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The People’s Republic of China, emerging superpower and fierce red dragon of the Pacific, may well be the rival empire that we will one day have to face down across the ocean. But how did a former ally of the United States turn into a Communist superpower?
The answer, as it so often is, is democracy. Not genuine democracy, but our commitment to the principle of political representation as the way to iron out all our foreign policy problems.
The story that most people are familiar with is that the United States backed the Chinese Nationalists and the Soviet Union backed the Chinese Communists. The truth is that the Soviet Union backed the Chinese Communists and the United States backed an enforced settlement between the Nationalists and the Communists.
The Yalta Conference briefing book stated that the United States did not favor any Chinese political faction, but only “a broadly representative government which will bring about internal unity, including reconcilement of Kuomintang-Communist differences.”
In an echo familiar from countless modern-day speeches about American allies in the Middle East, political reform was touted as the best defense against Communism. And by political reform, Truman meant bringing the Communists into the government for a peaceful and unified China. American aid to the Nationalists was explicitly conditioned on their acceptance of that form of peace and unity.
As Arab leaders were forced into accommodating Islamist political ambitions through political reforms, Chiang Kai-shek was pressured into the appeasement game even while the Communists, like the Islamists, were playing the long game. A coalition with Communists or Islamists can only end one way, and defeating the Communists by bringing them into the political process made no more sense than the Arab Spring prescription for doing the same thing with the Islamists.
Political leaders, diplomats and reporters tell us that we should not fear the Muslim Brotherhood, that it is a moderate organization, and that like other political Islamists, it can be our ally in the war against the real extremists. The American people were similarly told that the Chinese Communists were not the bad extreme kind in Moscow. They weren’t even real Communists at all, only “red on the outside, white on the inside” types. And then having learned nothing from the fall of China, the same propagandists then began assuring us that the Viet Cong were not true Communists either.
Over the years, new gradations of moderate Communists were being discovered almost as often as we have been discovering moderate Islamists. And the prescribed solution each time was to come over to their side early enough that they would come over to our side. It never actually worked, but by the time Jimmy Carter was in the White House, we had gotten horribly good at breaking early for the enemy’s side and at helping him take over in the interests of peace and unity.
The refusal of the Chinese Nationalists to roll over and die at the command of the State Department led Truman to impose an arms embargo on China, as he did on Israel. The Israelis managed to win their War of Independence and defeat multiple Arab armies, but they were struggling to equip a much smaller force. The Chinese Nationalists needed far more weapons and had no place to get them. Like Israel, they ended up caught between their enemies and an alliance with an America mediated by a diplomatic establishment that made arms contingent on destructive concessions to their enemies.
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