Continued from post #2940
Divine the Future: China’s George Washington
China again supported the West during World War II, fighting alongside American and British forces in Burma trying to secure the Stilwell Road—a major logistical route to Kunming in Yunnan province. During the War, Chinese forces pinned down approximately 600,000 Japanese troops, preventing them from being deployed to other combat areas in Asia. This war was won, however, in the midst of an internecine Chinese conflict between the Communists and the Nationalists (Kuomintang, KMT).
One person who bore witness to the calamities of the two World Wars—and whose political philosophy was deeply shaped by them—was Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In his youth, Mao had been captivated with George Washington as well as his revolutionary zeal. And Mao believed that if Washington could defeat the British and begin building-up America, so too, could China free itself from its colonial yokes and develop to become a powerful nation, explained
Like other Chinese, Mao had found inspiration in Wilson and placed his hopes on the United States, Pomfret writes. But these hopes were never to be realized. Not only were China’s hopes dashed after Versailles, but the U.S. then threw their support behind General Chiang Kai-Shek and his Kuomintang nationalists after World War II. Mao would later declare that “We made mistakes during the previous period….it was the first time for us to deal with the U.S. imperialists. We didn’t have much experience. As a result we were taken in. With this experience, we won’t be cheated again,” according to He.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Sino-U.S. rapprochement suffered numerous setbacks, not the least of which was the Korean War (1950-53), Quemoy/Matsu crises (1954-55 and 1958), and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’ reiteration of three standing principles: that the U.S. would not recognize the PRC, would not admit China to the UN, and would not lift its trade embargo.
Commercial Intercourse: Other Means to Divine the Future
Since its recognition by the UN in 1971, its opening-up in 1979, and its membership in the World Trade Organization in 2001, U.S-China bilateral relations, especially in trade and investment, have lifted millions from abject poverty. But with such a significant deficit in trust currently, this relationship has not only remained strained, but has become increasingly complex as well.
Sino-U.S. relations have certainly had their moments during President Barack Obama’s administration, but for the most part it has been one of steadily navigating the contours of this complex relationship. One might have called this relationship a controlled and predictable tension.
In President Donald Trump’s administration, however, it is not entirely clear that American diplomacy at Foggy Bottom has a significant cadre of old China hands with the historical and surgical skills to balance the “America First” policy with the necessary negotiation required to deal with China. Indeed, one might ask if the State Department currently even has a
Mindful of Destiny: Getting It Right With Might
If there is any doubt as to the impact the May Fourth Movement, as well as its part in the overall Century of Humiliation, the celebration of the ninety-fifth anniversary of the Movement in 2014 should put that to rest. Speaking at Peking University, President Xi Jinping
American policymakers need to recognize that it can no longer take a paternalistic and exploitive approach to China as it has throughout history. They also need to recognize the implicit opportunity cost in national security decision-making. This was best put by President Trump’s Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who had
Nonetheless, when policymakers decide to deal with China, they should remember that Mao’s experience cast a long shadow over China’s history. His admiration for America in his youth as well as his later hopes for U.S.-China rapprochement was later negated by his perception of humiliation, invasion, and partitioning by foreign powers, resulting in his deep distrust of America. Whether anyone accepts it or not, this historical context rooted in the French Château will be the frame of reference, however subtle, for China when dealing with the West.