Reagan meets with Chinese Premier, Zhao Ziyang, Washington D.C., 1984.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, Sino-U.S. relations have developed by twists and turns. Tying up with the changing postwar international situation, the development passed through different stages each covering roughly a decade.

From the late 1940s to the late 1950s was a period of confrontation between the "two world camps." Throughout this period, China was blockaded, besieged and looked upon with enmity. For well-known reasons, China and the United States met on the battlefield in Korea.

The next decade saw important changes in the "two world camps." It was a period in which the Soviets built up their strength while the United States was bogged down in the Vietnam War. Soviet expansionism showed itself with increasing clarity. During this decade, a number of factors making for better U.S.-China relations were already emerging. But there was not yet a fundamental change in their confrontation.

The 1970s was a period in which the United States and the Soviet Union attempted but failed to achieve a new balance of force through "détente." As Chairman Mao Zedong pointed out, "The United States wants to protect its interests in the world and the Soviet Union wants to

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  • Huan Xiang is Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in Beijing.
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