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Foreign Affairs

An Unsentimental China Policy- The case for putting vital interests first


On February 18, 2021, Foreign Affairs published an article entitled “An Unsentimental China Policy- The case for putting vital interests first “. The authors are Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and Fred Hu, founder and chairman of Primavera Capital Group. The authors believe that the Biden administration should heed the central lesson of five decades of U.S. policy towards China: it works best when focusing realistically on geopolitical objectives essential to protect American interests, and worst when attempting to engage in political engineering to promote American values.

Fifty years ago this July, U.S. President Richard Nixon announced what would become his signature foreign policy achievement: the opening to China. The following February, in what the press called “the week that shook the world,” he flew to Beijing to meet Mao Zedong, the leader of communist China. So began a half century of U.S. engagement with Beijing. At the time, China was the tip of the spear advancing communist revolutions worldwide. But within the decade, U.S. President Jimmy Carter had normalized the relationship, recognizing the regime in Beijing as China’s sole legitimate government and abrogating the U.S. defense treaty with Taiwan. The rest is history: China helped the United States win the Cold War, and the thaw in U.S.-Chinese relations allowed Asia to emerge as the most economically dynamic region in the world.

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