This study is an examination of the reasons for the failure of American policy toward China between the time of Pearl Harbor and the collapse of General Douglas MacArthur's "home-by-Christmas" offensive in the Korean War. The measure of this failure is not the loss of China. No one can lose something which he has never possessed. More than any other single person, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek was responsible for what happened in China; for responsibility goes with power, and Chiang was the most powerful figure in China. Yet when gauged by her objectives, intentions, and interests, America's policy did fail. In the war against Japan, a Nationalist China was an ally of the United States; in the battle of North Korea, a Communist China emerged as a strong power by defeating American armies.
One way to begin our analysis is to view foreign policy as an integrated structure of assumptions, objectives, and means. This structure can then be examined from two points of view: the interrelations between its various elements and the degree of correspondence between its assumptions and reality. A foreign policy may fail to work out as expected because it contains inconsistent elements. A consistent foreign policy may still fail to promote a nation's interests, if the rational order between political ends and military means is reversed or if its basic assumptions are not in accord with reality or emerging trends. The China policy of the United States provides us with many instructive examples of the reasons why a policy fails.
Obviously, the various elements within a pattern of foreign policy are not of equal importance. Underlying our analysis is a belief that one element stands out as the decisive factor in determining the success and failure of the China policy of the United States from the time of the dispatch of the Open Door notes to the eve of the North Korean aggression. This is the imbalance between end and means. From one point of view, this imbalance takes the form of an unwillingness and, at times, an inability to use military power purposefully to achieve political objectives. From another point of view, it appears as an unwillingness and inability to abandon unattainable goals in order to avoid entanglement in a hopeless cause. The first aspect of the imbalance emerges most clearly in American policy up to 1947, while the second aspect looms large from 1947 to June, 1950. Yet both unwillingness to use military power and espousal of idealistic objectives were integral parts of America's China policy. Together, they . . .