Alternatives in Sino-American relations, rapprochement and foreign policy decision-making: U.S. relations with the People's Republic of China

Date of Completion

January 1990


History, Asia, Australia and Oceania|Political Science, General|Political Science, International Law and Relations




For 40 years, scholarly analysis of the formation of American policy toward the People's Republic of China has been based on the assumption of unanimity of opinion within the U.S. government. The Executive Branch, most scholars believe, was cleared of those who were willing to see gradations in Communist Chinese policy and to develop a China policy for the United States in shades of gray rather than in black and white. Congress was cowed by the China Lobby, and American public opinion followed the example set by the Executive and Legislative branches.^ Yet, seldom have any decisions within the U.S. government been made without debate. Four administrations precluded any form of rapprochement despite the fact that some form of communication between the United States and the People's Republic, two of the three dominant powers in northeast Asia, is essential to Asian stability. Somewhere within the U.S. foreign policy establishment, eclectic views of Sino-American communication must have been held and even espoused.^ This conclusion brings an obvious research question to the fore: What alternative approaches to the conduct of Sino-American relations, possibly leading to improved relations, were discussed and/or proposed from the Truman administration through the Nixon administration? To answer this question, the development of Sino-American relations must be viewed as the result of the political stresses and strains, the political inputs, that shaped the policy makers' framework of analysis and decision making over time. These political inputs include the individual viewpoint, the bureaucratic process, organizational maneuvering. Congressional opinion, public opinion, and international opinion. The output is America's China policy.^ The value of this study is in the application of political science methods to what has primarily been a historical field and thereby developing a model of interactions over time, a model that fosters understanding of Sino-American relations since 1949 and also of the way that foreign policy decisions are made in the United States. ^