Education About Asia: Online Archives

Greater China and U.S. Foreign Policy: The Choice Between Confrontation and Mutual Respect

Back to search results
Download PDF

Thomas A. Metzger and Ramon H. Myers, eds.
IX + 124 PAGES

This work is a compilation of ten papers given by distinguished scholars and diplomats at a December 1994 Hoover Institution-sponsored conference. In addition to undergraduate students, high school juniors and seniors will benefit from this text if they have a background in either political science or twentieth-century Chinese history and have completed a U.S. history course. As a text, Greater China cannot stand alone; rather, it is an excellent supplement to a foreign policy, political science, or U.S. history textbook. Three themes recur throughout the ten essays that students and teachers should discuss, analyze, and come to conclusions on. These main ideas are: past, present, and future U.S. positions in Asia; the realpolitik policies of China’s leaders; and the urgent need for a U.S.–China strategy.

First, the authors agree that the U.S. is, and will continue to be, in a difficult position in Asia. The U.S. public is not interested in policing the world to guarantee global peace: “With a U.S. public unwilling resolutely to bear this burden, ‘containment’ can be no more than talking loudly while carrying a small stick” (p. viii). Students who are aware of George F. Kennan’s post–World War II containment strategy should compare U.S. past foreign policy with the country’s future goals. But analysis of the U.S. past containment strategies will only begin the discussion. China is very different than the USSR, and containment based on “mutual respect” will be difficult given the U.S. track record in China. On the issue of containment, students will note that among the China experts there are the proverbial “hawks” and “doves.”

Students will also deepen their understanding of China’s intricate political system. Note, for example, the opening essay where the editors describe assumptions the book’s various authors share: “Many feel that PRC leaders are shrewd, unscrupulous practitioners of realpolitik who typically posture and bully to get what they want without accommodating the interests of other nations, and that the United States should not let itself be bullied by them. We fully agree” (p. 17). Teachers can spend class sessions dissecting such assumptions. Why are PRC leaders shrewd, unscrupulous . . . ? Does it have something to do with traditional Chinese politics that date back hundreds or thousands of years? Or is it a perspective brought to China by U.S. scholars and policymakers?

Finally, this work should spark interest in teachers and students because of its crisis-like message. One example of this urgency is evidenced in a statement David M. Lampton (President of the National Committee on the U.S. and China) makes in his essay: “We have a window of opportunity of perhaps a decade or two in which to build confidence, bilateral relations, and integrative regional and global regimes” (p. 63). Teachers should stress the importance of building U.S. knowledge of China in order to avoid the coming storm. Within the context of these essays, teachers and students should read current articles or books on Sino-U.S. relations.

Greater China raises other issues that teachers and students should grapple with, e.g., human rights and China, economic pressures in Sino-U.S. trade, and Taiwan’s future. These subjects are not fully covered in Greater China, but there is enough information given on them to facilitate class discussions, which is perhaps the most appropriate use for this book.