An understanding of the belief systems of foreign policy elites is necessary for any meaningful application of both the rational actor and the bureaucratic politics approaches of analysis. This argument is pursued through a case study of the policy debate between Chinese leaders during 1964-66. The analysis identifies the cognitive-analytic bases for the policy disagree ments between Peking officials, thus indicating which issues seem particularly likely to generate bureaucratic politics disputes. At the same time, this effort delineates the key logics and rationales in the Peking government's policy calculation. Such clarification is necessary if rational actor models are to yield accurate and powerful predictions of govern mental policy responses.