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Personal presidential style profoundly affects China policy, both in and outside the administration

Table of contents

List of Figures and Tables
Note on Chinese Transliteration and Sources
Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: The Evolution-Balance Model
Chapter Three: John F. Kennedy: “A Livelier Sense of Duty”
Chapter Four: Kennedy and China
Chapter Five: Lyndon B. Johnson: “Energy in the Executive”
Chapter Six: Johnson and China
Chapter Seven: Richard M. Nixon: “If Men Were Angels…”
Chapter Eight: Nixon and China
Chapter Nine: Conclusion


Presidents and their advisors consistently seek to improve the management of their foreign policy decision processes. This book analyzes the successes and failures of administrations from Kennedy to Nixon as they sought to strike a balance between the personal style of the president and the need for a strong interagency structure that could systematically evaluate policy options. The narrative focuses on US decision making on China and Taiwan during the crucial era when the United States was considering moving from a policy of isolating China to a policy of engagement, culminating in Nixon’s historic 1972 trip to China. William Waltman Newmann has created an evolution-balance model, tested with case studies focusing on China policy by Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, showing how the relationships between a president and his advisors change based on the weaknesses or pathologies of the president’s management style. The author’s research is based on declassified archival material from the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford presidential libraries.

William Waltman Newmann is Associate Professor of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“This work is an important scholarly contribution. Newmann carefully reconstructs, with meticulous attention to archival sources, case studies of decision making on China policy across the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon presidencies. Yet there is more: he explores how the evolving decision-making structures and processes of each of these presidents, and the presidential actors themselves, affected policy outcomes. His overall analysis of a dynamic, ‘evolutionary-balanced’ model for understanding presidential choice is intriguing and worthy of attention.”
—John P. Burke, John G. McCullough Professor of Political Science Emeritus, University of Vermont

- John P. Burke

“In Isolation and Engagement, William Newmann provides us with invaluable insight into the continual adaptation in the processes of presidential decision making, changes that are driven by the interaction of institutional political forces and idiosyncratic aspects of each president.”
—George C. Edwards III, University Distinguished Professor and Jordan Chair Emeritus, Texas A&M University, and Distinguished Fellow, University of Oxford

- George C. Edwards III

“Professor Newmann brings the reader inside the White House for an intimate portrait of America’s relationship with a key figure in world politics today. A fascinating and informative book.”

—Richard W. Waterman, University of Kentucky

- Richard Waterman

“. . . expands existing theoretical understanding of foreign policy decision making by developing and applying a new theoretical model—the evolution-balance model—to analyze the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Administrations.”

—Justin Vaughn, Author of Czars in the White House: The Rise of Policy Czars as Presidential Management Tools

- Justin Vaughn

Read: Article in War on the Rocks | December 19th 2022 | Link 
Read: Interview with the author from VCU News | September 14, 2022 | Link