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30th Anniversary of the Signing of the Shanghai Communiqué

30th Anniversary of the Signing of the Shanghai Communique;

With the signing of the Shanghai Communique; in 1972, U.S.-China relations were suddenly and drastically altered. The U.S.-China Policy Foundation hosted a discussion and luncheon at the National Press Club on February 27, 2002, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of this historic occasion. Speakers addressed the events surrounding the signing of the communiqué, the effects it had on the Sino-American relationship and the world, and its implications for today. Some speakers also chose to discuss the general state of U.S.-China relations.

In his remarks, Dr. Richard Solomon maintained that the Shanghai Communiqué served to "transform the strategic landscape" of the Cold War. He explained that in the communique;, the United States outlined its one-China policy, and China expressed its desire to maintain friendly relations with the United States. Although there was dissention with regard to Taiwan in the document, the communiqué left the island more secure, he argued.

Solomon also commented that the Shanghai Communiqué and the other two U.S.-China joint communiqués "provide a principled framework for a normal and troubled U.S.-PRC relationship." He went on to suggest that although the Soviet threat is now gone, the events of September 11 might serve to give the United States and China new common security interests.

Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Stanley Karnow focused his talk on President Nixon's historic visit to China in 1971. As a Washington Post reporter who accompanied President Nixon on his trip, Karnow reminisced about this extraordinary experience. Karnow pointed out the significance of Nixon's visit in terms of the affect it had on the war in Vietnam. He reminded those in attendance of the long history of conflict between China and Vietnam and noted that Zhou Enlai had pressured the Vietminh, at the Geneva Conference in 1954, to agree to the division of Vietnam. Therefore, he declared, improved Sino-American relations, as indicated by Nixon's visit, certainly had a psychological affect on the North Vietnamese and was an important factor in bringing the Vietnam War to a conclusion.

In his speech, Robert Suettinger, the former National Security Council senior staff for Asian affairs, addressed the topic of leadership transition in China. The coming fourth generation of leadership in China has certain distinguishing characteristics, he noted. As a group, it is well educated, well advised, and pragmatic, but has little military or foreign affairs experience. Suettinger remained optimistic about the ability of the new leaders to govern, but cautioned that China has many pressing issues which leave room for uncertainty.

Lastly, Suettinger noted that in the past, U.S.-China relations have developed in a positive direction regardless of leadership transitions, concluding that, although changes in the top leadership do create waves in the bilateral relationship, these leaders all eventually come to recognize the importance of good relations with the U.S.

Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr., asserted that the U.S. does not have a China policy. The events of September 11, he said, swept aside the troubling issues of the U.S.-China relationship, allowing the two countries to work together to fight terrorism. But, he stressed, those issues still need to be worked out. As for the fundamentals of the U.S.-China relationship, Freeman said, "it is truly remarkable what the last thirty years have brought in terms of better understanding, greater interaction, and a wider degree of mutual dependence."

Freeman concluded his talk by noting that America's opening to China sparked significant changes in China and in China's international position: "Without trying to change China, we changed it fundamentally, for the better," Freeman asserted.

Dr. Robert Kapp, president of the U.S.-China Business Council, addressed enduring themes in U.S.-China relations. Kapp noted that the Shanghai Communiqué was signed at a time when all people on both sides of the Taiwan straight were in favor of reunification, but that the present situation might warrant a different interpretation. Kapp also identified the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a testing point for the future of U.S.-China relations. China's joining the WTO and agreeing to a set of behaviors and precepts should have a profoundly positive affect on the U.S.-China relationship, he declared.

After the morning discussion, participants attended a luncheon in which Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific James Kelly gave the keynote address. He opened by declaring that China and the United States have a "candid, respectful, [and] mature relationship." Since President Nixon's opening to China, China has transformed itself from a state in the midst of the violent Cultural Revolution to one of the United States' largest trading partners, Kelly remarked. Membership in the WTO, Kelly asserted, will aid China's economic reforms and help it implement the rule of law.

Kelly noted the divisions between the United States and China on the issues of human rights, weapons proliferation, Taiwan, and agriculture. But he praised China for its support of the war on terrorism and remarked that China, too, is a victim of terrorism. He lauded China for advising Pakistan to support the United States against international terrorism, for participating in a counter-terrorism financial working group, and for being part of a law enforcement working group that was to start in March.

The Assistant Secretary of State also reported that military dialogue with China will soon resume, but that the United States still has concerns because previously such dialogue contained asymmetries at senior levels. Finally, Kelly also took this opportunity to emphasize that U.S. policy towards the Taiwan Strait issue will be guided by the three joint U.S.-China communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979; he said the United States sees no reason to negotiate a fourth communiqué at this time.


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