Str Old / Reuters A Beijing citizen stands in front of tanks on the Avenue of Eternal Peace during the Tianmanmen Square protests, Beijing, China, 1989.

China and America: Beyond the Big Chill

The Big Chill has descended over China. Sino-American relations are suffering. While we assess the ramifications, we must also look beyond the crisis and sketch blueprints for a warmer climate, for the present season will not long endure.

Over two decades five American administrations, of both parties, have pursued positive relations with Beijing. They have done so without illusions and with a firm grasp of the strategic and bilateral stakes. Only a small minority of Americans has opposed cooperation and they now point to recent events as vindication of their views. They have it exactly wrong. Not only has the United States derived enormous benefits from this relationship, but in the process it has encouraged and strengthened the very forces for greater openness and freedom in China that shone so brightly last April and May.

The fabric of our ties has shown impressive sturdiness since we first reopened the door in 1971. Both nations have weathered political earthquakes and tremors. Successive leaders in China and America, who have deeply disagreed among themselves on other issues, have all agreed it is in the national interest to expand bilateral bonds.

Naturally there have been plateaus and detours during our journey. Now we are circling back as we confront the most treacherous terrain yet. It is to President Bush's great credit that he has sought to keep our longer-term interests in view even as we register our revulsion, as we must, at the sorry spectacle unfolding on the mainland.


Let me begin on a personal note of profound sadness, for the tragedy inflicted on the Chinese people, for the dimming of Deng Xiaoping's vision in the twilight of his remarkable odyssey, for the necessity to address these issues. I do so with the anguish both of a professional who has for 20 years promoted Sino-American relations and as a friend of China's leaders.

I subscribe to the virtue of sticking by old friends, especially when they are in difficulty, as the Chinese did, for example,

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