This paper explores the evolution of the United States' China policy since the Nixon Administration's normalization breakthrough in 1971. It reviews the complex factors that have interacted to shape U.S. policy toward China: (1) the U.S.-Soviet competition; (2) the state of Sino-Soviet relations; (3) China's own foreign policy shifts; and (4) the play of U.S. and Chinese domestic politics. The author notes that the United States has yet to reach a policy consensus on the potential strategic and defense benefits of the relationship with China, or to consolidate a set of stable bilateral ties in the areas of trade and cultural exchanges. He concludes that each country's leaders and domestic politics, and the Soviet military threat, will continue to be major factors affecting the relationship between the two nations.
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