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New Century, Old Thinking: The Dangers of the Perceptual Gap in U.S.-China Relations

Authored by Colonel Susan M. Puska.

April 10, 1998

49 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author provides an examination of the reciprocal relations between China and the United States over the past century and a half. She articulates the theme that cycles of misperception have characterized the relationship. If this past is prologue, then potential conflict looms darkly over future U.S.-China interactions. The first step toward precluding conflict, according to the author, is to understand the nature of the past relationship. Then, the two countries must overcome the deep perceptual gap between their cultures, their historical views and their ideological perspectives. Such understanding, widely shared in each society, will not assure development of bilateral partnership, but is essential to giving it a chance.

Foreword

If a host of pundits are to be believed, we are fast approaching "the Pacific Century," and, many of them argue, the centerpiece of the new era will be China. Some forecasts have China rising to become the world's largest economy over the next two decades, and acquiring attendant political and military power in the process.

Unquestionably, China's size, population and burgeoning economy will elevate it to a more prominent role in Asia, the Pacific and the world by 2020. All the more reason then for those concerned with America's security to develop a keener understanding of this rising giant.

Perhaps a good place to start is with some introspection about ourselves in relation to the Chinese. Lieutenant Colonel Susan Puska, in the monograph that follows, provides just such an examination of the reciprocal relations between China and the United States over the past century and a half. She articulates the theme that cycles of misperception have characterized the relationship. If this past is prologue, then potential conflict looms darkly over future U.S.-China interactions.

The first step toward precluding conflict, according to the author, is to understand the nature of the past relationship. Then, the two countries must overcome the deep perceptual gap between their cultures, their historical views and their ideological perspectives. Such understanding, widely shared in each society, will not assure development of bilateral partnership, but is essential to giving it a chance.


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