RE-EXAMINING THE COLD WAR: U.S.-China Diplomacy, 1954-1973

By Bernstein, Lewis | Military Review, January/February 2005 | Go to article overview

RE-EXAMINING THE COLD WAR: U.S.-China Diplomacy, 1954-1973


Bernstein, Lewis, Military Review


RE-EXAMINING THE COLD WAR; ILS.-China Diplomacy, 1954-1973, Robert S. Ross and Jiang Changbin, eds., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002, 504 pages, $25.00.

Re-Examining the Cold War is a collection of essays resulting from a partnership between the China Foreign Affairs College and the John King Fairbank Center for East Asian Research at Harvard University. Editors Robert S. Ross and Jiang Changbin examine the ways national interests, security concerns, economic interests, and domestic politics affected Cold War SinoAmerican relations and have fashioned a mosaic that brings stillrelevant patterns of confrontation, communication, and negotiation into sharp relief.

The chronologically arranged book begins with William C. Kirby's succinct description of the origins of Sino-American conflict. He limns the events in post-World War II Asia and concludes that the opposing alliances were the basis for Sino-American relations in the 1950s. Zhang Baijia reviews the Chinese-American confrontation in Asia and concludes that mutual fear governed bilateral relations during the period.

In the next three chapters, Ronald W. Preussen, Robert Accinelli, and Gong Li discuss the relatively unknown Taiwan Straits crises during the 1950s. All concentrate on crisis management and diplomatic maneuvering, their conclusions dovetailing with each other. Gong writes that Mao Tse-tung's goal was to "puncture the arrogance of the KMT [Kuomintang] army" while avoiding a war with the United States. Preussen and Accinelli show that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and U.S. secretary of State John Foster Dulles retained tactical flexibility by avoiding extreme measures that would result in a war.

Authors Zhang Baijia, Jia Qingguo, and Steven M. Goldstein focus on the ambassadorial-level talks between China and the United States-a neglected topic because no significant agreements were reached. However, the authors believe the meetings were noteworthy because they offered the two powers a communication channel that helped moderate disagreements and indirectly laid the groundwork for U.S. President Richard M. Nixon's opening to China. Essayist Robert D. Schulzinger reassesses China's policy during U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. He states that a different view of China, in which it was not a relentlessly expansionist power, undermined one of the premises for American involvement in Vietnam.

Rosemary Foot and Li Jie analyze the role domestic politics played in forming foreign policy in both countries. Foot asserts the reexamination of American life and society that occurred in the 1960s forced a review of China policy. Li recounts a similar process taking place in China.

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