Confronting Communism: U.S. and British Policies toward China

Confronting Communism: U.S. and British Policies toward China

Confronting Communism: U.S. and British Policies toward China

Confronting Communism: U.S. and British Policies toward China


In Confronting Communism, Victor S. Kaufman examines how the United States and Great Britain were able to overcome serious disagreements over their respective approaches toward communist China. Providing new insight into the workings of alliance politics, specifically the politics of the Anglo-American alliance, the book covers the period from 1948 -- a year before China became an area of contention between London and Washington -- through twenty years of division and to the gradual resolution of Anglo-American divergences over the People's Republic of China beginning in the mid-1960s. It ends in 1972, the year of President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the People's Republic, and also the year that Kaufman sees as bringing an end to the Anglo-American differences over China.

Kaufman traces the intricate and subtle pressures each ally faced in determining how to approach Beijing. The British aspect is of particular interest because Britain viewed itself as being within "three circles": Western Europe, the Atlantic alliance, and the Commonwealth. Important as well to British policy with respect to China was the concern about being dragged into another Korean-style conflict. The impact of decisions on these "circles", as well as the fear of another war, appeared time and again in Britain's decision making.

Kaufman shows how the alliance avoided division over China largely because Britain did the majority of the compromising. Reliant upon the United States militarily and financially, most U.K. officials made concessions to their Washington counterparts. Readers of Confronting Communism will come away with a better understanding of alliance politics. They will learn that suchdecision making, for both Great Britain and the United States, was a highly complex process, one which posed serious challenges to the Anglo-American alliance. Despite those challenges, accord between London and Washington prevaile


The years 1948 and 1949 provided a stark contrast in terms of U.S. and British policies toward China. During 1948, the United Kingdom looked to the United States to take the lead in dealing with China. Whitehall had what it regarded as more important concerns elsewhere, and as its interests were not directly affected by America's attitude, there was no reason to challenge Washington.

The situation was completely different in 1949. Early on, it became obvious that a Communist victory was highly likely; moreover, the Communists took a variety of actions that angered the United States. Accordingly, U.S. policy on China hardened on all fronts: militarily, economically, and politically. When Washington pressured Whitehall to follow suit, the British found themselves trapped between a China policy they favored, and the demands of the United States, upon which they relied heavily.

China in 1948 was a nation torn. For twenty years, two groups had been fighting for control of the country: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by Mao Zedong, and the Nationalist (or Kuomintang, KMT) government of Chiang Kai-shek. Although the kmt had held the upper hand throughout most of the civil war, after World War II, the Communists made significant gains. Nationalist corruption, Chiang's unwillingness to implement social and economic reforms, the Communists' effective economic program and propaganda machine in those areas of China they controlled—largely in the northeast—and Russian support for Mao and his lieutenants helped bolster the CCP's popularity, manpower, and military capabilities. By late 1948, the Communists had enough arms and men to break out of Manchuria; within a year, they had taken China and forced Chiang into exile on the island of Taiwan.

Both the United Kingdom and United States were aware of the situation in China, but the former was unwilling to involve itself in trying to resolve the crisis. That desire became evident in early 1945, when the head of the Foreign Office's Far Eastern Department, J. C. Sterndale-Bennett, argued that an . . .

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