The Cold War Thinking and Bush’s China Policy
By Enbao Wang
University of Hawaii at Hilo
• This paper attempts to argue that the Cold War thinking----China was
viewed as a “Communist nation” and was judged from old cold war
perspective----played an important role in Bush administration’s China-
policy-making. In its first year, the Bush administration believed that China
would be major rival of the U.S. in the twenty-first century and launched a
new cold war against China. After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush
administration shifted its China policy from new cold war to cooperation;
but maintained Cold War policy on geopolitical issues. Though Bush’s
policy was supported by a portion of Americans, it was not made based on
China’s reality and was not in the long-tern interest of the United states.
Bush’s China Policy: from Confrontation to cooperation
• The development of President Bush’s China
may be divided into two periods:
First period (2001): launched a new Cold War
against “Communist China”; Second period
(2002-2009): formed cooperative relations
with China on trade and many other issues
while containing “Communist China” on
The First period (2001), a New Cold War toward China
• When Bush came to office in 2001, his primary strategic
objective was to resurrect the permanent-dominance
doctrine spelled out in the Defense Planning Guidance
document for the post-Cold War era.
• Washington asserted that China, as a rising power, would
eventually challenge America’s superiority.
• To contain China, the U.S. strengthened its relations with key
cold war allies, particularly Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
• The U.S. intensified its spy activities against China. In April 2001,
U.S. spy airplane EP-3 collided with China’s airplane near
China’s Hainan Island.
• Washington used the Taiwan issue to contain China: promoted
U.S.-Taiwan relations; pledged to defend Taiwan with
"whatever it takes."
The Second Period (2002-2009): formed cooperative relations
with China on trade and many other issues while containing
“Communist China” on geopolitical issues.
• After the 9/11 attacks, Washington’s priority was the War on
terrorism, and the containing of China was not the urgent
issue. Washington began to improve relations with China.
• U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick proposed to
accept China as a “responsible stakeholder” in the
• President Bush and President Hu Jintao launched the U.S.-
China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) program
From 2002 to 2009, Washington did not completely abandon the
concept of containing China
• The U.S. strengthened its cold war strategic relations with
Japan and South Korea. Japan would assist the United States
in the event of its involvement in military conflict with China
because of Taiwan.
• The United States continued to sell sophisticated arms to
• the U.S. continued the cold war policy of export restriction
that high-tech products are not allowed to be exported to
China while these products are exported to other nations.
China: a semi-capitalist state and its goal
• China’s new ideology: Deng Xiaoping Theory.
• The CCP is no more a Leninist party; it is a party of all social
classes including capitalists and economic elites.
• Growing income disparity of capitalist China; Gini ratio
reached .50, compared with .46 of the U.S. ; Many Chinese
are suffering with the “disease” of primary stage of
• China’s goal is peaceful rise and national rejuvenation, not
conflict with the U.S.