Public opinion provides U.S. policymakers with what the scholar Daniel Yankelovich called the "boundaries of the permissible." Page and Xie argue that these boundaries -- they call them "dikes" -- help account for Washington's basically stable China policy from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama. Americans give primacy to security and then economic concerns, wanting to pursue goals related to human rights and democratic transformation only to the extent that doing so is not too costly. "Caricatures of an ignorant American public," Page and Xie conclude, ". . . have been grossly exaggerated." Indeed, Americans have generally articulated more stable and moderate policy-relevant views of China than has Washington discourse. The U.S. public has consistently supported engagement, economic cooperation, and leadership exchanges. Cooperative by inclination, Americans are paying close attention to whether or not China becomes more reassuring as its power grows. "Most Americans," Page and Xie write, "are prepared to live peacefully and cooperatively with the Chinese dragon." Living With the Dragon has multiple virtues: clearly stated conclusions, balance, voluminous data crisply presented, and policy relevance.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.