Miller Center

Elizabeth Ingleson

History, University of Sydney

The End of Isolation: Rapprochement, Globalisation, and American Trade with China, 1972-1979

Ingleson photo

Elizabeth Ingleson is a history PhD student at both the University of Sydney and the United States Studies Centre. Elizabeth’s research examines the origins of the contemporary trade relationship between the United States and China. Beginning in 1972—when President Nixon and Chairman Mao ended over twenty years of economic and political isolation—she explores how the new trade relationship was re-established and became part of the politics of rapprochement.

She explores businesspeople as crucial agents of diplomacy, looking at the American trade culture that developed, and applying cultural and business history methodologies to the diplomatic history of rapprochement. Additionally, she explores the American political ideas about trade with China, which assumed burgeoning trade ties would assist the rapprochement process by creating mutual interests from which political negotiations could develop. This reflected the 1970s context in which the notion of interdependence became a key idea in American foreign policy: an idea that was in many ways a precursor to that of globalization.

Her research raises questions about the relationships between politics, economics, culture and business in America. She argues that even though America’s trade with China in the 1970s was important politically, by the end of the decade rather than shaping the politics of rapprochement the reverse became true. The trade between the two countries was instead substantially influenced by political considerations—none more so than the political desire for interdependence.

The historical experience of the 1970s shows the nuances in the contemporary correlation made between trade and peace in Sino-American relations. Rather than a linear dynamic, politics deeply influenced trade, highlighting the key role that deliberate cultivation and political willpower played in supporting and encouraging what is today the world’s most important trade relationship.

Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Thomas Borstelmann, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Selected Recent Publications

"History lessons from China for future relations with Cuba." The Conversation, February 11, 2015.

← Return to Fellowship home