268. Address by the Secretary of State, San Francisco, June 28, 1957, 10:30 a.m.1


It is appropriate that in this great city of San Francisco, which faces the Far East, we should consider our policies toward Communism in China.


The Situation Today

On the China mainland 600,000,000 people are ruled by the Chinese Communist Party. That Party came to power by violence and, so far, has lived by violence.

It retains power not by will of the Chinese people, but by massive, forcible repression. It fought the United Nations in Korea, it supported the Communist war in Indochina; it took Tibet by force. It fomented the Communist Huk rebellion in the Philippines and the Communists’ insurrection in Malaya. It does not disguise its expansionist ambitions. It is bitterly hateful of the United States, which it considers a principal obstacle in the way of its path of conquest.

In the face of this condition the United States has supported; morally and materially, the free nations of the Western Pacific and [Page 559] Southeast Asia. Our security treaties make clear that the violation of these nations by International Communism would be considered as endangering our own peace and safety, and that we would act accordingly.

Together we constitute a goodly company and a stout bulwark against aggression.

As regards China, we have abstained from any act to encourage the Communist regime, morally, politically, or materially. Thus:

  • We have not extended diplomatic recognition to the Chinese Communist regime;
  • We have opposed its seating in the United Nations;
  • We have not traded with Communist China, or sanctioned cultural interchanges with it.

These have been, and are, our policies. Like all our policies, they are under periodic review.


The Precedent of Russia

As we review our China policy, we naturally and properly recall our recognition policy as regards Communist Russia.

The Bolsheviks seized power from Kerensky in 1917. Nevertheless, we continued for 16 years to treat the Kerensky representatives in exile as the lawful government of Russia. By 1933, it seemed that the Communist regime might be considered as a peaceful member of society. For more than a decade it had committed no act of armed aggression. It had accepted the independence of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and of Poland. It was not demonstrably maltreating American citizens. It promised to cease subversive activities in the United States, to respect American rights in Russia, and to settle Russia’s public and private debts to the United States,

Also, by 1933, we desired to encourage the Soviet regime to resist Japanese aggressive policies in the Far East. The Republic of China, inspired by this same notion, had recognized the Soviet Government in December 1932 and we shortly followed suit.

We need not question that act of recognition under the circumstances which then prevailed. Recognition seemed indicated by most tests and we did not read the future.

However, it can, I think, be said with confidence that recognition would not have been accorded to the Soviet Union even in 1933 had there been clear warning that the Soviet promises given in that connection were totally unreliable, that aggressive war would soon become an instrumentality of Soviet policy, and that it would be neutral toward Japanese aggression in Asia.

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In the case of Communist China, we are forewarned. That regime fails to pass even those tests which, after 16 years, the Soviet regime seemed to pass.

Soviet Russia, in 1933, had had a decade of peaceful and non-aggressive relations with neighboring states; Communist China’s past record is one of armed aggression.
The Soviet regime seemed to want peace for the future. In the case of Communist China the situation is quite the reverse. Mr. Chou En-lai, at the time of the Bandung Conference, said that “the Chinese people do not want to have war with the United States and are willing to settle international disputes by peaceful means”.3 But when the United States took him up, and sought explicit reciprocal renunciations of force, his Ambassador, after presenting various evasive formulas, finally stated frankly that his regime contemplated using armed force to take Taiwan (Formosa) unless they could get it in some other way.
The Soviet Union in 1933 was not flagrantly violating its international engagements. The Chinese Communist regime is violating the 1953 Korean Armistice4 and the 1954 Indochina Armistice.5
There was reason to hope that the Soviet regime would treat our nationals with respect. The Chinese Communist regime violates the persons of our citizens in defiance of the elementary code of international decency and breaches its 1955 pledge to release them.
It seemed, in 1933, that the Soviet regime and the United States had parallel interests in resisting Japanese aggression in the Far East. Today, the political purposes of Communist China clash everywhere with our own.


The Consequences of Recognition

United States diplomatic recognition of Communist China would have the following consequences:

The many mainland Chinese, who by Mao Tse-tung’s own recent admission seek to change the nature of their government, would be immensely discouraged.
The millions of overseas Chinese would feel that they had no Free China to which to look. Today, increasing numbers of these overseas Chinese go to Free China to study. Six years ago there were less than 100 Chinese students from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong studying in Taiwan. Now there are nearly 5,000.

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The number of Chinese students from overseas communities coming to Free China has increased year by year; the number going to Communist China has declined, and hundreds of disillusioned students have made their way out of mainland China in the past two years.

If the United States recognized the Chinese Communist regime, many of the millions of overseas Chinese in free Asian countries would, reluctantly, turn to acceptance of the guiding direction of the Communist regime. This would be a tragedy for them; and it would imperil friendly governments already menaced by Chinese Communist subversion.

The Republic of China would feel crushed by its friend. That government was our ally in the Second World War and for long bore alone the main burden of the Far Eastern war. It had many tempting opportunities to compromise with the Japanese on terms which would have been gravely detrimental to the United States. It never did so. We condemn the Soviets for having dishonored their 20-year treaty pledge of 1945 to support the Chinese National Government as the central government of China. We are honor-bound to give our ally, to whom we are pledged by a Mutual Defense Treaty, a full measure of loyalty.
The free Asian governments of the Pacific and Southeast Asia would be gravely perplexed. They are close to the vast Chinese land mass. Geographically and, to some extent, politically, they are separated as among themselves. The spirit and resolution of the United States provides an important unifying and fortifying influence. If we seemed to waver and to compromise with Chinese Communism, that would in turn weaken free Asia resistance to Chinese Communism and assist International Communism to score a great success in its program to encircle us.


China and the United Nations

United States recognition of Communist China would make it probable that the Communist regime would obtain the seat of China in the United Nations. That would not be in the interest either of the United States or of the United Nations.

The United Nations is not a reformatory for bad governments. It is supposedly an association of those who are already “peace-loving”, and who are “able and willing to carry out the Charter obligations”. The basic obligation is to renounce the international use of force, except in defense against armed attack.

The Chinese Communist regime has a record of successive armed aggressions, including war against the United Nations itself, a war not yet politically settled but discontinued by an armistice. The [Page 562] regime asserts not only its right, but its purpose, to use force if need be to bring Taiwan under its rule.

The Republic of China is entitled to a permanent seat and “veto power” in the Security Council. Should a regime which in seven years has promoted 5 foreign or civil wars—Korea, Indochina, Tibet, the Philippines, and Malaya; which itself has fought the United Nations and has been found by it to be an aggressor; which defies the United Nations’ decision to reunify Korea, and which openly proclaims its continuing purpose to use force—should that regime be given a permanent seat, with veto power, in the body which under the Charter has “primary responsibility for the maintaining of international peace and security”?

Communist Russia, with veto power, already seriously limits the ability of the United Nations to serve its intended purposes. Were Communist China also to become a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, that would, I fear, implant in the United Nations the seeds of its own destruction.


Trade and Cultural Relations with Communist China

Let me turn now to the matter of trade and cultural relations, which could exist, to a limited degree, without recognition.

Normal peacetime trade with China, from which the American and Chinese peoples would benefit, could be in the common interest. But it seems that that kind of trade is not to be had in any appreciable volume.

Trade with Communist China is not a free trade. It does not provide one country with what its people want, but cannot well produce for themselves, in exchange for what other people want but cannot well produce for themselves. Trade with Communist China is wholly controlled by an official apparatus and its limited amounts of foreign exchange are used to develop as rapidly as possible a formidable military establishment and a heavy industry to support it. The primary desire of that regime is for machine tools, electronic equipment, and, in general, what will help it produce tanks, trucks, planes, ammunition, and other military items.

Whatever others may do, surely the United States, which has heavy security commitments in the China area, ought not build up the military power of its potential enemy.

We also doubt the value of cultural exchanges, which the Chinese Communists are eager to develop. They want this relationship with the United States primarily because, once that example were given, it would be difficult for China’s close neighbors not to follow [Page 563] it. These free nations, already exposed to intense Communist subversive activities, could not have the cultural exchanges that the Communists want without adding greatly to their danger.


The “De Facto” Argument

These are the considerations which argue for a continuance of our present policies. What are the arguments on the other side?

There are some who say that we should accord diplomatic recognition to the Communist regime because it has now been in power so long that it has won the right to that.

That is not sound international law. Diplomatic recognition is always a privilege, never a right.

Of course, the United States recognizes that the Chinese Communist regime exists. We well know that it exists, for it has fought in Korea. Also, we admit of dealing with the Chinese Communists in particular cases where that may serve our interests. We have dealt with it in relation to the Korean and Indochina Armistices. For nearly two years we have been, and still are, dealing with it in an effort to free our citizens and to obtain reciprocal renunciations of force.

But diplomatic recognition gives the recognized regime valuable rights and privileges, and, in the world of today, recognition by the United States gives the recipient much added prestige and influence at home and abroad.

Of course, diplomatic recognition is not to be withheld capriciously. In this matter, as others, the United States seeks to act in accordance with principles which contribute to a world society of order under law.

A test often applied is the ability of a regime actually to govern. But that is by no means a controlling factor. Nations often maintain diplomatic relations with governments-in-exile. And they frequently deny recognition to those in actual power.

Other customary tests are whether, as Thomas Jefferson put it, the recognized government reflects “the will of the nation, substantially declared”; whether the government conforms to the code of civilized nations, lives peacefully and honors its international obligations.

Always, however, recognition is admitted to be an instrument of national policy, to serve enlightened self-interest.

One thing is established beyond a doubt. There is nothing automatic about recognition. It is nothing compelled by the mere lapse of time.

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The “Inevitability” Argument

Another argument is that diplomatic recognition is inevitable, so why not now?

First of all, let me say emphatically that the United States need never succumb to the argument of “inevitability”. We feel that we, with our friends, can fashion our own destiny. We do not accept the mastery of Communist forces.

And let me go on to say that Communist-type despotisms are not so immutable as they sometimes appear. Time and circumstances work also upon them.

There is often an optical illusion which results from the fact that police states, suppressing differences, give an external appearance of hard permanency; whereas the democracies with their opposition parties and often speaking through different and discordant voices, seem the unstable, pliable members of the world society.

The reality is, of course, that a governmental system which tolerates diversity has a long life expectancy. And a system which seeks to impose conformity is always in danger. That results from the basic nature of human beings. Of all the arguments advanced for recognition of Communist China, the least cogent is the argument of “inevitability”.


China versus Russia

There are some who suggest that if we assist the Chinese Communists to wax strong, then they will eventually break with Soviet Russia and that that is our best hope for the future.

There are no doubt basic power rivalries between Russia and China in Asia. On the other hand, the Russian and Chinese Communist Parties are bound together by close ideological ties.

Perhaps, if the ambitions of the Chinese Communists are inflated by successes, they might eventually clash with Soviet Russia.

Perhaps, too, if the Axis Powers had won the Second World War, they would have fallen out among themselves.

But no one suggested that we should tolerate and even assist an Axis-victory because in the end they would quarrel over the booty—of which we would be part.

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We seek to appraise our China policies with an open mind and without emotion, except for a certain indignation at the prolonged abuse of American citizens in China. We have no feeling whatsoever that change is to be avoided merely in the interest of consistency or because change would imply past error.

We always take into account the possibility of influencing the Communist regime to better ways if we had diplomatic relations with it, or if, without that, we had commercial and cultural contacts with it. But the experience of those who now recognize and deal with the Chinese Communist regime convinces us that, under present conditions, neither recognition, trade, nor cultural relations; nor all three, would favorably influence the evolution of affairs in China. The probable result, internally, would be the opposite of what we hope for.

Internationally the Chinese Communist regime does not conform to the practices of civilized nations; does not live up to its international obligations; has not been peaceful in the past, and gives no evidence of being peaceful in the future. Its foreign policies are hostile to us and our Asian allies. Under these circumstances, it would be folly for us to establish relations with the Chinese Communists which would enhance their ability to hurt us and our friends.

You may ask, “What of the future?” Are our policies merely negative? Do we see any prospect of resuming the many friendly ties which, for many generations, the American people have had with the Chinese people, and which we want to have again?

Do we see any chance that the potentially great Chinese nation, with its rich and ancient culture and wisdom, will again be able to play a constructive part in the councils of the nations?

We confidently answer these questions in the affirmative. Our confidence is based on certain fundamental beliefs. One is a belief in the future of human freedom. We know that the materialistic rule of International Communism will never permanently serve the aspirations with which human beings are endowed by their Creator.

Within the Soviet Union the rulers have had to disavow Stalin’s brand of Communism.

Within the satellites, even twelve years of indoctrination do not persuade the people that the Soviet system satisfies either their national or their individual desires.

Communism is equally repugnant to the Chinese people. We read the recent brave words uttered within Red China by the university lecturer: “To overthrow you cannot be called unpatriotic, because you Communists no longer serve the people”.

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The Chinese people are, above all, individualists. We can confidently base our policies on the assumption that International Communism’s rule of strict conformity is, in China as elsewhere, a passing and not a perpetual phase. We owe it to ourselves, our allies and the Chinese people to do all that we can to contribute to that passing.

If we believed that this passing would be promoted by trade and cultural relations, then we would have such relations.

If we believed that this passing would be promoted by our having diplomatic relations with the present regime, then we would have such relations.

If we believed that this passing would be promoted by some participation of the present regime in the activities of the United Nations, then we would not oppose that.

We should be, and we are, constantly testing our policies, to be as certain as we can be that, in the light of conditions as they from time to time are, our policies shall serve the great purposes to which our nation has been dedicated since its foundation—the cause of peace, justice and human liberty.

Our policies are readily adjustable to meet the requirements of changing conditions. But there are occasions when others, and not we, should provide the change. Nothing could be more dangerous than for the United States to operate on the theory that if hostile and evil forces do not quickly or readily change, then it is we who must change to meet them.

The United States exerts an immense influence in the world today, not only because it is powerful, but because we stand for peace, for national independence and personal liberty. Many free nations seek to coordinate their foreign policies with ours. Such coordination is indeed indispensable if the free world is to have the cohesion needed to make it safe. But United States policies will never serve as rallying points for free peoples if the impression is created that our policies are subject to change to meet Communist wishes for no reason other than that Communism does not want to change. If Communism is stubborn for the wrong, let us be steadfast for the right.

The capacity to change is an indispensable capacity. Equally indispensable is the capacity to hold fast that which is good. Given those qualities, we can hopefully look forward to the day when those in Asia who are yet free can confidently remain free, and when the people of China and the people of America can resume their long history of cooperative friendship.6

  1. Source: Department of State Press Release 393. Dulles’ speech was delivered to the international convention of the Lions International Club in the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco and was televised live by the National Broadcasting Company’s television network. It was also carried on a delayed basis by the radio networks of the American Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System, and by the television network of the Columbia Broadcasting System. (Department of State Bulletin, July 15, 1957, pp. 91–95)
  2. The speech was drafted by Dulles, who explained in a telephone conversation with the President on June 20 that he felt it was time to try to restate the China policy of the United States “as there is a good deal of confusion” concerning it. (Memorandum of a telephone conversation between the President and the Secretary of State, transcribed by Phyllis D. Bernau; Eisenhower Library, Dulles Papers, White House Telephone Conversations) A note dated June 20, found in the DullesHerter Series of the Whitman File in the Eisenhower Library, indicates that Eisenhower raised “one or two questions” about the draft of the speech sent to him, and approved the remainder of the speech as “excellent”. On June 25, Dulles sent Eisenhower a final draft of the speech, which had been reduced somewhat in length for reasons of space and in order to concentrate more on China and less on the Soviet Union. (Letter from Dulles to Eisenhower, enclosing a draft speech, June 25; ibid.) In a letter to Dulles on June 26, Eisenhower approved the final draft, raising only a question about the distinction between formal diplomatic recognition and acceptance of the fact that a regime has power. Eisenhower noted that Churchill and Eden had argued that recognition should represent a mere acknowledgement of fact. There was precedent for moral and legal considerations in President Wilson’s approach to the Government of Mexico prior to World War I, but Eisenhower felt that the U.S. position on recognition should be based upon reservations growing out of contemporary practice. (Ibid., DDE Diaries)
  3. The quote is paraphrased from a speech by Premier Chou En-lai to the Political Committee of the Bandung Conference, April 23, 1955. The text of the speech is printed in Documents on International Affairs, 1955, pp. 420–425.
  4. The Armistice Agreement between the U.N. Commander in Korea and the Commanders of the Communist Forces in Korea was signed on July 27, 1953. (4 UST 234–354)
  5. For texts of the separate Armistice Agreements relating to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia which were signed at Geneva on July 20, 1954, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. xvi, pp. 1505 ff.
  6. On June 28, circular telegram 1007, a joint State–USIA message, was sent to 64 U.S. diplomatic and consular posts to point up the importance of the speech as a major pronouncement of U.S. policy. The keynote of the speech, according to the telegram, was the sentence “if Communism is stubborn for the wrong, let us be steadfast for the right”. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/6–2857)