China Joins the World

Progress and Prospects

January 01, 1999

Foreign policy analyses written by CFR fellows and published by the trade presses, academic presses, or the Council on Foreign Relations Press.

China Joins the World: Progress and Prospects offers fresh, timely insights into U.S. policy choices toward China by providing historical accounts of approaches that have worked and failed since the thawing of U.S.-China relations in the early 1970s, and by synthesizing these accounts to suggest the direction the United States should take today. From Henry Kissinger’s 1971 secret trip to the People’s Republic to China’s current negotiations to join the World Trade Organization, this volume traces China's participation in world affairs over the last quarter century, examining in eight case studies the areas of human rights, arms control, the United Nations, trade, banking, the environment, energy, and telecommunications.

A number of policy prescriptions flow from the findings of these studies. First, the United States must establish a set of priorities that contributes to China’s integration into the world community and serves as a benchmark for the relationship. These priorities include: enhancing mutual security, developing economic relations that benefit both partners more equally, and encouraging the rule of law. Second, the United States and China must pursue the most-promising areas of cooperation aggressively, such as preservation of stability on the Korean peninsula, environmental protection, energy conservation, and improvement of China’s monetary and financial system. And third, the United States must offer China a seat at the table when rules that affect its interests are decided; this is an important element in China's commitment to fulfilling its international agreements.

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Finally, Council Senior Fellow Elizabeth Economy and Stanford University Professor Michel Oksenberg stress that the United States must take precautionary measures in the event that China turns disruptive and averse to international cooperation. These measures include: ensuring that U.S. policies flow from a sense of American priorities; retaining a robust military presence in Asia; maintaining strong relations with other nations in the Asia-Pacific region; and continuing to cultivate and reward U.S. experts on China.

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