97 Foreign Aff. 60 (2018)
The China Reckoning: How Beijing Defied American Expectations

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The China Reckoning


How Beijing Defied American Expectations

Kurt M. Campbell and Ely Ratner

   Ihe United States has always had an outsize sense of its ability

        to determine Chinas course. Again and again, its ambitions
        have come up short. After World War II, George Marshall,
the U.S. special envoy to China, hoped to broker a peace between the
Nationalists and Communists in the Chinese Civil War. During the
Korean War, the Truman administration thought it could dissuade
Mao Zedong's troops from crossing the Yalu River. The Johnson admin-
istration believed Beijing would ultimately circumscribe its involve-
ment in Vietnam. In each instance, Chinese realities upset American
expectations.
  With U.S. President Richard Nixon's opening to China, Washington
made its biggest and most optimistic bet yet. Both Nixon and Henry
Kissinger, his national security adviser, assumed that rapprochement
would drive a wedge between Beijing and Moscow and, in time, alter
Chinas conception of its own interests as it drew closer to the United
States. In the fall of 1967, Nixon wrote in this magazine, The world
cannot be safe until China changes. Thus our aim, to the extent that
we can influence events, should be to induce change. Ever since, the
assumption that deepening commercial, diplomatic, and cultural ties
would transform Chinas internal development and external behavior
has been a bedrock of U.S. strategy. Even those in U.S. policy circles
who were skeptical of Chinas intentions still shared the underlying
belief that U.S. power and hegemony could readily mold China to the
United States' liking.

KURT M. CAMPBELL is Chairman of the Asia Group and was U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2009 to 2013.
ELY RATNER is Maurice R. Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on
Foreign Relations and was Deputy National Security Adviser to U.S. Vice President Joe
Biden from 2015 to 2017.


60   FOREIGN AFFAIRS

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