The Asian Pacific rim grows daily in its economic and political importance to the United States. In 1990, the gross national products (GNPs) of East Asian and Western Pacific countries added up to more than $4.3 trillion; by the year 2000 it could be nearly $8 trillion, or 40 percent of global output. By that time, too, U.S. trade with the region will be about $600 billion, double what it was in 1990.
Alongside the region’s thriving free-market economies, however, are several of the world’s last communist regimes: North Korea, Vietnam, and, above all, the People’s Republic of China (the PRC-China). With regard to the PRC, the Bush administration’s national security strategy emphasized the importance of maintaining U.S. ties with China, even though China was thought to be moving towards major systemic change. Consultations and contact were seen as the best way to protect American interests, to prevent the PRC’s isolation, to ameliorate Beijing’s repression of China’s one billion people, and perhaps to influence the direction of change in China.