U.S. government strategy in China has long been based on a notion of good-faith barter: we concede X to you, and you help us with Y. But the record of relations between the two governments, ever since the early 1970s when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger re-established ties, shows that the barter strategy does not work. In June 1989, when people throughout the world were seething in anger about the Chinese regime’s massacre of protesters in Beijing, a main argument of the George H.W. Bush administration for sending envoys to meet with Beijing officials to reassure them of underlying “friendship,” was that the U.S. needed China’s help on issues like nuclear weapons in North Korea. Today, twenty years later, the North Korean nuclear problem is only worse, and we are still granting concessions to Beijing. That China appears to be able to help has had lasting benefits for China’s rulers. But so has the North Korean problem itself: if it were actually solved, China would lose some of its leverage over the US.