Update 6: China in US imagination of the World Revolution, 1948-1950

The first two sections are largely a summary of historical facts and scholar works, just to give a context for the U.S. foreign policy towards Communist China in its earliest years. The last section dealt with missionaries’ ideas and efforts to influence foreign policies, though most of the efforts were futile because the missionaries had less political assets and divided opinions.

1. 1948 to early 1950: the Attempt of Disengagement

The U.S. policy to China during Chinese civil war and the early years of the PRC can be characterized by indecisiveness and lack of clear sightedness. First, the U.S. was aiding the Nationalist Party against the Chinese Communists, yet this aid was limited, debated and reluctantly granted. The Truman administration was unwilling to even talk about Communism in China—when the Foreign Relations documents of the year 1948 talked extensively about the Communism influence in Europe, the documents about China—deeply entangled in the civil war—-talked only about the inflations and possible economic aids. (What’s most ironic here was that the statements of Europe and China were exactly next to each other.) This negligence to a large extent reflected Truman administration’s unwillingness to intervene in the Chinese struggle, mostly because of China’s extensive territory, great distances, complex situations, and the fact that Stalin did not aid Chinese Communists in the civil war (i.e. the independence of Chinese Communists.) The China White Paper indicated the attempt to end US aids. The Secretary of State Acheson further implied some willingness to recognize the Communist China as nothing better can be achieved in the foreseeable future.

2. The building of Cold War consensus towards Communist China: “the Missionary Mind” and how several prominent members could determine the foreign policies

This attempt of disengagement, nevertheless, was not well received by several Congressmen who were, basically, working for aiding the Nationalist Government of China. One of the most outspoken and active was Walter Judd, Senator of Minnesota and a former medical missionary to China. He strongly advocated increasing aid to the Nationalist Government—at least equal to the aid to Europe—and urged direct military intervention if necessary. His extreme enthusiasm, according to scholars, was primarily driven by what was called “the missionary mind”—the desire to remold China into American and Christian framework politically, economically, socially and spiritually as Judd once said “the US should be the teacher and China be the student.” He saw the Nationalist Government—nominally based on Sun Yat-sen’s Three Principles after Lincoln’s Gettysburg speech “by the people, of the people and for the people”—as the best and only hope. Judd, and several other similar-minded Congressmen, hostage the votes on aids to Europe for the votes on aids to Chinese Nationalists.
After Chinese Communists achieved decisive victory, another group—the Conservative Republicans—joined the campaign because of their deep concern about Communism, as well as the desire to accuse Democrats, the major party, of being soft to Communism in China which boasted a population of 4.5 billion or one-fourth of the world population. It is noticeable that one spiritual leader of the “China Bloc” was General MacArthur, who declared that the issues in China was probably more important than those in Europe. He was also the one who eternally changed the relationship between the US and Communist China when he led the US Army across the thirty-eight line regardless of Communist China’s warning and eventually invited the Chinese Army to the battlefield. The Chinese participation finally verified American’s worst nightmares that China, with its long civilization of modesty and humanitarianism, could not resist the Communist force and that Chinese Communists were under the Soviet leadership of World Communist Revolutions—though it is difficult to determine to which extent the Chinese were fighting for World Communism, or for national dignity after such a century’s history of being invaded and colonized, especially when MacArthur was marching towards Manchuria, a land just free from Japanese occupation. Nevertheless, the Korean War unprecedentedly escalated mutual hostilities and cut off any possible benign communications or understandings, when Secretary Acheson denied his earlier attempt of recognizing Communist China and the US aided Formosa, or Taiwan, against Communist China instead of former disengagement attempt.
Some scholars argued that this outcome was inevitable as many Americans, under the influence of mass media which preached “the missionary mind”(that the US should help China towards unity, democracy and liberty) and Cold War atmosphere, held natural hostilities towards Communist China. Yet I am not fully convinced as the most of the American public actually knew little about China and kept aloof from the strifes, as the Gallup survey showed. Foreign relation is a particular area where a small group, who is concerned about a particular issue, could gain an disproportionated influence as most people do not place it on top priority until some foreign affairs have deeply influenced a commoner’s life—usually a result of the decisions made by the much smaller group.

3. The Missionaries’ opinions: about the nature of Chinese Communists and the Chinese People

Few missionaries supported the Nationalist Government because of its ineffectiveness, corruptions and disregard to the needs of common people. They, however, also distrusted the Communist regime. They had certain appreciation for the independence of Chinese Communists from Soviet Union during the civil war, their independent strategies for development,  including the efforts to stabilize currency, to allow certain private business and non-Communism educations (I.e. the Christian education in Bible School or as elective in ordinary schools), but they were deeply frustrated by their “Soviet Spirit” which tends to bring everyone’s life under the doctrine, and demanded full support of the doctrine and the Government built on it.(though the Communist Central Government in the early years probably did not accomplish this.) That’s why missionaries had a very nuanced opinion on Communism in China. Most of them did not hold the wishful thinking as Judd held that China should be the second US and unconditionally supported unlimited aids to the Nationalists, nor did they accept the idea as some Conservative Republicans that China had become a Soviet satellite. They saw Chinese Communism with distrusts at that time, but still hoped that China could one day neutralize the extreme aspects of Communism, and this task must be accomplished by China itself.

That’s probably why though missionaries had diverse opinions on possible foreign policies towards Chinese Communists , they shared one thing in common: they discouraged any further US aid which would intensify the relationship between the US and Communist China—exactly contrary to what Congressmen were encouraging and what the US would do. Their opinions could be roughly categorized in three groups: first, complete isolation from Chinese political and social affairs (and probably wait for the quick collapse of Communism in the belief that it was incompatible with the nature of the Chinese people); second, encouraging keeping good relationship with and aids to the Chinese people but avoid political engagements; third, urging recognition of the Communist China.

Though there were efforts to bring all the three kinds of proposals to the State Department, but were received with little affection, probably because they did not have the political asset, nor the political affection, to initiate campaigns and to attract more supporters. Their marginal role in later issues related to China made John Fairbanks lament that some of the best informed people were suppressed to give a more nuanced opinion on Communism China, and that the US policy to Communist China in the first twenty years was of was particularly characterized by the lack of clear-sightedness — imbued with the wishful thinking that China would be a second U.S, and the nightmare that China became a Soviet Union. (And I would argue that’s what particular about the foreign policies, as the one who could make the largest influence is not necessarily the most knowledgeable or thoughtful—they could be someone who just made enough efforts, especially when the foreign affairs seem to be irrelevant to most others at home.)