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US Positions vis-à-vis China during the Yihetuan Uprising
The United States, as well as the other powers, were surprised by the course of the Yihetuan Uprising. When in early 1900 an anti-foreigner rebellion engulfed Northern China, the Department of State was compelled to act. The main concern was to rescue Americans beleaguered in the Celestial Empire. Another priority was the avoidance of war with Peking. That is why American troops participated only in the allied expeditionary forces, but refrained from engaging in hostilities with the Chinese army. Although the Manchu government formally declared war on foreign powers, the United States did not consider itself to be a belligerent and tried to convince other countries to embrace this view.
Washington was also determined to thwart the designs of some powers to exploit the prevailing turmoil as a pretext for making further encroachments on China. Since this could pose a serious threat the Open Door Policy, which had just been adopted by the American diplomacy, the United States decided to make another enunciation, emphasizing the necessity of preserving China’s territorial integrity. In general the Department of State’s actions during the height of the Yihetuan Uprising were rather successful. Compatriots were liberated, an all-out war was averted and looting prevented.
Soon after the allied expedition reached Peking, the Yihetuan Uprising was suppressed. In the meantime, negotiations to settle the problems which had been caused by this upheaval began. During the negotiations, the United States tried to limit the centrifugal tendencies and play a moderating role, blocking the most vindictive demands and insisting on watering down others. They also advocated the reforms which would improve conditions for foreign trade with China.
This time American diplomacy was definitely less successful, because the majority of powers favored harsh, sometimes even exorbitant demands and remained uninterested in commercial issues. The relative failure was not only caused by a general willingness of the powers to severely punish China and the fact that the United States did not have any formal ally who would support its propositions, but also by Washington vacillations between strictly adhering to the Open Door Policy and departing from it.
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How Did We Lose China?
The American Argument about the 1944–1950 Policy vis-à-vis China
This article deals with the debate on US involvement in China during the end of World War II and the civil war. The main problem of the controversy over US foreign policy toward China was: what position should American policymakers take on the civil war between the Chinese National Party (Guomindang) and the Chinese Communist Party. Mao Zedong’s 1949 seizing of power in China and the collapse of Chiang Kai-Shek’s regime in mainland China was used by the republican opposition as a pretext to attack the foreign policy of president Truman’s administration.
Among the main actors taking part in the American internal dispute over foreign policy toward China were: the so called China Lobby (opting for full-range US involvement in the civil war siding with the Guomindang), the military establishment (stressing China’s military significance for US security in East Asia), foreign service members (working in the US embassy in Chongqing) and last but not least members of Truman’s cabinet (who must have been taking electoral requirements into consideration).
American involvement was first of all a political one. Since 1944 US representatives in China (ambassador P. Hurley, special presidential envoy gen. G. Marshall) were engaging in fruitless mediatory missions to reconcile the warring parties and to establish a coalition government. Concurrently, Washington was backing Chiang’s regime by granting him loans and military equipment. Due to internal circumstances and public reluctance to have the US involved in a full-scale military assistance for Guomindang, policymakers decided not to implement the doctrine of containment in China. As the failure of Chiang’s regime became more and more evident, Washington made one last effort to secure its interest in China by approaching Chinese communist representatives in the spring of 1949. Ambassador J.L. Stuart’s efforts proved futile because Mao drove a hard bargain and because of the activity of anti-communist hardliners in the USA. Opinions expressed by experts (such as George Kennan) in the Department of State stating that communist rule in China did not automatically mean subservience to the Soviet Union were ignored by policymakers.
Joseph MacCarthy’s accusations of American diplomats’ who worked in China in the mid of 1940’s of being disloyal led to a stiffening anti-communist foreign policy and ultimately prevented the US government from granting recognition to the People’s Republic of China.