US-Soviet Top-Down Trust-Building: Lessons for the US-China Relationship
Asia Dialogue on China-US Relations

US-Soviet Top-Down Trust-Building: Lessons for the US-China Relationship

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The China-US relationship is at a crucial inflection point, and there is an urgent need for senior leaders to set out a clear route ahead to avoid a breakdown of relations. One way to go forward is to look back.

In this first report from APLN’s China-US-Asia Dialogue series, Professor Yu Tiejun analyses the process and lessons of three Cold War cases of top-down trust-building between the United States and the Soviet Union and discusses how they may be viewed from a Chinese perspective. He argues that the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 provides lessons for crisis management; the negotiations of the Incidents at Sea Agreement (INCSEA) in 1972 can provide models for security cooperation and confidence-building; and the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) negotiations in 1987 can give valuable insights into arms control negotiations.

About the Author

Yu Tiejun (于铁军) is a Professor at the School of International Studies and Vice President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University. Previously, he served as a visiting fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University in 2005, and also as a visiting scholar at the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University in 2005-06. He received a Ph.D., M.A. and B.A. from the School of International Studies at Peking University.

His research interests include International Security, China-US-Japan Relations, and China’s National Defense Policy. He has co-edited The Sino- Japanese Security and Defense Exchange: Past, Present, and Prospect (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2012). He is also the Chinese translator of Myths of Empire by Jack Snyder (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2007) and Discord and Collaboration: Essays on International Politics by Arnold Wolfers (Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2006), among other works.

Disclaimer: The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network or any of its members or funders. The APLN’s website is a source of authoritative research and analysis and serves as a platform for debate and discussion among our senior network members, experts and practitioners, as well as the next generation of policymakers, analysts and advocates. Comments and responses can be emailed to

This publication was made possible by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Image: (Left) President John F. Kennedy and Chairman Nikita Khrushchev during their meeting in Vienna, Austria, 1961; US National Archives and Records Administration. (Right) Chinese President Xi Jinping shakes hands with then-US Vice President Joe Biden inside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, 4 December 2013; REUTERS/Lintao Zhang.