- Dilemma and Decision: An Organizational Perspective on American China Policy Making
Recently, following weeks of intense lobbying by supporters and opponents, the United States House of Representatives granted China (PRC) permanent normal trading relations (PNTR). The Clinton administration will be credited with a major political and diplomatic victory, although it was achieved primarily with Republican votes and the payment of various favors (some big, many petty). Senate concurrence, which is widely anticipated, will put an end to the annual late-spring ritual of congressional extensions of Most Favored Nation Treatment for China, with the accompanying debate, rhetoric, posturing, and analyses of Chinese internal affairs and the state of Sino-American relations by elected representatives, columnists and pundits, academics, and assorted op-ed writers.
No matter. There will be plenty of fodder for conflict within the international Washington-Beijing-Taipei triangle and beyond, as well as between the executive and legislative branches of the United States government. Only a few weeks earlier, the Beijing regime and the newly installed president in Taipei, Chen Shui-bian, were testing each other across the Taiwan Strait. And before that, the Clinton administration agonized over Taiwan's requests for new weapon systems and the size and nature of the coming year's arms package. Then, too, the mere consideration by the United States of supplying theater-defense missile systems to Taiwan, or even Japan, stirs worry and controversy. Meanwhile, the continuing arrests of [End Page 457] the adherents of Falun Dafa and other gross violations of human rights by the PRC heightens tensions in Sino-American relations. We will therefore have many issues concerning China to ponder, discuss, and write about in the years to come.
American involvement in this diplomatic and domestic turmoil may be traced to the decisions and actions of the Carter administration. This is not to slight the historic achievements of the Nixon administration in establishing the connection between the United States and the People's Republic of China, in fashioning the Shanghai communiqué as a foundation for their future relationship, and in developing the American techniques and mindset to deal with China. But both strategic considerations and internal political circumstances forced the United States and the PRC to postpone confronting the really difficult issues that normalization entailed until the second year of the Carter administration.
Then, on December 15, 1978, after several months of highly secret and intensive negotiations, Washington and Beijing announced that they would establish full diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979. Some three months later, Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), whose provisions angered both Taipei and Beijing, but have remained in force while subject to flexible and creative interpretations. During its remaining two years, the Carter administration forged many of the other ties that continue to shape United States-PRC relations to this day: most-favored-nation status, military cooperation, the admission of large numbers of mainland Chinese to American colleges and universities, and the concern with human rights in China.
In Dilemma and Decision: An Organizational Perspective on American China Policy Making, however, Dr. Yufan Hao, who studied at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and currently teaches political science at Colgate University, limits his focus to two apparently contradictory documents produced during the Carter administration: the Sino-American normalization agreement of 1978 and the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. In the first two sections of the study, he surveys briefly the United States-PRC relationship and then offers an extended account of the two documents. In the third and final section, he subjects the documents to extended analysis, emphasizing the origins and evolution of the TRA. In the process, he posits two theses.
First, conflicting American interests in China and Taiwan presented American leaders with troubling dilemmas and challenged them to find a viable resolution by the end of the 1970s. The normalization agreement and the TRA, despite their seeming contradictions, provided the United...