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Labor Action, 15 August 1949


Jack Brad

Washington Imperialism Gives Up China
but Draws Line on Rest of Asia

U.S. White Paper Depicts
Kuomintang Collapse


From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 33, 15 August 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


As if to confirm the worst charges in the State Department White Paper on China, and providing a background as if by prearrangement on the very same day of its issuance, the governor of Hunan province and the commanding general who had been assigned to replace him both deserted to the onrushing CP army at the head of their ninety thousand troops. By this act they opened the way to Canton, the last possible important seat of government the Kuomintang will have on the continent. What could more adequately underscore the case of the State Department?

And what could give greater urgency to the issuance of its White Paper than this step toward the final curtain? For it is just this imminence of collapse that makes the timing of publication so important. Having decided to write off the Chiang Kai-shek regime, Acheson hastens it on its way with a shove.

This is not a new attitude in the State Department. For the past year, under Marshall as well as under Acheson, the policy toward Chiang has been extremely cool. In effect the U.S. has been fighting a cold war against the Kuomintang. This was made abundantly clear by two incidents of recent times: the failure of Mme. Chiang’s charm to obtain an interview of state for her, and the open rejection by Truman of a request for a public statement of moral support at the time of the fall of the capital, Nanking. What the White Paper does is to supply the background and development for this attitude.

End of a Road

Seldom has so bitter a polemic been issued by one “friendly” government against another. With unrelieved blackness the picture is drawn in language so caustic as has only appeared in the pungent prose of General Stillwell.

The wartime KMT is described as in the “grip of the reactionaries who were indistinguishable from the warlords.” There was “atrophy of the central Chinese administration,” which resulted in “the ineffectiveness of the Nationalist forces which was to be tragically, demonstrated.” This government was “weakened, demoralized and unpopular at war’s end.” And the failure of the Marshall mission is ascribed to “the absolutist control wielded by the reactionaries and the militarists.”

This is the end of the road for the U.S. in China. Relations that began over a century ago with the New England Clipper ship trade have reached a climax of frustration. At the very moment of its emergence as a world power after the Second World War, after successfully defeating its chief rival in the Pacific and taking over the reins of former British rule, the fruits of victory have been snatched away by the inadequacy of America’s instrument.

The failure of the Kuomintang is a historic one for the U.S. Since 1927 Washington supported Chiang against all other contenders for power only to find that he and his party had turned to dust in the meanwhile and could not be used to implement any policy. That is the source of their bitterness.

For the dream of a Pacific empire has become a nightmare of helplessness. The great planners of America’s future in the world, men like Brooks Adams, the geophysical school of John Spykman, and Admiral Mahan – all had included China in the American sphere as the key to domination in Asia.

Multiple pressures have gone into the writing of the White Paper. The need to answer critics like Governor Dewey is one of these. Only two weeks ago the titular head of the Republican Party declared for immediate full-scale military intervention by the U.S. in support of the Chiang regime. (Incidentally, it was not a secret that Chiang favored Dewey’s election in 1948 over Truman, and even went so far as to engage in preliminary negotiations on the assumption of a Dewey victory, using a MacArthur attache as a go-between. This did not serve to endear Chiang to the Democrats.)

Counter-Thrust Against Repubs

Dewey’s speech was the climax to a campaign of publicity and congressional lobbying that included several well-placed articles in leading popular magazines, a plea by General Chennault, an extensive editorial campaign in scores of newspapers and a special appeal by Chiang himself for U.S. assistance via a syndicated interview with a Scripps-Howard reporter. He also used the last occasion to announce his umpteenth emergence from “retirement” to head a new and ever more determined supreme war council.

Even the AFL was induced to intervene in shabby fashion so that labor was put on record in favor of supporting Chiang. The fine hand of some not-so-recent converts from Lovestoneism, now engaged in nothing less than the shaping of world policy, is perceptible in the latter disgraceful commitment.

Inside Congress, demand for a review of Asia policy was mounting and was bound to reach a crescendo at the next China disaster. Acheson could no longer continue to “wait it out till the dust settles” without some justification larger than the plea that nothing else was possible at this time. If the final collapse of the KMT in China found the two capitalist parties divided, the split on policy could become irremediable.

With the declaration for a Pacific Pact jointly with Chiang by the U.S.-puppet Korean government and the U.S. dependency of the Philippines, the policy crisis was brought to a head even sooner. The entire administration foreign policy could be placed in jeopardy if a substantial opposition alignment could form behind such a pact. The Republicans would have a policy and an instrument to support while the State Department called for patience.

Yet Acheson-Truman could not support any pact involving additional military commitments to Chiang without denying their entire thesis of the past five-six years that China never suffered from a shortage of arms, that the fault lay in the corruption of the regime and not in anything the U.S. did or failed to do.

Bipartisan Wall Streeters

Recently Acheson appointed a three-man committee to study Asiatic policy. The composition of the committee indicates its importance. For in American politics the term “non-political” (i.e., non-partisan) has come to refer to something of such great importance that everybody is expected to go along – and this committee is definitely “non-political.”

Its chairman is a career diplomat, Ambassador-af-Large Jessup, who will represent the administration. Raymond B. Fosdick is a former president of the Rockefeller Foundation, while Dr. Everett Case, president of Colgate University, is a former member of the board of General Electric. None of these men, it is proclaimed, is an Asian expert – this is considered a recommendation of the highest order. This committee, with its representatives of both the Rockefeller and Morgan interests, is indeed from the highest echelons possible. Its purpose is to try to arrive at a bipartisan policy which all or most of the important political factions in both parties could support.

The White Paper has as its object, among others, to clear the ground for such bipartisanship in the future. By challenging the critics with full documentation, a balance sheet on the past has been presented which puts these critics on the defensive.

Never again, for example, will Dewey be able to call for full-scale arms to Chiang, Acheson hopes. The record now made public shows that the Nationalists never lost a battle because of shortage of arms. On the contrary, “a large proportion of the military supplies furnished the Chinese armies by the U.S. since V-J Day has, however, fallen into the hands of the Chinese Communists through the military ineptitude of the Nationalist leaders, their defections and surrenders and absence among their forces of a will to fight.” Almost three billion dollars was given, more than 50 per cent of the Nationalist budget.

While critics have already begun to find loopholes, they will not be able to present a case strong enough to overcome the tremendous documentation of the White Paper, it is expected. Extreme pro-Chiang groups will be reduced to carping and become by-passed splinters.

The “non-partisan” committee will also be spared the necessity of a review, over which there would be bound to occur many recriminations, so that any policy conclusions reached would no longer have the desired bipartisan character. As the New York Times put it editorially: “It is felt presumably that only in that way can we escape being trapped in futile controversy.”

Hope of Titoism Put on Shelf

One other factor has made the White Paper necessary at this time. If U.S. policy was rendered helpless by the inner rot of the Kuomintang, recent events have exhausted still another hope. Under the influence of men like Owen Lattimore, John K. Fairbanks of Harvard, most of the administrators of the State Department’s China Division and even Paul G. Hoffman of the ECA, the Truman administration made a tentative orientation on the basis of the possibility of Chinese Titoism. What was bruited with loud joy in “liberal” circles was whispered in the department, for fear of congressional reaction.

Now the U.S. has been deprived of this final straw. On June 30 Mao Tze-tung declared in Shanghai: “We belong to the anti-imperialist front headed by the USSR ... We also oppose the illusion of a third road – one either leans to the side of the imperialism or to the side of socialism.” Since then the anti-American campaign in CP-held China has been extended to all spheres of interest. The State Department has accumulated evidence that Mao’s declaration was being implemented in secret negotiations with Russia, of which the recent Manchurian trade pact is one open result.

In the White Paper Acheson renounces the Titoist hope.

“The foreign domination [of Russia] is masked behind the facade of a vast crusading movement” is his description of the CP. He considers the CP a tool of Kremlin policy: “However ruthlessly a major portion of this great people may be exploited by a party in the interest of a foreign imperialism ...” and again: “the Communist regime serves not their [Chinese] interest but those of Soviet Russia.”

Like all Western imperialism in Asia, the U.S. is left in China without the great prize. At the moment of her emergence as the greatest capitalist colossus, half the Asiatic continent is snatched from her. In this she has fared far worse than the other capitalist powers, all of whom have retained SOME measure of control – even India has returned to the Empire. But in this direct test between U.S. and Russian imperialism it is the latter who has won. The White Paper is an admission of this.

“This Far and No Further”

What then is the probable future of American policy in Asia? The White Paper does not have as its object an excursion into the future. To do this would be to trespass on the field assigned to the “non-partisan” committee. Some elements of the new direction are indicated. While China is assigned to the Russian sphere of influence, if any force should show itself capable of serious opposition the State Department could still be interested. If for the moment it is incapable of intervening in China’s affairs it is not from change of heart but because there does not exist any means to do so.

Barring an unforeseen change either here or in China, the Kuomintang is written off. It may still be used on occasion for legal maneuvering, as when the Chinese Stalinist government will demand recognition. But it will not be accorded any support simply because it has been found bankrupt of all support in China and incapable of ruling. It has no future as a government in exile, except so long as its own resources last. Certainly it will not get guns or large amounts of money to continue the China war. For the U.S., the war in China is over.

The positive side is a bit less certain. The only clear statement in the White Paper on this occurs in the final paragraphs of Acheson’s letter: “should the Communist regime lend itself to the aims of Soviet Russian imperialism and attempt to engage in aggression against China’s neighbors, we and the other members of the United Nations would be confronted with a situation violative of the principles of the United Nations Charter and threatening international peace and security.”

After yielding up China Acheson has drawn a line. He will not even bother with an appeal in the UN on the China issue, although the White Paper openly accuses Russia of treaty breeches and hidden intervention in China. But the rest of Asia is in turn to be inviolate and free from machinations by Russia or by the Chinese CP. A kind of Monroe Doctrine is declared. It is the avowed policy of the U.S. to prevent any other part of Asia from falling into the Stalinist empire. A line is drawn around the borders of China and Acheson says: no further without the risk of war.

His immediate concern is with South Korea and Viet Nam. The former lives in fear of momentary invasion from the Northern Russian puppet government. The U.S. is already committed to support of the reactionary regime of Syngman Rhee. As to Viet Nam, it is difficult to see what the U.S. can do to hinder Chinese collaboration unless the U.S. intervenes on the side of the colonial peoples – of which there is no indication in the White Paper or elsewhere in U.S. policy. This may, however, take the form of increased support to the recently refurbished French puppet, Bao Dai.

Alternatives: None Good

A policy of containment is an ersatz expedient. There may yet be some tinkering with Point Four as an economic complement to political policy. India is certain to receive new consideration as the base for any new policy. The U.S. is certain to shift its interest in this direction. A Far Eastern Pact has many drawbacks. Chiang is one fly in the ointment. There is also uncertainty on the extent to which the U.S. can carry out any commitments to such a pact. After all, the U.S. could not hold the Philippines after Pearl Harbor. Factional animosities rise when the possibility is broached of extending the domain of the imperious MacArthur. And Nehru has indicated that he would feel ill at ease in the company of Syngman Rhee, Chiang Kai-shek and Quirino.

Then there is the lesson so clearly drawn by Acheson: “attempts at foreign domination have appeared quite clearly to the Chinese people as external aggression and as such have been bitterly and in the long run successfully resisted ... the only alternative open to the U.S. was full-scale intervention in behalf of a government which had lost the confidence of its own troops and its own people ... intervention on such a scope and magnitude would have been resented by the mass of the Chinese people.”

The people of Asia can no longer simply be trampled on and disregarded. The very fact of U.S. intervention would condemn any government on whose behalf it were attempted. That Is part of the China lesson.

It is still difficult to accept the idea but the day of imperialism in Asia is over. Stalinism may still be able to make gains for the Russians because it is disguised as the bearer of social change and because it operates with native forces. Capitalism has not developed an alternative by which to retain its hold on Asia. Wherever the people rise up for national freedom and social reform capitalism is put on the defensive.

Epitaph for Chiang – and the U.S.?

The U.S. has not developed a program toward the colonial world. In this field American capitalists are as timid as the most backward in the world. The day of “venture capital” is over in the U.S. as elsewhere. The’ form of imperialism which Lenin wrote about, is also a thing of the past. There are few capitalists who are attempting to export large quantities of capital. They prefer the government to do it for them, or at least to make such guarantees as to make them state charges.

It is interesting that Truman had to project Point Four; U.S. capitalists did not rush into the colonial world at war’s end to fill the economic void left by the defeat of Japan and the decline of every other power. Only in a few strategic fields, closely related to the state, has any initiative been shown: e.g., oil. Nor have they shown any undue enthusiasm for Point Four itself even with its various guarantees. Half the countries of the world have delegations in the U.S. begging for investments without result.

American capitalism for all its domestic vigor is timorous abroad. That is why American foreign policy has become more exclusively concerned with strategy. That is why China can be yielded without a war. China always remained a potential field for market and investment but at its peak U.S. investment never amounted to more than $150 million. And the total trade with China was never more than 3 per cent of total U.S. trade. The fact is that the loss of China will have a negligible effect on the American economy.

It has long been customary to speak of the decline of the British empire and undoubtedly it is so. While America may be one of the undertakers of that empire, it is not the heir. The world has moved too far for that. It may very well be, then, that the U.S. may not be able to develop a positive policy toward Asia. It is certain that she will never be able to establish so ramified a policy as did colonialism in its heyday.

The White Paper is the epitaph of the Kuomintang. But it may prove to be no less than that for American capitalism in Asia.

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