Former diplomats, including Hong Kong elder statesman Tung Chee-hwa and other high-profile analysts, will square off on Tuesday in a two-day series of discussions over what is next for a US-China relationship that has been tested on nearly every front and may face new challenges as power changes hands in Washington. In his keynote remarks at the South China Morning Post’s China Conference: United States (CCUS), former Hong Kong chief executive Tung will note that the decades since the US established formal diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China “could be the best 40 years the Chinese people experienced since the country last came together, 2,000 years ago”. At the same time, he will warn that Washington is engaged in a “war to disparage China”. Tung, who resigned as chief executive in 2005 citing health reasons, will reinforce the message that “to continue on the path of development, stability must come first” – an argument that has been put forward against most Western criticisms of Beijing from the imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, to the arbitrary detention of Uygurs and other ethnic minorities. Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, who will follow Tung’s opening remarks, is likely to serve as a sharp counterpoint. In a recent NPR interview, Rudd – who now serves as president of the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York – urged the Chinese government to “stop any further repressive measures in Hong Kong” as a way to improve bilateral relations. “If China was serious about wanting to improve the overall dynamics of the political relationship with Washington, it could start by … de-escalating political tensions within Hong Kong itself,” he said, just before China’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed a resolution giving local authorities power to unseat politicians without having to go through the city’s courts. That decision allowed the Hong Kong government to disqualify four Democratic Party legislators from the semi-autonomous city’s Legislative Council, a move that prompted all of Hong Kong’s opposition lawmakers to resign from the chamber and further inflamed tensions with the US. Challenges to Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” framework and which side of that formula should take precedence, will be just one of the subjects explored by the CCUS, which opens at 8am Eastern Standard time. Other speakers include former acting deputy US Trade Representative Wendy Cutler and Long Yongtu, former vice-minister of foreign trade and point man during China’s 15-year talks to join the World Trade Organization nearly two decades ago. The virtual conference will address the likely effects on the bilateral relationship of the election of president-elect Joe Biden and other issues, with an emphasis on diplomacy, trade, technology and immigration. The programme will also address the future of a global economy potentially poised on the edge of decoupling, the wide-ranging impact of the nations’ diverging approaches to global governance, how the global supply chain will continue to evolve, the implications of the intense race for technological dominance, and the future of cultural exchange and immigration policies. “In a year full of divisive developments in the US-China relationship and compounded by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the conference is an opportunity to untangle and analyse what the future holds between these two superpowers in terms of the global economy, geopolitical uncertainties and technology disputes,” said Tammy Tam, SCMP’s Editor-in-Chief. “China Conference: United States promises to be an event full of insightful analysis, led by SCMP’s editorial expertise as well as leading authorities and academic voices.” Other CCUS panellists include Susan Elliot, a former US ambassador to Tajikistan who played many state department roles and is currently president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia and director of the China Power Project at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies. You can see more details and register for the conference here .