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  • Interpreting U.S.-China-Taiwan Relations: China in the Post-Cold War Era
  • Danny S. L. Paau (bio)
Xiaobing Li, Xiaobo Hu, and Yang Zhong, editors. Interpreting U.S.–China–Taiwan Relations: China in the Post–Cold War Era. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1998. xiv, 367 pp. Hardcover $48.00, ISBN 0–7618–1121–4.

American scholars of mainland Chinese origin—a fast-growing group with "cross-cultural background and expertise in a wide range of fields" (p. 3)—have made what is perhaps their first collective debut in the study of U.S.-China relations with this collection of papers selected from two conferences held in 1996. With their mainland background, the contributors have brought to this volume fresh, unique, and perhaps challenging perspectives to the study of U.S.-China relations vis-à-vis Taiwan. They have been well-trained in the United States in advanced methods and techniques in science, technology, the humanities, and the social sciences. They have also benefited greatly from firsthand experience with American views and institutions, and they have had access to American sources.

Their findings therefore cannot simply be discarded along with those of their mainland Chinese counterparts who have not had the same experience. Work by the latter has long been dismissed as uneven and their approaches and techniques the subject of ridicule. In the English-language academy, Chinese scholars for a long time have had little if any representation in the research on Sino-American [End Page 490] relations. Thus, the entry of this new group of scholars into this field offers an opportunity to explore some hitherto ignored Chinese views.

This book is in three parts. The first, "Re-evaluating Sino-American Relations," focuses on Taiwan and includes four entries. The first two deal with the role of the American president and Congress in the making of the China policy of the United States. Yufan Hao examines the history of the struggle for dominance in foreign affairs between the legislative and executive branches of the U.S. government. Hao notes that, since the failure of the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Congress began to enact laws to restrict and monitor the president concerning the formulation and carrying out of American foreign policy (p. 27). Today the China policymaking process has already become "pluralized, decentralized and institutionalized" (p. 31). Not only Congress but also an increasing number of domestic groups such as those who advocate human rights, a halt to abortions, nuclear nonproliferation and arms control, free trade, and so forth have joined forces with Chinese dissidents to try and twist the president's arm (p. 6).

John P. Boardman and Xiaobo Hu note that "vote-getting" efforts by candidates have contributed to the making of a "cyclical pattern" of U.S.-China relations" (pp. 54-60). Since Americans in general are more sympathetic to Taiwan and since China has long been subject to demonization, politicians in an election year will attempt to attract votes by adopting the crowd-pleasing policy of China bashing. After an election is over, however, they swing back to more balanced, rational, and conventional attitudes guided by long-term strategic and other interests (p. 54). The administration also needs to appear tough toward China, but after an election it tends to feel much greater pressure to put an emphasis on American national interests and to face China's increasingly stabilizing role in Asia (pp. 59-60). Boardman and Hu note that the same pattern also holds true for politicians in Taiwan (p. 61).

In the third entry, Xinsheng Liu performs a "spatial game-theoretical analysis" of U.S.-China political and economic relations. He concludes that the two face a "deadlock" in the political aspect of their relationship (pp. 67-68) and that there seems "little likelihood" that this situation will improve (p. 86). The economic aspect of their relationship thus becomes a "prisoner's dilemma sub-game" (pp. 67, 86), and its development is unnecessarily hampered. Liu thus advises that both sides "de-link politics and economics" and accept "partial conflict and partial cooperation" to avoid a "total confrontation situation" (pp. 86-87).

In the fourth entry, Hongshan Li scrutinizes the...


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