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Trust and Distrust in Sino-American Relations: Challenge and Opportunity By Steve Cha ...

Chapter 1:  Introduction
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Trust and Distrust in Sino-American Relations:

Chapter 1


In 2012, two eminent scholars published a much-cited monograph commenting on the “strategic distrust” that has characterized Sino-American relations.1 Kenneth Lieberthal and Jisi Wang are not only well-known scholars but they have also played influential roles in official circles in Washington and Beijing respectively. In publishing their work reflecting their respective government’s concerns about and perceptions of the other country’s policies, these authors expressed the belief that a more sound understanding of the other side could contribute to better management of their mutual distrust. They “believe that each side can better manage the issue of strategic distrust if its leaders have confidence that they have an accurate picture of the way the other leadership thinks on the issues that produce this distrust.”2

A distrust of another state, however, does not necessarily have to reflect misunderstanding or misperception. It can instead be based on sound reasons and legitimate concerns about the other side’s motivations. Logically, a more accurate understanding of the other leadership’s thinking does not rule out the possibility of increasing one’s skepticisms about its intentions and thus deepen one’s distrust. A more accurate understanding of the other side can even be used to more effectively