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  • China’s Foreign Policy Making: Societal Force and Chinese American Policy
  • Qiang Zhai (bio)
Yufan Hao and Lin Su, editors. China’s Foreign Policy Making: Societal Force and Chinese American Policy. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2005. xi, 230 pp. Hardcover $99.95, ISBN 0-7546-4607-6.

In recent years, a complex relationship between China and the United States has developed, a relationship that features both substantial cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues and distrust and suspicions of each other’s intentions and actions. China’s rise is posing a major challenge to policymakers in Washington. How is Beijing’s American policy made? This is a question that should concern all readers interested in the evolution of Sino-American relations. In the Mao years, China’s policy toward the United States was dominated by an elite group within the central leadership. Oftentimes, Mao dictated and the country followed. Deng Xiaoping’s open-door reform policy, however, has significantly broadened China’s contact with the outside world, and the process of globalization has introduced a proliferation and decentralization of players in the formation of Beijing’s foreign policy. To understand the multiple domestic determinants on Beijing’s policy making with regard to the United States, there is no better place to turn than to read this excellent volume of well-researched and clearly written essays.

The contributors to this volume represent first-rate scholars from China and the United States. They combine sophisticated training in Western research methods and a deep knowledge of Chinese history, culture, and the current system. Their studies are brimming with fresh insight into the key question of how internal factors affect the formation of China’s American policy. They convincingly demonstrate that China’s elite-controlled foreign policy structure has experienced a major transformation and the recent developments of decentralization, professionalism, and institutionalization have created room and opportunities for societal groups to influence the policy-making process. They indicate that the ability of the top authority to mint a consistent and coherent policy toward the United States has been compromised by increased social pressures in the era of information technology.

The book defines societal force as players outside the top leadership and policy-making inner circle, including “public opinions, the business community, think tanks, opinion makers both in the media and in the academic community, technocrats within the bureaucratic apparatus, local governments and other subnational entities within Chinese society that seek to influence directly or indirectly, intentionally or intentionally, the final foreign policy outcomes in favor of their preferences” (p. 8). How should we understand the role of this societal force in Chinese foreign policy today? The authors interpret the role of societal force as a product of an endless series of actors both from below and from the middle-rank bureaucrats competing to catch the attention of policy makers, in the midst of public sentiments [End Page 97] informed by historical memory and current value orientation of a society. The authors believe that the socialization process of citizens, the role of media, and educational institutions all play a part in influencing the outlook of foreign policymakers.

Yufan Hao and Lin Su’s opening chapter examines a group of Chinese emerging elite’s view of the United States. They base their study on several surveys conducted among a group of over 260 randomly picked foreign affairs college students and mid-level government employees enrolled in Master of Public Administration (MPA) programs. They discover that this group of Chinese emerging elite has a mixed view of the United States, an image that blends positive evaluations of America’s domestic strength and negative judgments of America’s international behavior. This dichotomous view of the United States, Hao and Lin argue, has important implications for Beijing’s policy makers when they consider their approach to the United States because it provides room for maneuvering in either direction.

How did the recent bout of anti-Americanism in China develop? Hongshan Li attempts to address this question from a historical and comparative perspective. He points out that the anti-American protests in China in the 1990s resembled more the anti-American movements of the first part of the twentieth...


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pp. 97-100
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