Date of Award/Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. in International Studies


International Studies


Over the past century, American perception of the People's Republic of China has been characterized as cyclical, alternating between longer periods of negativity, characterized by hostility and disillusionment, and shorter positive periods of admiration, infatuation, and benevolence. The two recent peaks in Americans' perception of China have been in 1979, when the Carter administration officially recognized China, and ten years later, when President Bush visited the country in 1989. American China-scholars generally agree that the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident was the watershed that fundamentally changed U.S. perceptions of China. Since the incident, the percentage of Americans who perceive China in a positive light has yet to return to its pre-Tiananmen level. This study is a statistical analysis of the relationship between American perceptions of China and a number of specific social characteristics. The results indicate that, although reported perception of China has fluctuated greatly over the past century, little has changed in the way that most Americans fundamentally view China. That is, most American's retain a "missionary view" of China as a country in need of saving: originally from barbarism, and now from communism.

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