Describe and explain the different stages of American policy toward China during the Cold War

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The first years of the Cold War are notoriously difficult to pinpoint since although the United States was against communism in the earlier years of the 20th century, it was allied with the Soviet Union during World War II in defeat of Germany and Japan. Therefore it is most common to claim the beginning of the Cold War as occurring in those years after World War II when the United States explored its options in terms of dealing with all communist countries (Wala 168). With specific reference to China, the United States spent the early 1950’s deciding how to proceed with a Chinese nuclear disarmament plan. The following decade was dedicated to the war between North and South Vietnam, a conflict that gave further rise to unfriendly relations between the United States and China.
While China supported the communist regime of North Vietnam, the United States supported South Vietnam in its efforts to establish a democracy. The Vietnam War was in essence a mirror of the non-violent conflict raging between the United States and China, and both countries saw the war as a way to manifest its own beliefs and prove one way or the other that theirs was the superior political strategy. In fighting for South Vietnam and providing troops with arms, the United States hoped to instill democracy in the nation and actually win over communism. The Chinese government felt exactly the same way about its involvement with North Korea and the installation of a communist government. The Vietnam War marked the pinnacle of the hostilities between the United States and China during the first stage of the Cold War period (Wiest 19-23).
China and the Soviet Union were close allies immediately following the Second World War, and while the USSR took a central role in the spread of communist ideals on the international level, China’s responsibility was to spearhead and Eastern revolution whereby all of Asia was hoped to be made communist (Ross 71-80). The influence of China was difficult to ignore both for the USSR and the United States simply because it was such a massive, populated country. When China became allied with the USSR, the United States government was confronted with the realization that it might be overwhelmed by the combined political and military influence of these communist states, and so when the opportunity came to ally itself with China, America took it.
In the early 1970’s US President Nixon took advantage of the wish of the Chinese government, headed by Mao Zedong, to establish more friendly relations with the United States. Despite the communist status of China, the major irritation to the democratic American government was the continued success of the communist Soviet Union and therefore Nixon and Zedong understood how an alliance could benefit them (Harding 391-395). Both America and China were experiencing issues with the Soviet government at this time, and although China and the USSR were both communist countries, the former had decided to change the focus of its political and economic appeal. This rapprochement is considered one of the contributing factors in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
In 1979 China and the US announced a full return to their diplomatic relations, and on this milestone US President