Memorandum by Mr. Gerald Stryker of the Office of Chinese Affairs
Subject: Attitudes Toward Recognition of the Chinese Communist Regime
A. Attitudes of friendly interested governments.
In general almost all governments friendly to the U.S. and concerned with developments in China continue to support, in theory at least, the position consistently advanced by the U.S. since May of this year that (a) hasty recognition would be unwise, and (b) consultation [Page 155]between friendly interested governments prior to taking any action respecting recognition is desirable.
Certain governments, however, have replied to the Chinese Communist bid for recognition in a way and in terms which might be interpreted as something of a departure from the agreed policy of holding prior consultation and making no haste. Thus, the UK (whose most recent declaration on recognition policy is treated below), the Netherlands, India, and Canada have stated to the Chinese communist regime orally or in writing that the question of recognition is under consideration and that in the meantime it is to be hoped that consular officials of the concerned governments will be allowed to perform normal functions of mutual advantage.
No government has stated categorically that it will not recognize the Chinese Communist regime. On the contrary, the general attitude is that all friendly interested states will eventually recognize the regime, but that the granting of recognition will be dependent on certain factors such as protection of trade interests, protection of the borders of neighboring states, the regime’s willingness to accept its international obligations, or questions connected with the vague term “timing.”
Conditions for recognition have been stated publicly only by Australia, and these conditions are the most stringent yet set by any government. The Australian Minister for External Affairs65 in a remarkable statement on October 2566 announced that the question of recognition cannot be solved until “definite and convincing” assurances are given that “(1) the government which was set up on 1st October is in fact in control of the area it claims; (2) it is in fact prepared to and capable of carrying out its international obligations; and (3) it is a government supported by the free will of the majority of the people it rules.” (Mr. Evatt, incidentally, attributed the enumeration of these conditions to Secretary Acheson, a gross inaccuracy as far as the third condition is concerned.) Mr. Evatt noted furthermore that the UK, the US and Australia “are in complete accord in their attitude toward the new government” and concluded that “in the absence …67 of firm and specific assurances that the territorial integrity of neighboring countries, notably Hong Kong, will be respected and that the new China will carry out all its international obligations, recognition cannot be granted any more than admission to the United Nations would be granted.”[Page 156]
“On political and practical grounds, His Majesty’s Government are …67a in favor of de jure recognition.” So states a note delivered on November 1 by the British Embassy in Washington. The note makes it clear that this declaration is based on the belief that (a) the National Government’s position is “ostensibly hopeless”, (b) the UK and other western powers will be in danger of forfeiting important advantages to the USSR and its satellites in terms of both economic interest and political influence if recognition is long delayed, (c) de jure recognition is legally justified in view of the Chinese Communists’ firm control over most of China, and (d) the UK can hope to protect its own sizeable and long-standing trading interests in China only if recognition is granted. The British communication makes no mention of any conditions for recognition; it is apparently the British view that de jure recognition should be extended, when the time comes, with no strings attached. The note states that a decision regarding recognition will not be made until replies are received (Secretary Acheson is requested to reply within two weeks) and until a report is forthcoming from the Singapore conference (November 2–4). At the same time the UK wants it understood that, while concerted action is desirable, “it is accepted that every government has, in the final analysis, the right to take such action as it considers appropriate.”68
B. Attitudes of Participants in Round Table Discussion of October 6, 7, and 8.
The question of recognition was discussed at some length during the conference on US problems in the Far East sponsored by the Department’s Office of Public Affairs on October 6–8. The 25 participants in this conference represented various segments of the US public and all were qualified to a greater or lesser degree as experts in the Far Eastern field.
With the exception of Mr. Stassen,69 who categorically opposed recognition on the grounds described below, and of an Oregon banker who counselled a policy of “watch and wait” because of his concern over explosive reactions from the US public and the Congress, every one of the participants who expressed his views on the subject favored US recognition of the Chinese Communist regime. The supporters [Page 157]included eleven intellectuals and educators, four businessmen, and one (the only) missionary representative. The desirability of recognizing the Chinese Communist regime was so much taken for granted during the discussion that little mention was made of the positive reasons for recognition. Discussion centered, rather, on when and under what conditions recognition should be granted. Be that as it may, the following points were advanced in support of recognition:
- Nothing is to be lost by recognition, nothing to be gained by non-recognition.
- Non-recognition would hamper trade or make trade impossible.
- Chinese public opinion will be more favorable to the US if the US recognizes.
- Recognition might make possible reestablishment of the traditional US policy of the “open door.”
- Only by recognition can relations with the Chinese be “normalized.”
Some of the supporters favored immediate recognition, but most of them believed that recognition should be granted at a certain time and under certain conditions. Observations made along these lines included the following points:
- Recognition should be granted if and when
- the National Government loses control completely and the Communists establish effective “machinery of state.”
- the Chinese Communists demonstrate their willingness to accept international obligations and to treat decently nationals of other states in territories under their control.
- Recognition should be used as a bargaining agent in attempts to secure certain conditions vital to the US.
- Recognition should be granted neither too early, in which case the US would appear to be engaging in a panicky retreat in all of Asia, nor too late, in which case the US would appear to be forced into temporizing with a situation beyond its ability to handle.
- The US should begin immediately to disentangle itself from the National Government. Specifically ECA70 aid should be ended forthwith and the US should keep itself clear of the Chinese case before the UN. (One or two of the participants even favored positive action by the US to end the “port closure”).
- US public opinion should not be an impediment to recognition; public opinion can be either ignored or educated to a new view of the China scene. That education has already begun with the publication of the White Paper.
- There is no reason for holding up recognition on account of the prospective Japanese peace treaty.
Mr. Stassen’s opposition to recognition was based on the following considerations:
- Recognition would hasten the victory of the Communists in China and hasten the complete liquidation of the National Government.
- Recognition would mean repudiation of one of the US’s greatest wartime allies.
- Recognition would force out of the UN the representatives of a government which still has effective jurisdiction over one-third of the area of China and one-third of its people.
- Recognition of the Chinese Communist regime would mean abandonment of a Government which has provided a greater measure of democracy and individual freedom than has any Communist government.
- Recognition would put the US in the position of being unable at some later date to support effective anti-Communist elements in China.
- If it is the desire of the US to encourage Titoism71 in Communist China, generosity is not the means to attain that end, as shown by US experience in Yugoslavia.
Mr. Stassen concluded his statement on recognition by observing that recognition and assistance would be appropriate when indications appeared that the Chinese Communists were moving away from Moscow and in the direction of granting individual freedom to the people under their control. He also stated emphatically that the US should have a new program of economic aid to Asia in operation before recognition is accorded to the Chinese Communist regime.
C. Statements by Far Eastern Specialists
Roughly two-thirds of the thirty Far Eastern specialists who were invited by Ambassador Jessup72 in letters of August 18 to submit comments and recommendations on US policy in the Far East discussed the question of recognition of the Chinese Communist regime. About half of this number favored recognition, while the other half were opposed.
Those who favored recognition believed that the fact that the Communists have effective control over China calls for prompt US recognition. This group was also concerned with the problem of maintaining the maximum amount of American connections in China in order to minimize Communist control and to help bring about its eventual decline. Some of the supporters of recognition felt that the US should make it clear that any delay in recognition would be caused [Page 159]by Communist unwillingness to maintain relations and to assume the usual international obligations.
Only a small number of those who specifically opposed recognition now, looked forward to recognition in the foreseeable future. This group held generally to the line that the US should adopt a “wait and see” policy and that a “delayed decision” would be most advisable.
D. US press opinion
The US press during the past month and a half has devoted considerable attention to the question of US recognition of the Chinese Communist regime. Editorial policies range from an outright call for immediate recognition to a downright condemnation of recognition at any time, with a good many papers having discussed the question without arriving at any conclusion. A majority opinion on the subject cannot be stated to exist as yet.
Papers which support recognition now or at some indefinite time in the future make the following points:
- Recognition would mean only cognizance of what is already an accomplished fact.
- Recognition would allow the US to maintain contact with the Chinese; the US must keep offices in China as listening posts.
- Withholding recognition is a weapon of limited usefulness.
- Recognition does not imply moral approval of a regime.
- The US can hope to influence the Communist regime along democratic lines and keep Russian influence at a minimum only through recognition.
- Failure to recognize will drive China further into the arms of the USSR.
Newspapers which support recognition generally feel that recognition should be contingent upon
- Chinese Communist control over the mass of the people.
- Chinese Communist assumption of international obligations.
- Chinese Communist agreement to behave and to treat US officials and nationals decently.
Those newspapers which oppose recognition take the following stand:
- Recognition would entail moral and material aid and support to the Chinese Communists.
- Recognition of the Chinese Communists, while at the same time carrying on a cold war with the USSR and its satellites in Eastern Europe, would make for inconsistency in US foreign policy.
- Recognition would give China’s seat in the UN to the Chinese Communists.
- The US should not recognize the Chinese Communists but rather support the National Government.
Editorial discussions of the question of recognition have contained these additional observations:
- Whether the Chinese Communist regime is recognized or not, it will not be easy to do business with the Communists.
- It is to be hoped that the US and other Western Powers will take concerted action regarding recognition, but it is generally believed that the UK will lead the way in recognizing, thereby causing a split in US–UK policy.
- Herbert V. Evatt.↩
- See telegram No. 229, October 26, from the Ambassador in Australia, p. 145.↩
- Omission indicated in the source text.↩
- Omission indicated in the source text.↩
- Foregoing part “A” of this memorandum was set up separately as CFE D–2/1 for use of the Secretary of State in the forthcoming meeting in Paris of the Council of Foreign Ministers; see memorandum CFE D–2, November 5, p. 168.↩
- Harold E. Stassen, former Governor of Minnesota, President of the University of Pennsylvania.↩
- Economic Cooperation Administration.↩
- Marshal Josip Broz Tito, head of the Yugoslav Communist Party and State, broke with Moscow, June 1948.↩
- Ambassador at Large Philip C. Jessup.↩