A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972

A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972

A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972

A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China since 1972

Synopsis

President Nixon's historic trip to China in February 1972 marked the beginning of a new era in Sino-American relations. For the first time since 1949, the two countries established high-level official contacts and transformed their relationship from confrontation to collaboration. Over the subsequent twenty years, however, U.S.-China relations have experienced repeated cycles of progress, stalemate, and crisis, with the events in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 the most recent and disruptive example. Paradoxically, although relations between the two countries are vastly more extensive today than they were twenty years ago, they remain highly fragile. In this eagerly awaited book, China expert Harry Harding offers the first comprehensive look at Sino-American relations from 1972 to the present. He traces the evolution of U.S.-China relations, and assesses American policy toward Peking in the post- Tiananmen era. Harding analyzes the changing contexts for the Sino-American relationship, particularly the rapidly,evolving international environment, changes in American economic and political life, and the dramatic domestic developments in both China and Taiwan. He discusses the principal substantive issues in U.S.-China relations, including the way in which the two countries have addressed their differences over Taiwan and human rights, and how they have approached the blend of common and competitive interests in their economic and strategic relationships. He also addresses the shifting political base for Sino-American relations within each country, including the development of each society's perceptions of the other, and the emergence and dissolution of rival political coalitions supportingand opposing the relationship. Harding concludes that a return to the Sino-American strategic alignment of the 1970s, or even to the economic partnership of the 1980s, is less likely in the 1990s than continued tension or eve

Excerpt

President Richard Nixon's historic visit to China in February 1972 marked the beginning of a new era in Sino-American relations. For the first time since the Chinese Communist Party took power in 1949, the two countries established high-level official contacts and moved their relationship from confrontation toward collaboration. Over the subsequent twenty years, however, U.S.-China relations have experienced cycles of progress and stalemate, crisis and consolidation. The tensions over the tragic events in Tiananmen Square in June 1989 are the most recent and disruptive example, but they have their precedents in the crisis over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan in 1981-82, and in the stalemate in Sino-American relations in the mid-1970s. Paradoxically, although the political, economic, and cultural ties between the two countries are vastly more extensive today than they were two decades ago, the overall relationship remains highly fragile.

This book is one of the first comprehensive surveys of the U.S.- China relationship during this tumultuous period. In it, Harry Harding, a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program at Brookings, proceeds chronologically from the initial breakthrough of the early 1970s to the deadlock of today. The book demonstrates how the revolutionary changes in the international environment, the dramatic domestic developments in both mainland China and Taiwan, and the transformation of American economic and political life in the last decades of the cold war have provided a less and less supportive context for Sino-American relations. It also addresses the evolution of each society's perceptions of the other, showing how conflict over such substantive problems as Taiwan, regional security, and human rights has been exacerbated by shifts of mood from euphoria to disillusionment and back.

Harding believes that a return to the economic partnership of the 1980s, let alone to the strategic alignment of the 1970s, is less likely than continued tension or even confrontation between Washington and Peking over trade, human rights, and the proliferation of advanced weapons. But he also explains the importance of maintaining a working relationship with China and avoiding a return to the hostility and estrangement of the 1950s and 1960s. His principal recommendation is that the two countries let go of their outmoded . . .

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