Tom Zeiler

CAS Luncheon Series
Thursday, October 28 at 12:45pm


The People’s Republic of China has confronted the United States with diplomatic challenges ever since Washington recognized Beijing in the 1970s.  Basic to this engagement was (and is) economics, and particularly trade, which elicited American responses ranging from enmity, fear, and uncertainty to hope and cooperation.  Scholarship has not focused enough attention on the ideals and values that undergirded commercial relations as America’s principal approach to China.  By beginning with the Nixon opening to Beijing and ending with the Trump trade war (with touchstones in the Nixon, Bush I, Clinton, Obama, and Trump years), this presentation analyzes how a bilateral trading relationship that so transformed the world evolved from recognition to rivalry.  The answer to the wax and wane lies in the near-century long practice of American free-trade internationalism, guided by the principles of a “capitalist peace” paradigm that the United States long embraced as a pillar of its foreign policy.

Tom Zeiler is a Professor of History and Director of the Program in International Affairs at the University of Colorado Boulder.  He specializes in American history, focused on diplomacy,  economics, baseball, and World War II.  This talk is drawn from his forthcoming book, Capitalist Peace: A History of American Free Trade Internationalism, to be published by Oxford University Press.