Recasting the Imperial Far East: Britain and America in China, 1945-1950

Recasting the Imperial Far East: Britain and America in China, 1945-1950

Recasting the Imperial Far East: Britain and America in China, 1945-1950

Recasting the Imperial Far East: Britain and America in China, 1945-1950

Synopsis

This study sheds new light on the Anglo-American rivalry in China in the period between the defeat of Japan and the triumph of the Chinese Communists. Disputing the dominant historiographical perspectives of both Anglo-American and East Asian studies, the author rejects the Cold War approach of Soviet-American rivalry as the focus of analysis and concentrates instead on the relatively neglected dimension of Anglo-American relations, detailing the significant tensions between a rising imperial power (the United States) and a declining imperial power (the UK) over China policy issues. What results is a new and timely perception of the behavior of American power in the Far East.

Excerpt

In late October 1950, as the tension in Korea was mounting, Sir Maberly Esler Dening arrived at Hongkong. Whitehall had announced that, as the British Foreign Office's top man on the Far East, Dening would make a routine tour of several Asian countries. Communist China was not on the list, not only because there were not yet diplomatic relations between the two nations, but also because Dening, widely known at the time as ambassador-designate to China, was not the appropriate person to enter China as a special envoy at that time. However, Dening's main mission was to go to Peking; not even his private secretary was aware of it.

Dening was an expert on Japan and a key architect of British Far Eastern policy during and after the war. After ending a successful tour as Lord Louis Mountbatten's political adviser at the Southeast Asian Command, Dening returned to London after the war and soon became assistant undersecretary for Far East affairs. Later, he also served chairman of the Foreign Office's Far Eastern Committee. Dening's assignment to Peking at this juncture was a desperate move. The Labour government was on the brink of a breakthrough in negotiations with the Chinese Communists when the Korean conflict erupted. Washington's strategy of forcing the allies to support its China policy by linking the Korean conflict immediately to Peking was leading the United States precipitously toward an armed showdown with Commu-

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