Shaping China's Future in World Affairs: The Role of the United States

Shaping China's Future in World Affairs: The Role of the United States

Shaping China's Future in World Affairs: The Role of the United States

Shaping China's Future in World Affairs: The Role of the United States


This book considers Chinese foreign policy and China's future role in world affairs in the context of the country's recent past. Robert Sutter shows that although it appears to be in U. S. interests for post-Mao leaders to continue moving toward international norms, a post-Deng leadership backed by growing economic and military power and reflecting profound changes in China's economy and society could move in markedly different directions. Most foreign powers appear willing to accommodate China, avoiding actions that could prompt a sharp shift in Chinese foreign policy, but Sutter argues that current U. S. policy intrudes on so many issues that are particularly sensitive for Beijing and for China's future that it represents perhaps the most critical variable determining how China will position itself in world affairs. Concluding that there is no guarantee the United States will use this influence wisely, Sutter examines the uncertainty and unpredictability of U. S. foreign policy in the post–Cold War environment that work against the creation of an effective U. S. policy toward China.


China has often been seen as a challenge or an opportunity to the prevailing international system. The victory of communist forces in China in 1949 was followed in 1950 by the signing of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the start of the Korean War, and Chinese military force intervention in the Korean conflict. Chinese actions prompted a reconfiguration of world politics. The United States and its allies and associates felt compelled to broaden the emerging international containment system from Europe and the Middle East to East Asia. The result was twenty years of military confrontation, economic isolation, and political stalemate.

China's break with the Soviet Union in the 1960s provided a basis for the realignment of Asian politics carried out by Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in the early 1970s. Cooperation with China was now seen as an important strategic opportunity for the West in its continuing competition with expanding Soviet power. China too saw its interests directed against Moscow and sided with the United States and its allies and associates for mainly strategic reasons.

As Americans and other outsiders observed firsthand the conditions prevailing in China, they often reevaluated their past, sometimes exaggerated views of China's power and influence. Nevertheless, most thought well of the Chinese leaders' efforts after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 to revitalize China's stagnating economy through reforms that gave freer rein to Chinese private enterprise and to Chinese economic interaction with the developed countries of Asia and the West.

As the East-West conflict declined in the 1980s as a result of Mikhail Gorbachev . . .

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