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China’s Place in the Cold War: the Acheson Plan

  • Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Abstract

Scholars examining the second Truman Administration have come to see Dean Acheson as the embodiment of Cold War ideology from 1949 to 1953. Acheson certainly subscribed to a picture of himself manning the gates against a dangerous Communist menace whose threat to the security of the United States was staunched only through his vigilance and determination. His memoir Present at the Creation makes his position on the ramparts clear. During his tenure as Secretary of State the United States imposed the North Atlantic Treaty upon the Marshall Plan, turning it into a military alliance, and mounted an airlift to keep Berlin free. Acheson abjured negotiation with Moscow, demanding that the Western alliance first establish positions of strength to bargain from. Thus Acheson emerged as a potent force for Communist containment across Europe. This stance, however, has misled students of the Secretary’s policies to assume a seamless, global application of his outlook. The thread runs through the work of scholars as diverse as Ronald Steel, Gabriel Kolko, Herbert Feis, Melvyn Leffler, Seyom Brown and Walter LaFeber.1

Keywords

Foreign Policy Taiwan Strait American Policy Author Interview National Security Council 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    The best statement of Ronald Steel’s views appears in the summary of discussions at a 1978 conference on Chinese-American relations in Dorothy Borg and Waldo Heinrichs (ed.), Uncertain Years: Chinese-American Relations, 1947–1950 (New York, 1980) 54–5;Google Scholar
  2. Gabriel and Joyce Kolko, The Limits of Power (New York, 1972);Google Scholar
  3. Herbert Feis, From Trust to Terror (1970);Google Scholar
  4. Melvyn P. Leffler, ‘The United States and the Strategic Dimensions of the Marshall Plan’, Diplomatic History, 12 (Summer 1988), 277–306;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Seyom Brown, The Faces of Power (New York, 1968);Google Scholar
  6. Walter LaFeber, America, Russia and the Cold War, 1945–1975 (New York, 1976).Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    Robert J. McMahon reports in his historiographical essay ‘The Cold War in Asia: Toward a New Synthesis?’, Diplomatic History, 12 (Summer 1988), 307–27, the controversy that my interpretation of Acheson has provoked. For a fuller discussion see Nancy Bernkopf Tucker. Patterns in the Dust: Chinese-American Relations and the Recognition Controversy, 1949–1950 (New York, 1983 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    George C. Herring, ‘The Truman Administration and the Restoration of French Sovereignty in Indochina’, Diplomatic History, 1 (1977), 97117;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Stephen E. Ambrose, Rise to Globalism (New York: Penguin, 1985) 122. Marc Trachtenberg emphasizes America’s military buildup, noting that the ending of the Korean war in 1953 was expected to save only $2 billion out of a projected $41 billion defense budget. ‘A “Wasting Asset”: American Strategy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance, 19491954’, International Security 13 (Winter 1988/9) 27.Google Scholar
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    Michael Hunt, The Making of a Special Relationship (New York, 1983) and James C. Thompson, Jr., Peter W. Stanley and John C. Perry, Sentimental Imperialists (New York, 1981).Google Scholar
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    Dean G. Acheson, Present at the Creation (New York, 1969) 323; Arthur Ringwalt Oral History Interview, 5 June 1974, HSTL;Google Scholar
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  17. John F. Melby, The Mandate of Heaven (Toronto, 1968) 205; Text of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance Between the Republic of China and the USSR, 14 August 1945, Lyman P. Van Slyke (ed.), The China White Paper, August 1949 (Stanford, 1967) 585–7;Google Scholar
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  19. 38.
    John Gittings, ‘New Light on Mao’, China Quarterly, 60 (December 1974) 761;Google Scholar
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  21. 67.
    Chen Xiaolu, ‘China’s Policy toward the United States, 1949–1955’, in Harry Harding and Yuan Ming (eds), Sino-American Relations, 1945–1955: AJoint Reassessment of a Critical Decade (Wilmington, DC: Scholarly Resources, 1989) 189–91; and Jonathan Pollack, ‘The Korean War and Sino-American Relations’, ibid., 218–22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Douglas Brinkley 1993

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  • Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

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