This is the introduction to my senior thesis entitled “Compassionate Realism and Sino-American Rapprochement.”
There is thorough and rich evidence that suggests that the Soviet Union played a large underlying role in Henry Kissinger and President Nixon’s decision to instigate Sino-American détente. Other factors that led to this decision included the domestic pressures of election, a censored but still presiding mentality of McCarthyism, and international military operations. In spite of these pressures, compassionate realism ultimately forced the People’s Republic of China and the United States together under the direction of United States leadership.
Given the years of voluminous studies of Sino-American rapprochement and its long term policy implications, there is surprisingly little theoretical analysis as to why Nixon and Kissinger chose to go to China; most research assumes a line of Kissinger’s standard of hard realism. No study to date has expanded on the role of compassionate realism within Nixon’s foreign policy. This thesis aims to make an original contribution to the existing understanding of Sino-American détente and the factors that led to rapprochement.
This study surveys relations between the United States and People’s Republic of China in the framework of the Sino-American Cold War, which began in 1953 and ended in 1972, when President Nixon visited China. This time tends to be characterized by the lack of military confrontation and the struggle of containment between China and the United States. This paper is further limited to Nixon’s presidency during the Sino-American Cold War until his visit to Beijing.