The Making of China Policy since Tiananmen
Dumbaugh, Kerry, The China Business Review
The weeks following China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown ended a decade of consensus on China policy in the United States. For the past two and one-half years US policy on China has been characterized by confrontation between the legislative and executive branches, not just over the issues involved, but over the respective roles of each branch in setting US policy. The Bush Administration has accused Congress of being obstructionist and partisan on China issues, while Congress has criticized the President for ignoring congressional initiatives and prematurely giving away important US leverage without receiving concessions in return.
Some of the blame for the new contentiousness in China policy can be laid at the door of the US Constitution, which provides overlapping institutional mandates to the two branches of government over foreign policy decisions. The executive branch has comprehensive jurisdiction over foreign policy issues, with the President retaining broad powers to respond swiftly and unilaterally to unfolding international events. As the US government body that actually formulates and conducts foreign policy, the executive branch is usually motivated by pragmatism and the pursuit of broad US interests in its foreign policy dealings. President Bush, who is confident of his judgments in the foreign policy arena, has consistently used these comprehensive constitutional powers, particularly on China issues.
Congressional jurisdiction, on the other hand, is more specifically defined. When considering foreign policy issues, Congress seeks to balance broader US foreign policy goals with the domestic and international concerns of the constituencies of individual members. For the most part, Congress accommodates the President's constitutional prerogative to take the lead in foreign policy--provided that it retains the right to oppose, alter, or restrict presidential initiatives. Although Congress lacks the constitutional authority to participate formally in the negotiation of foreign policy issues with foreign powers, it does have the ability to influence the policy process, particularly through its control of government funding.
Operating under these very different mandates, Congress and the Bush Administration have clashed repeatedly over the conduct of US China policy in the last two years. Although at first glance these clashes may appear intermittent and without pattern, a closer examination of the policy process reveals trends which may shed light on future decisions. Generally speaking, this period may be divided into three phases, characterized by the breakdown of consensus, policy impasse, and emerging alternatives, respectively.
PHASE I: LOSS OF CONSENSUS, JUNE 1989-MARCH 1990
In the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, President Bush moved quickly to seize the initiative on China policy decisions. Within a day of the violent Tiananmen suppression, and again two weeks later, the President announced a series of sanctions to protest Beijing's actions. These included the suspension of defense equipment sales to China, visits and exchanges between military personnel, high-level visits between US and Chinese officials, and new loans by multilateral development banks. Initially, these actions were commended by many in Congress. By late June, however, this support had already begun to unravel, due to a number of factors.
First, despite the swift sanctions, presidential rhetoric about China's actions was mild. Shortly after the Tiananmen crackdown, Bush Administration officials began to temper negative comments about Beijing's actions with positive references about China's continuing importance to US interests. Many in Congress and elsewhere were disturbed by their perception that the Administration lacked fervor in protesting China's repressive policies. Chinese leaders' heated defense of their actions in Tiananmen Square did nothing to ease …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: The Making of China Policy since Tiananmen. Contributors: Dumbaugh, Kerry - Author. Magazine title: The China Business Review. Volume: 19. Issue: 1 Publication date: January/February 1992. Page number: 16+. © U.S.-China Business Council Mar/Apr 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.