This chapter examines the United States’ relations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from the establishment of a communist regime on the Mainland of China to the collapse of the Cold War bipolar order in the late 1980s. In charting four decades of Sino–US relations, it provides a broad historical overview of the main issues and problems that characterized the political and economic interactions between Washington and Beijing during a turbulent phase in twentieth-century international politics. The chapter is divided into three main key sections: the first and second explain why, during the early Cold War, in the 1950s and 1960s, relations between Washington and Beijing remained largely antagonistic notwithstanding some behind-the-scene efforts to reduce conflict. The third section, on the other hand, covers Nixon’s ‘opening to China’ and Washington’s subsequent rapprochement with Beijing. In so doing, it shows how Beijing and Washington managed to overcome their mutual suspicions and establish a mutually satisfactory political and economic relationship.
This chapter deals with the consequences of the end of the Cold War for Sino–US relations and shows how both Washington and Beijing found it difficult to adjust their bilateral relationship to the changed dynamics of the post–Cold War world. Although they broadly shared the view that effective cooperation was still very much in their mutual interest, such cooperation appeared at times elusive, often giving way to competition and conflict. The post-Nixon consensus that viewed Sino–US economic and strategic interests as broadly convergent came increasingly under attack in both countries. In taking the Sino–US story up from to end of the Cold War to the present, this chapter, therefore, aims to provide a brief examination of a complex, often touchy and at times even quarrelsome post–Cold War relationship.