Harry S. Truman: The Man from Independence

By William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

is to abandon one of our oldest friends. It was Chiang Kai-shek, who constantly reminded the public, who had been carrying the torch since 1931, the Manchurian incident, and in 1937 with the Marco Polo Bridge incident and it was he who was stemming the tide of Japanese militarism all this time alone and for us to throw him over and recognize the Communists, which had a long history of being hated in the United States, would have been unthinkable. 106

On the other hand, Edwin O. Reischauer, America's former Ambassador to Japan contends:

Chiang failed to win the loyalty of the Chinese people. Foreign Service officers correctly predicted the triumph of the Chinese Communists, but for this they were persecuted by Hurley and McCarthyites. Just when Truman and Acheson were inclining toward Mao, the Korean War broke out and destroyed any chance of a rapprochement with Mao . . . 107

Ultimately one must ask whether or not the lack of recognition by the United States really hurt our enemies and whether the results were in the national interest. Generally, historical precedent has proven that the lack of U.S. recognition has not affected the survival of other states. Despite America's snub of the P.R.C., she survived and in 1979 the U.S. established relations. However, both Truman and Acheson were also political animals as well as statesmen. Often facing a Republican Congressional majority, they decided rather than jeopardize their domestic programs and other foreign programs, (i.e., the E.R.P.), they waited to recognize China until they could muster Congressional support. They failed and rather than foreign policy being made by the executive in traditional fashion, it was literally held hostage by public opinion and Congressional determination. Perhaps it is as John Purifoy says: "One must look for the explanation of the calamitous policy of 1950, not with the context of a calm analysis of national interest, but within the context of unbridled hysteria of the time."108 Both men realized that there should be a distinction made between communism in Russia and China. Truman and Acheson understood the futility of nonrecognition since, in Jeffersonian terms, the P.R.C. had the support of the people of China. This American tradition, as well as executive control of it, had been usurped by public Congressional pressure against the P.R.C. The resulting atmosphere and events made it impossible for them, for political reasons, to recognize the new Communist regime in China. In an era that produced Joseph McCarthy and the Cold War, Truman and Acheson would have been very lucky to have accomplished formal recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1949 or 1950.


NOTES
1.
Foster Rhea Dulles, American Foreign Policy Toward Communist China, 1949- 1968 ( New York, 1972), pp. 48-49.

-102-

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