The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

on the world Today

OF ALL the problems the new President and the new Congress will have to face, none is more difficult and more baffling than the problem of American relations with Communist China. It would be totally false to say that there is any new policy in the making, at least as far as the Republican Party and its standard-bearer are concerned. Yet it would be equally false to say that the freeze which has afflicted Sino-Amcrican relations for so many years does not show at least the first signs of a thaw.

A great deal will depend on the actual course of relations between now and November 8. If there is a new Sino-American crisis before election day and if China policy becomes an issue in the campaign, then there could be campaign commitments which would plague the next President. Nixon is certainly not as inclined as Eisenhower has been to stand pal on foreign policy, including relations with China. But he has given evidence that he is prepared for a no-holdsbarred campaign based on defense of Eisenhower policies, if challenged.

The encouraging aspect of the China problem is the extent to which it has been possible recently to discuss China policy at all. The turning point from the blind adherence to Chiang which so long dominated American policy came during the 1958 congressional elections. The Communist bombardment of Quemoy that year brought a decision by the late John Foster Dulles, accepted by President Eisenhower, to use the Seventh Fleet to protect the islands if they were invaded.

This was a decision which meant war with Red China. Dulles knew it, but he hoped to keep a war limited. Though the decision, as such, was never publicly stated, it raised a great cry in the United States, and Nixon, then campaigning hard for a GOP Congress, found himself on the defensive. He forced Dulles to do an about-face on his proclaimed position that China policy should not be discussed in the campaign. In the end, the Chinese Reels backed away from an invasion, but not before the opponents of a war over Quemoy had discovered that they had a lot of support among the American electorate.

Time for a new look

Since then, there has been nothing which could be called a debate in Congress over China policy. But a number of senators and representatives have spoken out on the subject and found that it did not mean political oblivion. Among them were Senator Warren G. Magnuson, the state of Washington Democrat who heads the important Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, and Senator Clair Engle, the California Democrat who in 1958 was elected to the seat vacated by Chiang’s strongest Senate defender. William F. Knowland. Both Magnuson and Engle, mindful of West Coast shipping problems and of traditional preCommunist trade between the coast states and China, have talked of the need to reconsider the total embargo on trade with Red China.

Continuing Chinese belligerence has made it impossible for any public figure responsible to the electorate to suggest recognition of the Peiping regime or its admission to the United Nations. Still, the kind of discussion led by Magnuson and Engle is an indication that, if there is a political calm at home and a period of lessened tension in the Formosa Strait, it will be possible for the United States to take a new look at the China problem.

The problem itself is immense, and too few in the government are even trying to analyze it. For every experienced hand devoting himself to Chinese affairs, even to the collection and analysis of the fragmentary material which is the basis of intelligent policy discussion, there must be fifty doing the same for Soviet affairs. Nor are the universities doing all that they can or should; there, too, there is a serious gap between Soviet and Chinese studies.

The Conlon report on Asian policy

The one study of any importance to reach Washington was the result of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright’s determination in January, 1958, to take a scholarly look at America’s problems all around the globe. Among the many studies done for his committee was one on Asian policy by Conlon Associates, Ltd., of San Francisco, released last fall.

Three conclusions, among many, show the extent of the problem: “Communist China is very likely to emerge as one of the world’s major powers in the late twentieth century. The rapid growth of state power coupled with low mass living standards presents dangers to Asia and to the world. The power of Communist China will increasingly demand recognition, and the dangers that this power poses to the non-Communist world will demand the closer cooperation of free nations if the threat is to be met effectively.

“The Sino-Soviet alliance is currently based upon vital mutual interests outweighing such negative factors as may exist. It will not be ruptured over trivial issues and will probably endure for a considerable period. Yet the longterm solidarity between the U.S.S.R. and Communist China is by no means assured.

“Communist China regards the United States as its major opponent, and naturally it desires the reduction of American influence in Asia. There is virtually no chance that Communist China would consider any basic concessions on current issues to secure a shift in American policy. At the same time, the Chinese Communists are not in favor of war with the United States and there are also some issues, both now and in the future, that might be negotiable.”

Probably the most debatable of all these conclusions is the last sentence quoted. Non-Communist visitors to Peiping on more than one occasion have been shocked at the Communist argument that World War I began the end of imperialism, that World War II greatly hastened it, that World War III would end capitalism and, despite vast nuclear destruction and death, permit a Communist civilization to emerge, in China at least. There is evidence, too, that the Russians likewise have been alarmed at such disregard of the nuclear facts of life.

Who calls the Communist tune?

The post-Summit Sino-Soviet relationship, as far as it has been observable, has shown that the Communist empire has yet to resolve the problem of whether Moscow or Peiping is to be the true font of Party dogma. Khrushchev is in no position to force conformity from China, as he is, say, in Poland or elsewhere in Eastern Europe. China is beholden to Russia for more than $2 billion in aid thus far; it is not a handout, however, but a loan which is being paid for. China, in other words, is prepared to accept aid but not direction, though it pays for the aid in part by expressions of Soviet supremacy in the Communist bloc. Yet it is clear that the ties which bind the two giant Communist regimes are still far stronger than the differences between them.

Chinese hostility to the United States is immense. It is a necessity for Mao to use a “foreign devil” with which to coerce his own people; and Chinese resentment of the American policy of isolation of Red China and protection of Taiwan, which Peiping claims as its own, strengthens Mao’s hand.

What is the United States to do in such circumstances? The Conlon Report suggests that there are three alternatives: “a) Containment through isolation; this is essentially the present policy, b) The normalization of relations; this policy would encompass the recognition of Communist China by the United States, support for its seating in the United Nations, and general treatment equal to that which the United States accords to the Soviet Union. c) Exploration and negotiation.” This third alternative is what the report recommends. It suggests that the United States offer a mutual exchange of newsmen; permission for nongovernment groups or individuals to go to China; the launching of informal, private discussions between the United States and its European allies and such Asian nations as Japan, India, Burma, and Indonesia “to solicit ideas and some cooperative thinking about the problem of China.”

Only after such steps as these have indicated chances of progress does the report recommend trade with China on a basis similar to trade with Russia, efforts to make Taiwan a separate nation with its own UN Assembly seat, and enlargement of the Security Council to include Red China, and also India and Japan, as permanent members. These are not the only recommendations, but they are enough to suggest the enormity of the problem.

The basic question, however, facing the next President is whether to try to break the impasse or to sit back and let events take control — events which arc more likely to be adverse than favorable. For one thing — minor, perhaps, but indicative — there will be a major row in the UN the day that the present Chiang Kai-shek representative at the Security Council, Dr. Tingfu Tsiang, leaves his post for one reason or another. There will have to be a vote to accept the credentials of his successor, and long ago Washington recognized the problem of obtaining the necessary seven of eleven affirmative votes; recognized it to the extent of advising that Taipeh make no move, as once was contemplated, to put another man in that post.

Despite the increased hostility toward China as the result of the Tibetan and Indian frontier aggressions, there is a possibility that the United States will one day be outvoted on the issue of seating Peiping instead of Taipeh in the seat that the UN Charter reserves for “China.” There is a major legal problem, for example, as to whether a majority or a two thirds vote would be required and whether an American veto could apply if it should come to that.

Red China freeze

For eight years now, especially since the China issue played so noisy a part in the 1952 presidential election, American policy has been in a deep freeze. The two men most responsible, John Foster Dulles and Assistant Secretary of State Walter S. Robertson, have both passed from the Washington scene, one by death, the other by resignation. There is now at least the beginning of a political willingness to face the issue of whether it is best to continue the freeze or to try to find a way out.

It is by no means certain that Red China ever would have been willing to compromise on the issue of UN membership, even by permitting, though not approving, a seat in the assembly for Taiwan. Certainly that possibility is unlikely now, despite the faint beginning of an American realization that the freeze on China policy cannot endure forever.

Washington observers did think that the test ban issue, or a larger disarmament scheme, would provide the means to break the China policy freeze. The argument was that if something more desirable — a method of preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to other nations, for example — was offered as an alternative to continuation of the present policy of isolation, the Senate would be the place where a policy shift, with presidential approval, could take place, acceptable to the American public. But with the resumption of the Cold War following the Summit collapse and the suspension of disa mament talks, that approach is temporarily on the shelf.

China today undoubtedly is in a rambunctious, early revolutionary stage of development. Even its fellow Communist nations, except for the slavishly Stalinist, find it hard to deal with. Western nations with diplomatic relations in Peiping find only suspicion and distrust. It is extraordinarily difficult to say when there will be a moment at which the United States could begin to alter its policy. But the alternative of continuing our diplomatic isolation of Peiping is not attractive.

Perhaps the momentous decisions of the 1960s will relate to China and will be found in the evolving policies toward that great mass of humanity by the world’s two current superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The least the United States can do in the next Administration is to take a new look at the problem, to see it in its entirety, and to act where it can on its own to build a common free-world policy toward Communist China.