In 1979, a time of clear downturn in U.S.-Soviet relations over such sensitive issues as SALT, Soviet troops in Cuba, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Carter Administration moved ahead with a series of measures designed to improve relations with Moscow's major adversary in Asia, the Peoples Republic of China (P.R.C.). The purpose of this report is to provide background for and summarize current developments in U.S. - People’s Republic of China (PRC) relations, including current and pending congressional actions involving the PRC.
The improved political relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), initiated by the Nixon Administration and furthered by the Carter Administration's decision to establish diplomatic relations, has spurred a rapid increase in Sino-U.S. trade. While still small relative to overall U.S. foreign trade, the volume of trade represents an abrupt shift from the no-trade policy that had been pursued since 1950. Despite the rapid expansion, outstanding issues remain as serious barriers to normalized trade. Resolution of those issues may require concession or accommodations by the Chinese leadership as well as action by both the U.S. Congress and the Executive Branch. However, the development of a new approach to foreign economic relations by the post-Mao Chinese leadership and the establishment of diplomatic relations have laid the ground work for a further expansion of commercial relations.
The report examines the current debate in the United States over proposals for increased U.S. military sales to China. The study first examines the background of U.S.-China security ties since the Nixon Administration, and then sets forth the parameters of the current debate by noting a number of issues concerning U.S. military transfers to China on which all sides generally agree. It shows that Americans familiar with the issue tend to identify with different groups of opinion or "schools of thought" on the question of U.S. military transfers to China, and provides a detailed pro-con analysis of the issue. It concludes by noting cross pressures that are likely to greet U.S. policy makers as they grapple with this issue in the months ahead and offers an assessment of four policy options of possible use by U.S. policymakers.