1979-2001  An Uneasy Alliance

exhibit section showing artifacts and photos


After the formal recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1979 by the United States, new checks and balances were placed upon world affairs. For America, the potential weight of China's military threat to the Soviet Union would offset much of the American public outcry over the abandonment of Taiwan. China sought technological expertise from the U.S., although the Communists remained wary about an influx of Western culture.

Over the next two decades, commercial and cultural ties were developed. Foreign trade specialists and venture capitalists flocked to China. Trade contacts boomed, and Chinese agriculture, industry, and high-technology pursuits grew steadily.

East-West tensions continued, however, and social conditions were disclosed that appalled the American people. Human rights issues, legal and ethical procedures, individual and religious freedoms, the abuse of the environment - all served to subdue American enthusiasm for relations with China.

In the late 1980s when suspicions arose that Beijing had sold missile components to Middle Eastern countries, China denied the sales and the U.S. lifted sanctions against them. Then in the early 1990s, the facts proved that the components were purchased from China. Nevertheless, Washington continues to sell sophisticated technology to Beijing that could eventually provide for the development of nuclear arsenals in Third World countries. "The Eagle" may have excellent reasons to forge better relations with "The Dragon" - but be mindful to always keep one eye open.

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exhibit section showing artifacts and photos
Artifacts on loan, courtesy of:
Cartoon (copy)
- "Peiping's Trap for Carter" from the Commission on the Investigation of Chinese Communist Atrocities
--Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace, Stanford, California
Photographs - Deng Xiaoping's visit to Washington D.C. in 1979.
Message to Congress (copy) - from President Carter about the recognition of the People's Republic of China.
Farewell Speech (copy) - given by Deng Xiaoping before leaving Washington
Menu Card (copy) - from the State Dinner, 1-29-79.
Transcript (copy) - broadcast from Vietnam after it was invaded by China, 2-17-79.
Radio Broadcast (copy) - Moscow accuses the U.S. of involvement in the Chinese invasion of Vietnam.
--Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, Atlanta, Georgia

The United States extended official recognition to the People's Republic of China in 1979, with the intention of creating closer ties to China through improved commercial, technical, and cultural relations. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping visited Washington D.C. to meet with President Jimmy Carter and formalize their two countries' normalization of diplomatic relations. This was the first-ever visit to America by a senior Chinese Communist official. Former President Richard Nixon also was on hand to greet Deng, one of the leaders he had met in China seven years earlier during his historic 1972 visit.
This recognition by the U.S. meant the end of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but America continued to retain economic and cultural ties. The Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress, provided for continuing unofficial relations. These actions by the U.S. continue to be a thorny issue to the present day. In fact recently, President Jiang Zemin stated that the Taiwan issue is the biggest barrier to improvement of Sino-U.S. relations.


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