are not trending in a positive direction and things are getting more problematic.

“We are having a great difficulty finding areas of significant security cooperation and all the while China is modernizing its military,” says Lampton. ” Of course the job of the U-S, or any other military, is to scan the world threat horizon and try to figure out where the next problem may be.  And the U-S security apparatus and the Chinese apparatus are focusing in on each other.”

And unlike the security conflict, he expects the economic and human rights issues to get better with time.

“Increasingly China is trying to invest in the U-S, so I think the economic side will continue, in all probability, to move forward,” says Lampton.  “As far as the human rights and values domain, China itself will make progress, but it is such a vast society that it is going to take time.”

Lampton says Chinese-American relations are going through a rough patch, but he is still optimistic..