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Making China Policy: From Nixon to G.W. Bush

Jean A. Garrison
Making China Policy: From Nixon to G.W. Bush
ISBN: 978-1-58826-360-5
ISBN: 978-1-58826-385-8
2005/255 pages/LC: 2005000411
Also of interest: US Taiwan Strait Policy by Dean P. Chen

"An excellent book ... one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date studies of U.S.-China relations that I have seen."—Shiping Zheng, Bentley College

"Jean Garrison explores the complex negotiations and machinations that are too often overly simplified in books on U.S. foreign policy. She provides an in-depth account of the political players involved: their goals, their motivations, and their actions."—Thomas Dolan, Columbus State University

"Sophisticated, insightful, and clearly written, this is an important explication of both the structure and the process of U.S. policymaking toward China."—Chen Jian, University of Virginia


What explains the twists and turns in US-China relations since Richard Nixon initiated a policy of engagement in the early 1970s? Addressing this question, Jean Garrison examines the politics behind US China policy across six administrations from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush.

Garrison finds that a focus on the internal decisionmaking process is key to understanding both continuity and change in more than three decades of US-China relations. Incorporating interactions at the levels of strategic context, presidential beliefs and leadership style, and bureaucratic politics, she constructs a comprehensive explanation of how China policy was formed in each administration. Her thorough—and engaging—account sheds new light on US foreign policy making in general, as well as on Washington's China policy.


Jean A. Garrison is associate professor of political science at the University of Wyoming. She is author of Games Advisors Play: Foreign Policy in the Nixon and Carter Administrations.


  • Introduction: The China Policy Conundrum.
  • Continuity and Change in US China Policy.
  • Challenging the Status Quo: Nixon and the Politics of Rapprochement.
  • Normalization Realized: Carter and the Institutionalization of Engagement.
  • Developing a Strategic Partnership: Reagan and the China-Taiwan Balancing Act.
  • Salvaging U.S. China Relations: G.H.W. Bush and the Aftermath of Tiananmen Square.
  • A Tale of Three Engagements: Clinton and the Struggle to Balance Competing Interests.
  • From Strategic Competitor to Uneasy Ally: G.W. Bush and the Fragile US- China Relationship.
  • Conclusion: Recurring Patterns in US China Decisionmaking.