By Raymond Cohen
This Article Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: "U.S.-China Miscommunication," Selection from: Raymond Cohen, Negotiating Across Cultures: Communication Obstacles in International Diplomacy, (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1991), pp. 126
Cultural differences can sometimes mean that signals are missed, which can cause delays and missed opportunities. For example, many such signals were missed by American diplomats in the early days of U.S.-China reconciliation. Cohen points out that "U.S. observers entirely missed the most significant Chinese signal of reconciliation of all in the 1970-71 period." In October 1970 Chairman Mao invited an American author and journalist to stand next to him atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace. While this gesture seems obscure to American diplomats, and hence they did not respond to it, the symbolism was clear to the Chinese, who expected a significant response.