Why We Do Not Recognize: Red China

An expert on China, long respected on the West Coast as in Washington for his knowledge of the Orient, GEORGE E. TAYLOR is director of the Far Eastern and Russian Institute at the University of Washington. Before the war he taught in Chinese universities and saw the inception of the Communist movement in the northern provinces; during the war he served in the Office of War Information and with the State Department.

THE events of the last few years have shown the general soundness of our policy in Asia, especially toward Red China. In brief, we have provided sufficient military power in Asia to discourage overt Communist military adventures and thus permit the new nations to remain independent; we have backed this up with an intricate system of political and military alliances to indicate that our intentions are serious as well as honorable; we have given economic and technical assistance to both neutrals and allies in order to nourish their independence. As a result we have forced upon Red China and the whole Soviet bloc a change in their approach and a revision of their methods.

The problems which are bound to arise when great military establishments are set up on foreign soil, whether with or without consent of the owners, tend to obscure the unglamorous, nonnewsworthy fact that the attempts of the Communists to extend their influence by force were stopped by the rapid rearmament of the United States after the Korean War and the system of alliances which includes Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and France.

The relative stability of affairs in the Far East and the Pacific since the division of Vietnam is almost entirely due to the military strength of the United States. Military unpreparedness cost us North Korea and Vietnam, but failure to strengthen our military posture might well have cost us much more. We have not always handled well the problems that arise from the establishment of military barriers to Soviet and Chinese Communist expansion, especially the potentially dangerous issue of extraterritoriality, but these problems are part of the price we pay for the essential job of containing the terrible forces of destruction which now flourish in Asia.

In 1948 the so-called Youth Conference, which was held in Calcutta, gave directions to Communists in Malaya, Burma, Indonesia, Indochina, and the Philippines to make an open bid for state control by force, apparently in the expectation that the imminent collapse of the National Government of China would set off the same process in the other countries of Southeast Asia.

The policy of violent struggle for control had only a limited success. While the British, at great expense, contained the Chinese-supported terrorists in the jungles of Malaya, Burma managed to survive as an organized state; the Indonesian nationalists disposed of Muso, the Soviet-trained agent sent in to lead the revolution; and the Philippines reduced the Hukbalahaps to military impotence. In South Korea and South Vietnam, there are functioning governments strongly antiCommunist in character and thoroughly alerted to the dangers which confront them. In Burma and the Federation of Malaya, the Communists are still trying to negotiate their way out of insurrection on their own terms.


It is not always possible, when the needs of Moscow require it, for all parts of the Communist empire to change course at the same time. The present change in course dates from the Geneva Conference of 1954, when the Indochina issue was compromised by dividing Vietnam into two parts. Moscow and Peiping then changed the line to one of peaceful coexistence and economic competition with the United States. Toward the uncommitted countries especially, there is now an ostentation of friendship and disinterested support which stands in sharp contrast to the previous efforts to capture control through violence. For all underdeveloped countries, there is now the offer of credits, trade, and technical assistance.

For this change of line, the most important reason was undoubtedly the rearming of the free world, but there were other reasons that must have counted heavily in the scales. For one thing, the attempt to subvert the newly independent countries by overt military action was making more enemies than friends at a time when the Western powers, by contrast, were respecting the independence of former Asian colonies and giving economic assistance to the neutrals and allies alike. It was therefore better to embrace neutralism than to oppose it.

For another thing, the economic and military aid programs of the United States and the Colombo powers were succeeding even in countries which had at first refused to accept them. The new nations were not only learning to plan but also to profit from each other’s experience; the plans were wisely conceived, for nearly all of them stressed increased food production, basic services, and transportation as the first priorities, the necessary foundation for industrial growth.

For the Soviet bloc, the obvious course was to sabotage Western aid and to poison the slowly improving relations between former colonies and imperial powers Hence the travels of Khrushchev and Bulganin, with their offers of unconditional aid, low interest loans, technical assistance, and common hatred for Western imperialism. Hence the stress on industrialization and the charge that the West was interested only in perpetuating low agricultural standards. By stressing industrialization as the basis for true independence, the new economies could be thrown out of balance and the planning process confused. It was the success of the policies of the free world that forced the Soviet bloc to change its tactics.

Red China goes along with the new look in Soviet bloc policy, playing second string to the Soviet Union, whose credits and barter agreements, technicians and cultural teams have poured into Southeast Asia right up to the Chinese borders. Red China has extended grants on a small scale and developed as much trade as it could and even sent technicians to some countries, but its strength and prestige derive directly from the Moscow-Peiping alliance.

Without the Soviet Union, Red China would be of much less consequence, but so long as the alliance remains firm, Red China is a great power. While there are areas of friction between the two countries, the fact that they share a common view of the world, have similar objectives, and have complementary strategic positions means that the alliance is here to stay for a very long time. Red China has tied up its economy and its political and cultural life with those of the Soviet Union, which is serious enough, but it is most strongly tied through the sharing of a common myth, a common body of doctrines which is the very source of political power at home and abroad.

The doctrine is in trouble. Events of the last few years, such as the Hungarian uprising and the quarrels with Tito, the substitution of contradictions and antagonisms for the dialectic, the failure of affairs outside the Soviet orbit to fulfill dogmatic predictions, the absence of creative Marxist scholarship, the troubles with Communist intelligentsia and their revisionist thoughts, are all signs of the decline of revolutionary Marxism.

Peiping’s hysterical attacks on the Yugoslav Communists for smearing the Socialist state and the Socialist camp, “beautifying capitalism, the imperialist state, and the imperialist camp" in their Draft Program of April, 1958, arise from fear of revisionism. The Chinese Communists are as anxious as Khrushchev to preserve the ideological unity of the Socialist camp, and they have taken extraordinary steps to preserve it by such measures as the rectification campaign at home and the sending of Chou En-lai to visit the East European satellites during the time of troubles. The erosion of the Communist monolith and the concept of inevitability make it more difficult every day to project onto the rest of Asia the picture of a China which is riding the wave of the future and is both willing and able to help “progressive” elements in neighboring countries.


The future of Red China’s economic planning is far from clear. Certainly it is by no means an assured success story, for Peiping itself admits that agricultural production is not sufficient for the requirements of the people or for the support of industrial growth. The process of collectivization has undoubtedly achieved its major purposes of political control and a greater share of the total product for the state. But the attempt to mechanize some of the collective farms has run into trouble through bad planning and inappropriate machinery, and human hands must still provide the main motive power.

The state collects about half the production of rice and wheat and sells back to the peasants around 20 million tons of coarse grain and potatoes. Something less than half the extra land to be brought under cultivation, as projected in the first Five Year Plan, was cultivated, and the area under food crops actually went down, according to Communist figures for 1957. Silk production is about one third and tea production about two thirds of pre-war figures. The ration of cotton cloth per person has been cut to less than twenty yards, and there are few substitutes. The demand for consumer goods, not luxuries, is to be taken care of through unplanned small workshops in the farm collective.

In the meantime, the drive for a heavy industrial base goes ahead and some achievements must certainly be reckoned with in this sphere, although for a generation to come, Red China’s steel production is hardly likely to be more than a fraction of that of the United States.

The plans of the regime for the indoctrination of the intelligentsia, both old and new, have run into difficulties which the present rectification campaign is striving to solve, and if force can solve them, they will be solved. But it is as true of Communist economies as of others that the value system lies at the heart of the matter, and all problems eventually come back to the status of the doctrine, the belief in the myth. We can afford to believe Mao Tse-tung when he says that “revisionism,” that is, any questioning of the fundamental tenets of Marxism-Leninism, is the greatest threat to Communist objectives.


There are many reasons why we do not recognize Red China and do prevent it from being admitted to the United Nations: the unresolved conflict with the United Nations itself over Korea and the Korean armistice, the refusal to settle the Taiwan issue by peaceful means, the holding of American citizens, Chinese support of active paramilitary organizations in neighboring countries, our commitments to allies, the shabby treatment of the United Kingdom’s recognition, and a host of other considerations. Given the situation today, however, the most important factor is the badly needed prestige that recognition would give to Red China. Recognition would imply not approval, but acknowledgment of Red China as a success story, as the leader of Asian progress; acceptance of the inevitability of Communist advance. If we wish to trade or negotiate with Red China, we can do so under the present conditions, which recognition would do nothing to improve.

The recognition of Red China or admission to the UN would complicate very seriously the position of the Overseas Chinese, whose political attitudes are determined largely by their judgment as to which power is likely to be the stronger politically and militarily. Their ultimate destiny may well be assimilation into the host countries, but this will take time, and in the meantime they have to judge the staying power of Red China supported by Moscow, or Taiwan supported by the United States. So long as there is a place in which Chinese civilization can develop in relative freedom as an integral part of the free world, the pressures of Peiping can be resisted.

That the Communists recognize the facts of life as seen by the Overseas Chinese is shown by the argument they use in their efforts to trade with Western Europe, or at least to divert trade from Taiwan. The argument runs that Chinese merchants dominate trade in the limitless markets of Southeast Asia; European traders must, therefore, deal with them, and as they are overwhelmingly pro-Peiping, it is wiser to avoid relations with Taiwan and deal exclusively with the mainland. Fear of what might happen to their trade if they have diplomatic relations with Taiwan will, it is expected, influence the behavior of such countries as Western Germany.

The Overseas Chinese are predominantly antiCommunist and are likely to remain so, except where financial pressure and blackmail can be brought to bear on them, as in Burma and in other countries which have Chinese Communist embassies. After the Hungarian insurrection, the Communists pointed out that the United States does not support those who resist Communism. To men who live in the unstable societies of Southeast Asia and have to make very difficult decisions about very simple questions — such as who will be the stronger — a further occasion for charging us with retreat before Communist pressure would be demoralizing in the extreme.

It is going to be difficult enough to prevent the Soviet bloc from sabotaging our economic aid, throwing out of balance the economic planning of our allies and the neutrals, infiltrating the parliamentary process in young democracies, and creating trouble for our military establishments. To aid the Communists by changing our policy toward Red China would be to court disaster.