David M. Lampton. Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001. Ix + 510 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-520-23462-8.
Reviewed by Steven Wagner (Missouri Southern State College)
Published on H-Diplo (November, 2002)
Same Bed, Different Dreams;
Same Bed, Different Dreams
In the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the bilateral relationship between the United States and China emerged as one of the greatest foreign policy challenges that each of the two nations had to face. In his book Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000, David Lampton surveys and analyzes the last decade of this relationship and offers advice to leaders from both countries on how to make it mutually beneficial. Lampton is well qualified to offer such advice. He served for ten years as President of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations in New York City, and he is currently George and Sadie Hyman Professor and Director of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Director of Chinese Studies at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C. These qualifications are reflected in the book's unique combination of history, political science, and policy guidance. The study of the recent past offers the most fertile ground for combining the research methods of history with political science and Lampton demonstrates how fruitful such a combination can be.
Lampton's thesis also serves as an explanation of the book's intriguing title: Same Bed, Different Dreams. "The processes of economic and information globalization, along with the development of international regimes and multilateral organizations, have landed America and China increasingly near one another in the same global bed," says Lampton, "but our respective national institutions, interests, leadership and popular perceptions, and the very characters of our two peoples, ensure that our nations have substantially different dreams." This, Lampton argues, has provided the "underlying dynamic" of U.S.-China relations since the end of the Cold War, and will continue to do so in the future (p. ix).
Historians will find Part I of Lampton's book the most useful. In this section entitled "The Flow of Events," Lampton traces U.S.-China relations from 1989-2000, identifying four key turning points, and focusing on how they affected the issues of security, economics, and human rights. The first turning point was China's use of military force against demonstrators in Beijing's Tienanmen square in June of 1989, just a little over four months after President George Bush took office. President Bush imposed unilateral economic sanctions against China, but resisted Congress's attempts to punish China further. This caused a wedge to develop between the President and Congress over China policy that would resurface in the yearly debates over renewing most-favored nation status (MFN). The second turning point came in May 1993 when President Bill Clinton attempted to link MFN status for China to concessions in the area of human rights. President Clinton began backtracking on the linkage almost immediately and revoked it one year later. The third turning point came in 1995-96 when the new Republican-controlled Congress escalated tensions to a crisis level. This led President Clinton to reaffirm U.S. opposition to Taiwanese independence. The final turning point came in 1999 when the United States and NATO intervened in Yugoslavia. The willingness of the United States and its allies to violate a state's sovereignty over a human rights issue made China feel particularly vulnerable. China's reaction, however, was tempered by the fact that its application for membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) was under review at the time.
In parts 2-4 of his book, Lampton abandons historical narrative in favor of a political science approach. Lampton analyzes the U.S.-China relationship on three levels: global, state, and individual. The remaining three parts of the book examine the policy process at each of these levels. On the global level, the U.S.-China relationship has been affected by China's desire to join international organizations such as the WTO. This trend has both encouraged and confounded U.S. policy makers.
The reforms that China has undertaken to gain membership in international organizations have had the desirable effect of making it a more predictable member of the international community. China's participation in these organizations, however, often puts the United States and China on a collision course. Other international players, such as Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Russia, the United Kingdom, and both Koreas have also complicated the U.S.-China relationship. On the state level, what Lampton refers to as "national myths," such as the American belief that democracy is a universal good, and China's characterization of itself as a "victim nation," have affected the relationship. The news media and domestic political considerations have also played an important role. Finally, Lampton emphasizes that individuals are key to the productive management of the relationship. During times of strong political leadership the relationship has prospered. When such leadership has been lacking, groups that oppose the relationship have damaged it.
While the U.S.-China relationship has the potential of becoming one of great cooperation, it could also degenerate into one of bitter conflict. Lampton believes the greatest likelihood is that it will continue down a middle path, posing many challenges to both nations. His final chapter offers guidelines for managing the relationship in the twenty-first century. The common theme of these guidelines is that U.S.-China relations should be conducted in an atmosphere of understanding and openness. Both nations, Lampton argues, should: exercise power responsibly; recognize that resources are limited; define and adhere to their priorities and intentions; maintain their credibility; consider the domestic political circumstances of the other; and, educate their public about the importance of the relationship. If these guidelines are adhered to, Lampton concludes, "Both nations can improve upon the diplomacy of the first post-cold war decade," despite the fact that "their association will always be characterized by a complex mix of cooperation and contention" (p. 1-2). Indeed, he argues, the relationship will be the most enduring foreign-policy challenge each nation will face in the coming decades.
Same Bed, Different Dreams is an important contribution to both history and political science scholarship on recent U.S.-China relations. Advocates of "international history" will appreciate that Lampton devotes as much space to the consideration of factors that affected China's policy toward the United States as he does to those that affected U.S. policy toward China. His research and source materials are also equally balanced between the two nations. International relations scholars will appreciate that Lampton utilizes multiple levels of analysis, devoting appropriate space to his examination of the global, state, and individual levels of the relationship. Some historians may be resistant to this approach, but most will recognize that the best works in diplomatic history already incorporate this technique. The primary drawback to their application here, as in many works in the field of international relations, is the heavy-handed organization of the book. Separating the historical survey from the policy analysis upsets the flow of the narrative in a way that will frustrate most historians. Despite this, however, Lampton's combination of historical and international relations approaches has resulted in a solid study of the last decade of U.S.-China relations.
The aspect of this book that makes it unique among works in history and political science is that Lampton goes beyond a mere analysis of the problems in U.S.-China relations by offering advice on how the relationship could be better managed in the future. In this sense, Lampton's intended audience goes beyond scholars to include policy makers in both countries. Lampton's advice, although primarily of a general nature, is soundly based on the analysis that precedes it and his background makes him well qualified to offer it. Nevertheless, scholars, particularly historians, may be turned off by this element of the book.
While the requirements of objectivity are a hotly debated topic among historians, even those who feel less constrained by them usually stop short of prescribing policy. In addition to the objectivity question, since the guidance Lampton offers is timely, it is likely to date the book more quickly than would otherwise be the case, giving it the lifespan of the average political science text, despite its excellent historical scholarship. This is especially true since the book was published before the terrorist attacks on the United States in September of 2001, events that have altered the priorities of U. S. foreign policy. This would be unfortunate, since Same Bed, Different Dreams is the best work currently available on the last decade of U.S.-China relations, and is likely to remain so until archival sources on the period become available.
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Steven Wagner. Review of Lampton, David M., Same Bed, Different Dreams: Managing U.S.-China Relations, 1989-2000.
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