China Table of Contents
Since 1949 China's overriding concerns have been security and economic development. In working toward both of these goals, China has focused on its relations with the superpowers. Because most of the developed world, with the exception of Japan, is fairly distant from China and is aligned formally or informally with either the Soviet Union or the United States, China's relations with the developed world often have been subordinate to its relations with the superpowers. In the 1950s China considered most West European countries "lackeys" of United States imperialism, while it sided with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. As China's relations with the superpowers have changed, so have its ties with other developed nations. An example of this is that more than a dozen developed countries, including the Federal Republic of Germany, Spain, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, all established diplomatic relations with China after the Sino-American rapprochement in the early 1970s.
The developed nations have been important to China for several reasons: as sources of diplomatic recognition, as alternative sources of trade and technology to reduce reliance on one or the other superpower, and as part of China's security calculations. In the 1980s China stressed the role of developed nations in ensuring peace in an increasingly multipolar world. Australia and Canada were important trading partners for China, but Beijing's most important relations with the developed world were with Japan and Europe.
Data as of July 1987