China and the United States established diplomatic relations in 1979. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as US president in 1981, the year that the expanding China-US relationship was threatened by US arms sales to Taiwan.
On Jan 4, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping emphasized the importance of the Taiwan question, saying it was the key to developing China's relationship with the United States, Japan and other countries.
Reports from the West
President Reagan had his first long talk with a real live Chinese Communist last week. Two, to be exact: China's ambassador to Washington and the American-educated head of China's America department. No conversion resulted on either side. But the president had already been persuaded that reaffirming "normal" relations with China is a strategic priority and incompatible with his campaign pledge to put an official label on ties with Taiwan.
. . . China is not now pushing for any positive rewards from an administration it still regards with suspicion. Its minimum demand of the United States is that the relationship in which it has invested so heavily be prevented from regressing . . . Diminishing returns on China's American links could be exploited by opposing factions to devalue Mr Deng Xiaoping's entire opening to the West.
"America and China: Big must be best"
March 28, 1981
Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said here today that China's leaders believe Washington had agreed implicitly in 1978 to slash or stop weapons sales to Taiwan after Sino-American relations were normalized in 1979.
. . . US officials say both sides had agreed in 1978 to shelve the complex Taiwan issue and go ahead with establishment of diplomatic relations in the hope that friendlier bilateral relations would facilitate a later solution.
"China said to believe US reneged on deal"
The Washington Post
Aug 18, 1981
Despite the optimistic figures, (Commerce Secretary Malcolm) Baldrige said, some American firms have lost business because of China's recent economic readjustment policies . . . He also indicated U.S. businesses needed more information about the Chinese economy and that nation's economic organizations.
"U.S.-China trade commission proposed"
The Associated Press
June 4, 1981
Wang Yusheng, a Beijing-based researcher and former Chinese diplomat, said China-US relations have experienced rain and sunshine over the years. "The relations differ as time changes, but there is something of each other between the two nations.
"Compared with 30 years ago, China-US relations have made it to a level where both sides treat each other equally. Only when the US took China as a partner in cooperation could it make a friend and avoid making an enemy."