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Constructing the “National Interest” in U.S.–China Policy Making: How Foreign Policy Decision Groups Define and Signal Policy Choices

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Abstract

Complex foreign policy situations can produce competing definitions of the nature of a policy problem and thus different interpretations of which policy choices are in the “national interest.” In situations where political authority is dispersed, the challenge is to understand how and why different definitions of a political problem prevail over others. By focusing on the decision group's structure or level of openness, the nature of group interaction patterns, and the leader's level of involvement as policies are framed, this article examines how group decision processes shaped emerging policy definitions and policy signals in six case studies focusing on U.S. policy toward China.1

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