Reviewing the History of China-U.S. Relations in Multiple Dimensions
A Brief History of China-U.S. Relations (1784-2013) Author: Tao Wenzhao Hardcover, 524 pages Published by Foreign Languages Press in 2015
ON September 24, 2015, a press conference for A Brief History of China-U.S. Relations (1784-2013) by Tao Wenzhao was held in Beijing.
The book gives a holistic picture of the history from 1784 when the Empress of China, the first American merchant ship to voyage to China, docked at the port city Guangzhou, to June 2013, when President Xi Jinping and President Barack Obama met in Sunnylands, California.
Tao Wenzhao is a senior research fellow at the Institute of American Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and an honorary CASS member. In his years in academia, he has made prolific achievements in the history of China-U.S. relations.
All 11 chapters in the book comb cautiously through every essential historical moment on a vertical axis.
Bilateral trade began on February 22,1784, a memorable day in the history of China-U.S. relations, when the first American merchant ship to voyage to China set sail from New York Harbor, carrying a cargo of ginseng, furs, camlet, cotton, and lead. The ship passed the Cape of Good Hope, traversed the Indian Ocean, and arrived in Guangzhou (Canton) on August 28, after a voyage of 20,900 kilometers. Their goods sold, the traders took with them tea, silk, and porcelain, and returned by the same route, arriving in New York on May 10, 1785. The two countries on either side of the vast Pacific Ocean, thus established trading relations.
However, the merchant ships that followed did not always bring commodities; they introduced also opium, religion, and American culture, as well as the Treaty of Wanghia, the Burlingame Treaty, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. A series of historical events concerning Sino-U.S. bilateral relations are narrated.
In the ensuing chapters, the author records the development of bilateral relations against a special historical background: from the Open Door Policy to the Paris Peace Conference and the Washington Conference, from wars and revolutions in China to a China-U.S. alliance against Japanese aggression, from U.S. involvement in China’s civil war to the age of confrontation and isolation, from a historic handshake to the normalization of China-U.S. relations, from bilateral relations in the Post-Cold War era to the constructive and cooperative relations in the new century, and then toward a new-type major country relationship.
Tao concludes in the final chapter, “The emergence of this new-type major country relationship has not changed the cooperative-competitive nature of China-U.S. relations. From time to time, competition over some issues might become fierce and sharp. But the statesmen and people of the two countries have the political wisdom to manage the disagreements, overcome difficulties, avoid a mutually damaging situation, and advance to a new-type major country relationship.”
Just as many international think tanks and scholars pointed out, as two major countries in the world, both China and the U.S. play an important role in each other’s diplomatic policies, and the bilateral relations have a huge impact on regional and global peace, stability, and prosperity. Therefore, we should grasp the mainstream of the bilateral relations and sophisticatedly handle the differences from a holistic view.
A Brief History of China-U.S. Relationships (1784-2013) is a condensed version of the threevolume Chinese-language work. An abundance of historical materials was collected from documentaries and archives from China, the U.S., the U.K., and Japan, forming an integral framework and reasonable argument. A history of over 200 years, especially the Sino-U.S. relations since 20th century, is clearly outlined. The decision process of diplomatic policy between the two nations is unveiled, including various national and international factors influencing the two parties’ decisions. The book reveals the inner force driving the bilateral relations forward; at the same time it reflects the forefront in research achievement of Chinese academia’s views on Sino-U.S. relations.
The former U.S. ambassador to China, specialist on Sino-U.S. issues J. Stapleton Roy is quoted on the book’s back cover as saying, “The publication of this history in English will make more accessible to American readers an improved multidimensional understanding of the historical interactions between China and the United States that can provide a better base for managing the bilateral relationship in the future.”
Renowned scholars whose comments feature in the foreword include Warren I. Cohen, a famous historian and the author of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations, Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy, and David M. Lampton, founding director of the Chinese Studies Program of the Nixon Center.
Recommendations also come from James K. M. Cheng, Librarian of the Harvard-Yenching Library; Ezra Vogal, renowned Chinese expert and former director of Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies; Akira Iriye, historian of American diplomatic history at Harvard; and Robert Ross, expert on Chinese studies at Boston College.
China International Publishing Group President Zhou Mingwei praised the book as the first volume written by a Chinese author on the history of Sino-U.S. relations, fully presenting the research outcomes and academic achievements of Chinese scholars in this field. The book is expected to help both Chinese and foreign readers learn about the past bilateral relations, understand the current situation, and master the future trend, so as to drive the promotion of academic exchanges and improve public opinions and mutual recognition.