Beyond Tiananmen

The Politics of U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000

Robert L. Suettinger,

Beyond Tiananmen: The Politics of U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000
 
 

In the summer of 1989 soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) raced into the center of Beijing with orders to recover "at any cost" the city's most important landmark, Tiananmen Square, from student demonstrators. The United States and other Western countries recoiled in disgust after the horrific incident, and the relationship between the United States and China went from amity and strategic cooperation to hostility, distrust, and misunderstanding.

Time has healed many of the wounds from those terrible days of June 1989, and bilateral strains have been eased in light of the countries' joint opposition to international terrorism. Yet strategic thinkers and military planners in both China and the United States remain locked in opposition, casting each other as the principal enemy in future conflict. Recent polls indicate that most Americans consider China an "unfriendly" country, while anti-American sentiment is growing in China.

According to Robert L. Suettinger, the calamity in Tiananmen Square marked a critical turning point in U.S.-China affairs. In Beyond Tiananmen, Suettinger traces the turbulent bilateral relationship since that time, with a particular focus on the internal political factors that shaped it.

Through a series of candid anecdotes and observations, Suettinger sheds light on the complex and confused decisionmaking process that affected relations between the United Sates and China between 1989 and the end of the Clinton presidency in 2000.

By illuminating the way domestic political ideas, beliefs, and prejudices affect foreign policymaking, Suettinger reveals policy decisions as outcomes of complex processes, rather than the results of grand strategic trends.

Suettinger sees considerable opportunity for cooperation and improvement in what is likely to be the single most important bilateral relationship of the twenty-first century. He cautions, however, that routine misperceptions of goals and policies between the two countries—unfortunate legacies of Tiananmen--;could lead to an increasing level of hostility, with tragic consequences.



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