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China, U.S. have complex history of partnership

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article first appeared in The Alabama Baptist, newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention, on the Web at www.thealabamabaptist.org. This story is the second installment of a three-part series of articles about China that Baptist Press is publishing in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Baptist Press coverage of the Olympics will continue through Aug. 25.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–It’s no question that China is becoming more powerful on the international scene. The main question is, how does the United States relate to the massive nation?

For seven consecutive administrations, the United States has held the same policy toward China: to encourage China’s integration into today’s global system. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “America has reason to welcome a confident, peaceful, and prosperous China. We want China as a global partner, able and willing to match its growing capabilities to its international responsibilities.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, China has publicly supported the war on terrorism, including military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The two countries also have worked together on global security issues, like the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran. China and the United States also have built a strong economic relationship. Total trade between the countries has grown from $33 billion in 1992 to more than $386 billion in 2007.

The United States and China also have cooperated in some aspects of law enforcement, including intellectual property rights enforcement and human smuggling.

But it hasn’t always been this way. Since the revolution in 1949, the relationship between the United States and China has had its ups and downs. By the 1970s and 1980s, the two countries had made progress in their relationship, however, resulting in joint programs and research projects in areas like scientific, technological and cultural exchange and trade relations. Richard Nixon’s February 1972 visit to China was the first for a U.S. president since the revolution and formally began normalized relations between the two countries.

However, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre — during which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of demonstrators lost their lives — put a halt to advances in the relationship. The United States imposed economic sanctions, suspended weapons exports to China and stopped sanctioning high-level official exchanges between the two countries. As a result, U.S. investors’ interest in China fell significantly.

The relationship continued to suffer until 1997, when Jiang Zemin visited the United States. It was the first time a Chinese president had made a state visit to the United States since 1985, and several issues were resolved during his stay. The following year, former President Bill Clinton visited China, traveling extensively throughout the country. In 2002, President George W. Bush visited China. Later that year, Jiang visited with Bush in Texas. In November 2005, Bush visited China again, and China’s current president, Hu Jintao, traveled to Washington in 2006.

The relationship is stronger now, but in some areas the United States and China still disagree, such as what should be done about Taiwan’s desire for independence and Hong Kong’s political development. Also, the United States continues to express concern over human rights issues in China.
Manda Gibson is a freelance writer who lives in Richmond, Va.

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