A Fragile Relationship: The United States And China Since 1972

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A Fragile Relationship: The United States And China Since 1972

By Harry Harding
Brookings, 1992
361 pp. $38.95

This is the first comprehensive analysis of U.S.-Chinese relations over the past 20 years, focusing especially on the impact of the Tiananmen Square crisis. Harding sees China, now that the Cold War is over, as an independent counterpart in a complex balance of power. The United States should exercise restraint in any program of military cooperation while reinstating wide-ranging dialogue on global and regional security issues. It should understand that, despite Tiananmen, China's economic reforms remain largely intact and are even moving forward. Finally, the United States should expand economic relations with China while insisting they be placed on a more reciprocal basis. A threat to withdraw China's most-favored-nation status is not the appropriate mechanism for addressing commercial issues any more than it was in dealing with the trade surpluses generated by Japan or Taiwan. Rather, more precisely targeted retaliatory measures are called for, such as those stipulated in Section 301 of the Trade Act. On human rights what is required is a policy that embodies the U.S. interest in political reform, identifies "appropriate methods for promoting it," but acknowledges the limits of U.S. leverage. The author also calls for getting China to cooperate in establishing a more effective international regime to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

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