From Confrontation to Accommodation: China's Policy toward the U.S. in the Post-Cold War Era Open Access
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China's foreign policy in general and U.S. policy in particular underwent a significant change in contrast to its stance in the early 1990s. In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, China adopted a confrontational stance toward the U.S., while issues over human rights, trade, arms control, and Taiwan were the salient points of contention. However, since the mid-1990s, China has gradually become accommodative with the U.S. interests. China's accommodation is evident in its relationship with the U.S. on the issues such as trade and episodic crises. In addition, China has gradually abandoned confrontational "opposing hegemonism" rhetoric while referring to its U.S. policy.How should we describe these new developments and China's policy towards the United States in the post-Cold War era? What accounts for this shift from a confrontational policy to an accommodative one while facing the American "hegemon"? This research aims to explain these questions by surveying specific cases in U.S.-China relations from 1991 to 2006.My research aims to provide an eclectic analysis of defensive realism with trade expectations theory to explain China's changing behavior toward the U.S., with a central argument that this shift is based upon the cost-benefit analyses of the Chinese leadership. It is a cost-benefit analysis in which advantages from cooperation with the U.S. beneficial to China's needs and disadvantages of confrontation harmful that shapes China's behavior, making China adapt to live with a hegemon.Employing materials such as Chinese official statements, memoirs, in-depth interviews with officials and scholars active in the government decision-making process, Chinese internal circulated and journal articles, and newspapers, this research explores several interconnected factors accountable for China's shift to accommodation. China's perceptions of distributions of capabilities in the international system, perceptions of threat and reciprocated interactions between China and the U.S. in their dyadic relationship, China's expectation of benefits from trading with the U.S., and the top leaders' concern of political survival while accommodating the U.S., altogether have contributed to China's gradual accommodation to the U.S. in the post-Cold War era.