Congressional Interests in Making China Policy: An Analysis of the Post-Cold War Evolution of Congressional Policymaking toward China
Abstract: The development of official Sino-U.S. relations during the Cold
War occurred in the shadow of an assertive Soviet power, when Washington and Beijing found
common geopolitical ground in opposing Soviet expansion and overlooked longstanding
political disagreements. The Soviet demise, however, put the United States and China on a
new geostrategic footing, and the changing international ... read moreenvironment forced Washington to
approach China policy in a different context. What explains the evolution of congressional
policymaking in U.S. policy toward China since the end of the Cold War? My review of
legislation vis-à-vis China since 1992 revealed that congressional policy can be
divided into four main issue areas: cross-strait relations, proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction, human rights, and trade. Each chapter explored congressional policy in
each area through floor voting to explain congressional interests, how congressional
policymaking evolved, and what domestic political factors influenced this legislation. The
conclusions of this study provide insight into congressional policymaking and its
potential future evolution, because China's growth had a profound influence on
legislation. When China was relatively weaker, Congress was much more assertive in: (1)
pursuing a separate relationship with Taiwan, (2) confronting China's proliferation
activities, and (3) targeting perceived unfair trade practices that blocked American
access to Chinese markets. As China's strength grew, however, Congress became: (1) much
less active in cross-strait policymaking, (2) less prone to naming China as a
proliferator, and (3) more focused on protecting American markets . The only issue area
that appeared immune from this effect was human rights policy. This dissertation also shed
light on the influence of domestic political factors on congressional policymaking. The
only factor that influenced all four issue areas was the interbranch rivalry. Elections
affected policymaking in cross-strait and trade policy, and partisan competition
influenced policymaking in proliferation and human rights policy. These findings indicate
that, while the struggle over policy control will generally affect congressional
policymaking in all issue areas, upcoming elections are more likely to affect cross-strait
relations and trade policy, and a politically divided White House and Congress are more
likely to affect proliferation and human rights policy.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Alan Wachman.
Committee: Alan Henrikson, and William Martel.
Keyword: International relations.read less