In this paper, Alan Romberg agrees that there are problems in the U.S.-PRC relationship. He disagrees, however, with suggestions that the United States and the PRC should negotiate a “fourth communiqué” to update the 1972, 1978, and 1982 joint communiqués that set the terms of Sino-American relations. He argues that a fourth communiqué is impractical for both countries and unnecessary.
This paper argues that were the United States and China to spell out their positions in a new communiqué, it would only underscore the differences between the two countries on some of the most fundamental questions rather than bringing out a substantial coincidence of views. For example, with regard to the core issue of Taiwan, the US “one China” policy has major differences from the PRC’s “one China” principle. Clearly it would help give positive impetus to Sino-American relations if the United States acknowledged not only China’s importance but its right to pursue legitimate national interests, including, for example, a strategic national deterrent. But that is not something this administration, and perhaps any American administration, will or can do. What we can do, and need to do, Romberg argues, is expand cooperation in the areas of terrorism, narcotics, AIDS, and the environment, as well as in strategically sensitive areas such as Korea and South Asia. But the U.S. and China do not need a new communiqué to do that. Rather, they should do it because it is in their national interest to do so.