China Crisis was inspired by similar sources but injected their pop songs with occasional political commentary and bluesy, reggae rhythms. Mostly a duo of vocalist/keyboard player Gary Daly and guitarist Eddie Lundon, the group formed in 1979 near Liverpool. The first China Crisis single, "African and White," didn't appear until 1982, but it was quickly picked up by Virgin and made the British charts. Realizing they needed a proper band, Daly and Lundon recruited bassist Gazza Johnson and drummer Kevin Wilkinson, and recorded their debut album Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms. Another single, "Christian," hit number 12, followed by two singles from second album, "Working with Fire" and "Steel Possible Pop Songs, Vol. 2."
China Crisis spent 1984 and 1985 making their biggest chart run, beginning with their first Top Ten hit, "Wishful Thinking." Third album Flaunt the Imperfection was produced by the sympathetic Walter Becker (from Steely Dan), and resulted in the hit singles "Black Man Ray" and "King in a Catholic Style." A critical misstep followed in 1986, What Price Paradise?, though China Crisis worked with Becker once more on 1989's Diary of a Hollow Horse, which earned critical raves though not much commercial movement.