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This article challenges three popular impressions. First, the general belief, especially prevalent in Taiwan, that a “special relationship” existed between United States and China that also explains Washington’s support for “Free China” after the Chinese civil war. Second, the argument made by Western scholars that Chiang Kai-shek manipulated U.S. China policy in the 1950s so that Washington supported Taiwan and adopted a hostile policy toward China. Third, the assumption that U.S. policymaking process was entirely rational and hence that a grand Cold War strategy encompassed Far Eastern/China policy. This article argues that external factors such as public opinion, moral principles, international agreements, allies’ positions, and even policy announcements all had very little effects on the essence of U.S. policy toward Taiwan in the 1950s.
Instead, the perceptions of U.S. policymakers, such as their loathing and suspicion of the Nationalists and Chiang; their concern for U.S. prestige; and their unwillingness to pay a sufficient price to pursue other objectives in Asia greatly conditioned U.S. policy towards Taiwan. This study discerns three clear patterns to U.S. policymaking. First, Washington tried to retain flexibility at all costs—thus its Taiwan/China policy often appeared to be indecisive. Second, Washington was time and again forced to take actions in response to crises, thus leaving the initiative to its enemies (in Taiwan’s case, Communist China). And third, policymakers were too inclined to wishful thinking and rarely took the positions of its allies or enemies into consideration, which greatly hampered the practicability of their policy design.
By using many newly available documents and memoirs, this article analyzes a little known but important episode in Sino-Northern Korean relations. By the time the United Nations troops crossed the 38th parallel, the North Korean leader had repeatedly refused direct military assistance from the PRC government. The development of the war demanded unifying the commanding authority of the Sino-Northern Korean army. However, Kim Il-Sung hoped to reserve the commanding authority of the Korean People’s army to himself. It was only after the intervention by the Soviet Unionthat North Korea finally delegated military command. When the Sino-North Korean troops occupied Seoul, Peng Dehuai asked for a rest and reorganization of the troops for two or three months. However, the North-Korean leader insisted on moving southward. This caused a serious dispute that was solved only after Stalin supported the Chinese position. As the war dragged on, the conflicts between China and North Korea over the railroad administration system also began to intensify. The Chinese authorities proposed to put the railroad under military control and to give military supplies priority. But the North Korean authorities believed that the management of railroad belonged to the state and should be administrated by North Korea, which was inclined to emphasize the transportation of economic and construction goods over military supplies. Again, Stalin solved the dispute: the headquarters of the Sino-North Korean union troops implemented the military control of railroad. In the second half of 1952 the armistice negotiations of Panmunjom came to a deadlock. North Korea intended to accept the armistice conditions proposed by America. Due to political considerations, Beijing and Moscow insisted on a harder position. Again, Kim Il-Sung had to accept the position of China and Soviet Union. The conflicts between Chinese and North Korean leaders and their final resolutions thus reflected an inner structural imbalance within the relations of socialist countries—i.e., the conflict between the concepts of national sovereignty and socialist leadership, which ultimately determined the inherent instability within the socialist allies.
Taking into account internal and external factors after the end of Sino-Japanese war, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gradually formed the policy of leaning toward the Soviet Union. However, before and after 1949, except for a small quantity of pro-Soviet intellectuals, many intellectuals were anti-Soviet due to their educational backgrounds or to the troubled nature of Sino-Russian relations in the past. As for the majority of the Chinese population—the peasantry—they knew almost nothing about the Soviet Union. How to change popular mentality became an urgent task after the founding of the People’s Republic. In the fall of 1949 a key organization was founded specifically for the purpose of propagating learning from the Soviet Union, the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association (SSFA). Through various activities organized by SSFA, the CCP hoped to inculcate favorable views of the Soviet Union in the Chinese populace.
A key feature of CCP propaganda was its attempt to impose a single unified ideology. While the CCP wanted all Chinese to embrace pro-Soviet sentiment, it had to battle against both ignorance and anti-Soviet sentiment. Ironically, after the Chinese people eventually developed favorable views of the Soviet Union, top CCP leaders began to think of competing with the Soviet Union. Therefore, the CCP constantly had to intensify its propaganda on the one hand, while the party’s propaganda ran against the actual views of the people on the other.
To be sure, the intellectuals’ responses to the official pro-Soviet propaganda are relatively small in terms of percentage to the entire Chinese population. However, judging from the variety of their responses, it is clear that even in a communist society, people were not completely atomized and fully under the control of the party-state, as the totalitarian model claims. In fact, people were not like chess pieces always passively moved by the party and lacking their own opinions. Examples cited in this article indicate the limits of the theory of totalitarianism for interpreting the relations between state and society.
With the Communists’ victory in 1949, publication houses strove to achieve Chairman Mao Zedong’s ideal of “high tide of cultural attainment.” To promote the Revolution, the New China Book Company (NCBC) aggressively expanded its operations under the practice of “official publishing,” which resulted in three years of record sales between 1950-52. How was the NCBC able to sell so many books and magazines, given the weak economy, an impoverished and poorly-educated populace, and the inferior quality of books and sales methods? In examining recently released archives, one discovers that, along with “official publishing,” a policy of “forced distribution” was also carried out at the time. This article clarifies the relationship between these two practices, and also looks into the roles and responsibilities of such high officials as Hu Yuzhi, who led the General Bureau of Publication. For deep-rooted historical and institutional reasons, the practice of “forced distribution” was not isolated to 1950-52 and persisted even after being banned in 1953.
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