Managing Policy Toward China Under Clinton

The Changing Role of Economics

by Charles A. Goldman

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This report analyzes the forces inside and outside the U.S. government that shape policy toward China, focusing on the reversal of policy that President Clinton announced in May 1994, when China's trade status was delinked from its human rights record. The analysis presented in the report is partly based on confidential interviews conducted with officials and staff in Congress and the executive branch. The study draws several principal conclusions. First, major shifts in attitudes occurred within the three sectors with the most immediate stake in China policy: the commercial, human rights, and security. Second, specific business pressure did not cause the policy changes. Barring another significant shift in attitudes, economic interests are likely to retain increased weight in future deliberations over U.S. policy toward China. Finally, the report concludes that the road ahead for U.S.-China policy will not be a smooth one. Despite President Clinton's attempt to construct a more balanced policy, his failure to articulate an overall vision for China policy leaves the policy vulnerable to domination once again by a single interest. In particular, following the 1994 elections the new composition of Congress is fostering a peculiar left-right alliance, with Republicans pressing China on Taiwan and security issues and Democrats attacking human rights conditions in China.

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