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Although the contemporary U.S.-China relationship has grown out of Nixon and Kissinger’s visits to China in the 1970s, the foundations of Sino-American exchange are hundreds of years old. Since the establishment of the United States, missionaries, traders, scholars, and laborers have formed bridges between the two cultures, tracing familiar patterns of interaction that continue to play out today. As points of contact between the U.S. and China have proliferated over the last two centuries, the relationship has consistently been characterized by enormous promise and deep ambivalence.
John Pomfret, former reporter for The Washington Post, and a long-time resident of China, takes a new look at the long history of U.S.-China relations in his recent book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom: America and China, 1776 to the Present. He describes cycles of mutual understanding and collaboration, and bitter disappointment. As U.S.-China relations approach a new inflection point, Mr. Pomfret’s account of the history of the relationship provides illuminating perspectives on the present. On January 23, Mr. Pomfret will join the National Committee for a discussion of his book, his experiences living in China, and the future of the world’s most important bilateral relationship.
John Pomfret is an award-wining journalist and writer who has divided his time among the United States, China, Europe, Africa and the Middle East since the 1980s. He was one of the first Americans to study in China following the establishment of diplomatic relations, and was a correspondent in China for the Associated Press and The Washington Post for a total of seven years, first in the late 1980s and then again in the early 2000s. For the past five years, Mr. Pomfret has devoted himself to writing the first narrative history of America’s relationship with China from the 18th century to the present. He is also the author of the best-seller Chinese Lessons: Five Classmates and the Story of the New China (2007).
Mr. Pomfret now works as a consultant based in California. He frequently speaks about Chinese domestic politics and foreign policy, Chinese culture, marketing to the Chinese, and China’s environmental, demographic, and political challenges.