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Foreign Policy

At Cross-purposes

May 30 , 2011

It is extremely rare for an American administration to formulate a clear strategy for its China policy during the first presidential term. Richard Nixon is one exception, thanks mainly to the help of a world-class strategic thinker, Henry Kissinger, the architect of the rapprochement between the US and China in 1971. Now Kissinger, ever the optimist on this relationship, has become a pessimist, as his new book, On China, reveals.

Kissinger has good reason to worry.

Though the Obama administration, too, has made an attempt at defining this bilateral relationship, arguably the world's most important, from the outset of its first term, so far its strategy seems misguided and confusing. In a short span of less than four years, the relationship has metamorphosed from an intimate G2 to strategic rivalry. Such an odd phenomenon is, perhaps, due to the lack of serious strategic minds within and around the White House.

Lanxin Xiang is professor of international history and politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

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