John Paton Wu Ningkun
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT BOWIE - 16/1/97
INTERVIEWER: If I can ask you to start with: how important was the so-called "China lobby" in shaping the United States opinion about China?
ROBERT BOWIE: Well, I think the China lobby had a certain influence on the public, and not a whole lot, but some, and I think had a certain amount of influence on the Congress, certain members of the Congress. Of course, there were a number of the right-wing members of the Republican Party who were very strong supporters of Chiang, and I think the China lobby exploited or played up to that part of the Republican Party. As far as policy went, I don't think that the China lobby had any significant influence. I think, really, Eisenhower and Dulles and the others who were involved in the China policy were essentially proceeding from their own convictions and views about China and what was good for the United States.
INT: After the Korean War, or during the Korean War, how much was China an issue that the Republicans were able to exploit as a means of opposing Truman and the Democrats?
RB: Well, of course a number of politicians tried to exploit the idea that the Democrats had lost China, and (Clears throat) were critical of the policies which had been followed. These were largely people who were strong supporters of Chiang Kai-shek. In the election of 1952, I don't believe this issue played much part. Much more important was the Korean War and on that, the public was disenchanted with the way in which the war had dragged on and the continued fighting and the failure to get any sort of a resolution, and there the Republican Party in the election used that very much. And you will remember that one of the dramatic things was that when... toward the end of the election and the electioneering into the campaign, Ike said, "I will go to Korea," and this was thought to have very great influence on the outcome of the election, because people felt that for some reason, he didn't give any explanation of what he would do or how he would accomplish it, but nevertheless that he would perhaps be more effective in bringing an end to the fighting.
INT: When Eisenhower did take over, was his policy towards China any different from Truman's?
RB: In practical terms, I don't think there was much difference, because during the Korean War, obviously China had been seen as one of the principal enemies, and the policies adopted toward China had been in keeping with that view. For example, there had been the strong embargo against trade with China, there had been the determination not to recognise China, and there had been the decision not... to try to oppose entry of China into the UN, and in general (Clears throat) all the other things that could be done which would contain China or restrain China or keep China from developing, had been put in place by the Truman Administration. So, since the Eisenhower Administration also saw China as an extremely hostile communist enemy, they continued really most of these different provisions, programmes, policies into the period, partly because in the first phase, first few months of the Eisenhower Administration, the Korean War was not yet even settled, but even after that, the general approach was not very different from what it had been by Truman.
INT: But you had Vice-President Richard Nixon, who was a sort of very high-profile symbol of anti-communism, right there in the centre of the Government.
RB: But I don't think that, again, he had great influence on what was done. He certainly participated, and typically... (Clears throat) typically, of course, he expressed views which were supportive of the Chinese nationalists, but I don't remember him carrying the torch, or I don't remember him having again great influence in what was actually done.
INT: Nixon... he went on a Far East trip in 1953, didn't he? He went to Taiwan and supported Taiwan. I don't think any of the Democrats had ever done that.
RB: Well, that doesn't surprise me, but I mean, I'm simply talking about the policy process. Again, as you say, I think he adopted the stance which was essentially very supportive of the (unclear).
INT: Can you tell me how the policy towards China developed under Dulles, this idea of dividing... of creating difficulties between China and the Soviet Union? Can you describe how that came about and what it was?
RB: When the Korean War was finally ended by the agreements in '53, the Eisenhower Administration obviously faced the necessity to decide what should be the longer-term policy toward China, communist China, and Dulles's view - and it was shared, I believe, by the President pretty thoroughly - was that the British attempt to woo the Chinese away from their association and co-operation with the Soviets was not effective. The British had recognised China, communist China, early, and essentially had had a representative in China, but they had not really accomplished much in the way of influencing Chinese policy. And Dulles essentially adopted the opposite policy, or urged the opposite policy, which was adopted by Eisenhower. The theory here was that the Chinese and the Soviets were indeed co-operating closely both for... because they had common interests and because they also had ideological affinity. But the assumption also was that while they were getting on well, and while it was in the interests of China to continue this relationship, and also that of the Soviets, that nevertheless, over time there were going to be a series of probable frictions as a result of the relationship, because the Chinese would not take kindly to being sort of highly dependent on the Soviets for their economic development and their political access to influence. And so the thought was that the best policy would be to drive them together to force the Chinese to be more dependent and to emphasise the degree of their dependence, in order to foster these kinds of frictions and the feelings by the Chinese that they were being let down or were not being given the advantages that they'd hoped to get from the Soviets. And the tools, the instruments, were not very different from what had been done during the war, the Korean War: efforts to embargo trade so that they would not get, the economic benefits or the economic requirements for development, for the development of their country, and they would have to get these either from the Soviet Union or through the Soviet Union, and then, by kicking them out of the UN or denying them recognition, they would have to deal, so to speak, through the Soviets in trying to get things... access to other countries or things of that sort. In other words, to try to create a situation in which they were constantly,, supplicants to the Soviets; and the assumption was that with Stalin dead, Mao would not take kindly to playing second fiddle indefinitely to people like Khrushchev and others that he would look on as much lower figures, much less consequential figures than he was in the communist movement and in general his conception of himself in China. And I think, over time, that in fact actually was the way things worked by the end of the Fifties, '59, '60, partly as a result of the Korean... of the Quemoy-Ma-tsu crisis, but also other basis of friction: the Soviets began to withdraw their advisers and their economic assistants from China by the end of the Fifties, and over time, over the next few years, they really became quite hostile to one another.
INT: And how much credit do you think this strategy of Dulles takes for that, the American policy of dividing China and the Soviet Union?
RB: Well, the assumption was that our actual capacity to influence events was going to be modest, but that the internal dynamics of the relationship would o-open up these probabilities or possibilities of frictions and tension, and that we could do things which would enhance or hasten that process by creating situations in which the Chinese either had to get help, as they did in... or hoped to get in the Quemoy-Ma-tsu crisis, and then be let by the Soviets, or by their being denied the access to economic benefits of trade and have to get benefits in the way of ecoassistance from the Soviets, that these external forces or factors would be,... make it more likely that these frictions would develop, and if they developed, would become harsher. And I think that if you see it as (Clears throat)... as facilitating internal forces, which is exactly what we in fact did with respect to the Soviet Union, by containment, in a somewhat different form, it was the internal forces that really brought the Soviet Union to the end, and it was the internal forces that brought the Sino-Soviet alliance to an end and made them hostile to one another. But nevertheless, external behaviour could... activities could enhance this or make it more likely to occur.
INT: But the public position regarding communism in the early Fifties was that it was a monolith, wasn't it?, that communism was the same the world over, but that clearly wasn't the view within the Administration.
RB: No, that was not. It was the view that as things... at the moment, that the Soviets and the Chinese were co-operating and were actively working as a team. But the first policy statement that was prepared ... basic strategy that was prepared by the Eisenhower Administration during the nineteen-six... '53... '53, said explicitly that while the Soviets and the Chinese are now co-operating because of common interests and ideology, the grounds of a split are likely to emerge over the next period, and that our policy should be to enhance that probability. So the idea that they would indefinitely be a monolith was something that was not believed, and it was believed that we could do something to preve... to (unclear) that.