China's current political transition offers Washington a window of opportunity to improve relations with Beijing. Rather than risk a continuing downward spiral in the critical U.S.-China relationship, President Barack Obama must move quickly in his second term in order to take advantage of this opportunity.
At last week's 18th Party Congress, Beijing began a once-in-a-decade leadership transition. The country's new leaders - including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang - know first hand some of the worst excesses of China's Communist Party. They were victims of Mao's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, when an entire generation of young people - many from prominent families - were "sent down" to rural areas for years to perform backbreaking manual labor.