The China Factor in America's Foreign Relations

Perceptions and Policy Choices

by Richard H. Solomon

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It took most of the decade of the 1970s to bring about the full normalization of America's relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC). However, there remains a sense of uncertainty about the future of the U.S.-PRC relationship, especially in the area of security cooperation. For more than two centuries the American public's attitudes toward China have tended to fluctuate between favorable and unfavorable perspectives. The U.S. and PRC leaders who initiated the normalization process in the early 1970s saw the international security aspects of the relationship as more important than such bilateral activities as trade and cultural exchanges. Foreign policy coordination, security cooperation, and economic and cultural exchanges now hold the promise of strengthening U.S.-PRC relations while the unresolved status of Taiwan holds the potential to seriously disrupt the relationship. During the 1970s normal U.S.-PRC relations became a positive force in America's foreign relations. The strengthening of this relationship in the 1980s can be a long-term investment in a more broadly based and flexible American foreign policy.

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