The Lessons of Coalition Politics

Sino-American Security Relations

by Jonathan D. Pollack


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This study assesses the efforts of the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) between 1978 and 1983 to develop a security coalition opposing the expansion of Soviet power in Asia. The expectations generated by the major breakthroughs in Sino-American relations during the late 1970s vastly outstripped the results. The shifts in Chinese security strategy revealed evidence of exaggerated expectations and mutual misperceptions between the United States and China, but no clear links between internal leadership alignments and the PRC's foreign policy orientation. The Soviet military buildup in Asia, although not oriented exclusively against the PRC, directly threatened Chinese security, and along with the Soviet political posture toward China helped limit Beijing's disagreements with the United States. Because the prospects for highly developed security ties were so limited, the United States continued to stress the indirect benefits enjoyed through improved Sino-American relations. Beijing seems likely to collaborate with the United States in the future and the United States can contribute to the further development of Sino-American security ties.

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