cover image A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China Since 1972

A Fragile Relationship: The United States and China Since 1972

Harry Harding. Brookings Institution Press, $22.95 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-8157-3465-9

Aimed at specialists, this comprehensive study of 20 years of U.S. policy toward China maintains a pragmatic tone. Harding, a senior fellow at Brookings, exhaustively analyzes the ``oscillating pattern of progress and stagnation, crisis and consolidation'' of the U.S.-China relationship from the hopeful period in the 1970s and early 1980s to the current tension, drawing not just on government policy but on the writings of scholars and press pundits, and even on cultural exchanges. He points out that conservative commentators like the New York Times 's William Safire, not liberal academic experts, mistakenly declared that China was on the road to capitalism in the mid-1980s. Harding explains how changes inside the U.S. and China finally brought human rights issues to the forefront but cautions against idealizing the Tiananmen Square demonstrators, noting that few called for pluralistic politics. In a series of recommendations regarding issues ranging from security to human rights to academic and cultural exchanges, Harding calls for a ``realistic and nuanced policy toward China.'' China should be seen not as a potential ally or a card to be played in global competition but as ``an independent counterpart in a complex balance of power.'' (Mar.)