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Reviewed by:
  • Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History
  • Yafeng Xia
William C. Kirby, Robert S. Ross, and Gong Li, eds., Normalization of U.S.-China Relations: An International History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2005. 376 pp. $ 49.50.

Over the last twenty years, the study of U.S.-China relations during the Cold War has developed significantly. Two main factors have spurred this progress: the steady opening and declassification of large collections of archival sources in both the United States and China, and the growing academic collaboration between Chinese and American scholars. In October 1986, scholars from both China and the United States met for the first time in Beijing to discuss Sino-American relations from 1945 to 1955.

In 1995, the Center of International Strategic Research of the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) entered into a collaborative research project on the study of U.S.-China relations during the Cold War with the John King Fair bank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University in holding international conferences and publishing research results. Over the past decade, they have held three conferences and published three collections of conference papers in Chinese, two of which have also been published in English. The first English-language volume—Robert S. Ross and Jiang Changbin, eds., Re-examining the Cold War: U.S. China Diplomacy, 1954–1973 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2001)—dealt with U.S.-China confrontation and hostilities from 1954 to 1972. The second English-language volume, under review here, focuses on U.S.-China reconciliation and normalization from 1969 to 1979.

Normalization of U.S.-China Relations is a great effort to produce an international history by using newly available sources from Chinese, American, and former Soviet archives. Although two of the three editors are Americans, the authors of the eight essays include four from mainland China and one each from Canada, Great Britain, Russia, and Taiwan. The multiple perspectives of the authors underscore the value of an international history.

The Taiwan issue, which has figured prominently in U.S.-China relations since the outbreak of the Korean War, receives much attention in this volume, with four chapters focusing mainly on the Taiwan issue during the period of U.S.-China rapprochement (1971–1972) and normalization (1979). Although the U.S. negotiators believed that they had made the minimal concessions necessary to achieve normalization, scholars have reached no consensus about this issue. Gong Li and Robert Accinelli maintain that Chinese leaders consistently opposed official U.S.-Taiwan contacts following normalization and would not have agreed to the closer ties on any other terms, whereas Rosemary Foot contends that "there might have been more flexibility" in the U.S. position than "U.S. officials believed at the time" (p. 115). Making use of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project and Foreign Ministry Archives of the Republic of China, Joanne Chang's essay explores the impact of the U.S.-China rapprochement and normalization on Taiwan. Chang shows that Taiwan, because of [End Page 161] its complete dependence on the United States for its security, could do little more than passively observe U.S. diplomacy.

Each of the four other chapters deals with one particular aspect of the larger topic. Making use of a large array of Chinese and foreign sources, including documents from China's provincial archives and Railway Administration Archives, Li Danhui offers a new perspective in examining the role of Vietnam in the Sino American rapprochement process from late 1968 to 1973. Li Jie makes an effort to explore how China's domestic politics affected U.S.-China relations from 1969 to 1979. Wang Zhongchun offers a military perspective on how the shared perception of a Soviet threat spurred U.S.-China normalization from 1969 to 1979. Using recently available documents from the Russian archives, Vitaly Kozyrev examines the Soviet Union's reaction to the U.S.-China reconciliation and Moscow's abortive efforts to undermine the closer U.S.-China ties.

As is inevitable when dealing with subjects so complex and sensitive, the reader is likely to find flaws or points of disagreement. The essays by Li Jie...


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