Trading with the Enemy: The COCOM and the U.S. Computer Export to China, 1977-1980

Conference: The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2022)
Title: Trading with the Enemy: The COCOM and the U.S. Computer Export to China, 1977-1980
Stream: Comparative Studies of Asian and East Asian Studies
Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation (Live-Stream)
Bingyi Gong, Osaka University, Japan


This research focuses on the Carter Administration’s technology exports to Communist China. Drawing on the declassified government documents in English, Japanese, and Chinese, it explores how the negotiations among the United States and its allies influenced the U.S.-China technology trade in the late 1970s. It studies the case of the U.S. exports of high-performance computers, which posed threats to American national security as China might apply the imported computers to military construction. This research argues that the members of the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, such as France, Britain, and Japan, adopted cooperative and supportive postures on the U.S. proposal of offering favorable treatment to China in exporting dual-use and military technologies and equipment, which eliminated the barriers for the U.S.-China trade in the late 1970s. This research reexamines the history of the U.S.-China rapprochement through an economic perspective, which has not been fully studied in the literature on U.S.-China relations. It also sheds new light on the transformation of the Cold War by disclosing the disharmony within the Western Bloc in terms of the Western countries' relations with Communist China.

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