The United States enjoyed a united policy toward China for two
decades. That unity ended with Tiananmen Square. But the challenge of
an ascendant China now requires a consistent, steady, long-term view.
The United States must rebuild a bipartisan policy toward China based
on a strategy that can be supported by successive presidents and
Congresses, Republicans and Democrats.
Past U.S. policies toward China have reflected two very different
national traditions. One has drawn images of China, its people, and
its future salvation from America's missionary experience. The other
approach has viewed China in light of the realist's concepts of
power, national interest, and balancing relationships among great
states. At times, the United States has managed to fuse these two
traditions in an unlikely amalgam, although the compound has usually
displayed cracks created by countervailing forces.
Missionaries, Heretics, and Romantics
America has had a special relationship with China. We have
romanticized, and then demonized, China and its people, time and
again, in a pendulum of alternating attitudes, which led in turn to
swings in policy. America's missionary experience with China helped
shape these views. Our first widespread public contact with China
came from efforts in the nineteenth century to convert the Chinese to
Christianity, to rescue them from their condition, to educate them,
to make them like us.