The China Lobby - Recognition of the beijing government and demise of the china lobby




The election of Richard M. Nixon in 1968 provided no expectation of new directions in American policy toward China. Nixon, the personification of the cold warrior, had been close to many of Chiang's staunchest supporters and had repeated many of the same inflammatory and unsubstantiated accusations that Kohlberg had levied. But, slowly and cautiously, the Nixon administration moved to improve relations with the People's Republic, and in July 1971 presidential adviser Henry Kissinger suddenly turned up in Beijing. A few months later a stunned world watched Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong exchanging pleasantries in Mao's study. In 1972 the United States facilitated the admission of the People's Republic to the United Nations and acquiesced in the expulsion of Chiang's government. There was hardly a whimper of opposition— and that from a few supporters of the president who felt they had been betrayed. The day of the China lobby had passed.

American recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1979 did not end lobbying activities aimed at influencing American policy toward China and Taiwan. The governments in Beijing and Taipei remained intensely active and found support across the political spectrum in the United States. The Republic of China, headquartered in Taipei, and led by Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, was not abandoned.

The Carter administration had won agreement from Deng Xiaoping to allow the United States to maintain "unofficial" relations with Taiwan and to permit continued arms sales to Taipei. Taiwan's diplomats quickly rallied their friends in the U.S. Congress and won a much stronger Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) than the administration had intended. The TRA explicitly stated that the use of force against Taiwan would be a matter of "grave concern" to the United States and committed the United States to provide such arms as Taiwan required to defend itself.

In the 1980s and 1990s, as Taiwan evolved into a democratic society, and especially after the Tiananmen massacres in Beijing in 1989, support for Taiwan increased dramatically among the American people and their elected representatives. The island's economic success allowed it to spend vast sums to woo the American media as well as American officials. Taiwan's lobbying activities, considered by specialists in foreign policy second only to those of Israel in effectiveness, frequently forced administration officials to take actions they considered undesirable. Most notable among these was the decision to issue Taiwan's president, Lee Teng-hui, a visa to visit the United States in 1995, precipitating a crisis in relations between Beijing and Washington and generating serious tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

Less effectively, the People's Republic also lobbied for support in Washington. Hampered by its human rights record and American admiration for democratic Taiwan, Beijing was fortunate to win powerful friends within the American business community. The U.S.–China Business Council, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, and major corporations, most prominently Boeing, labored assiduously to persuade Congress of the congruity of Chinese and American interests. In the 1990s, they succeeded in protecting China's most-favored-nation trade relations with the United States against attacks from human rights and labor organizations, ultimately winning passage of the Permanent Normal Trade Relations Act. China was thus assured that increased tariffs on its goods would not be used as a weapon by its adversaries in the United States.

In the early twenty-first century, lobbying by both Beijing and Taipei continued, with most of the public criticism directed against presumably pro-China groups who were accused by some conservatives of sacrificing U.S. security interests. Complaints against Taiwan's activities came primarily from within the executive branch of the U.S. government, where those responsible for policy toward China feared being pushed into an unnecessary and dangerous confrontation with Beijing. But the notorious China lobby of the Cold War era was gone.

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