FRIENDS AND ENEMIES: The United States, China; and the Soviet Union, 1949-1972 by Gordon H. Chang

FRIENDS AND ENEMIES: The United States, China; and the Soviet Union, 1949-1972

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A definitive study of America's China policy from Truman to Nixon, based on declassified archival materials. To many readers, it will come as no surprise that the public statements regarding China of successive administrations over a period of 25 years differed widely from their working assumptions--and that the White House had ceased to believe in an ""omnipotent, hydra-headed communist horror"" long before the Sino-Soviet split of the early 1960's. Although Chang's central thesis is the divergence between Washington's actual strategy (to split China and the Soviet Union) and public pronouncements (to contain Communism in general), the real drama here is the flux and conflict of opinions among policymakers as they reacted to such momentous events as the Quemoy and Matsu crises and China's first nuclear explosion in 1964. Chang finds the tendency of influential leaders (and even Presidents) to change their minds to be even more remarkable than the demonstrated lack of ideology as a motivating force. The only consistent pattern that seems to emerge for the period is that the CIA was usually right on target with its assessments of the Chinese threat (warning in 1964 against further US involvement in Vietnam), whereas the Pentagon was likely to come forward with nuclear solutions to international conflicts. As a possible impediment to Sino-American relations in the 1950's, Chang makes much of the manifest racism of that decade's US policymakers who believed that, in comparison to Western leaders, the Chinese leadership was prone to disregard the lives of its citizens. Chang does not succeed, however, in discrediting that belief. A major addition to the literature on US foreign policy, likely to grip the attention of specialists and nonspecialists alike.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Stanford Univ. Press