255. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Herter) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Gray)0


  • Desirability of NSC Paper on Communist China

Thank you for your memorandum of January 141 which has been given careful study.2 The arguments that you present for a separate paper [Page 517]on Communist China certainly are cogent ones. Rather than comment on them in detail, I would like to mention a number of other considerations which, it seems to me, point to the desirability of proceeding somewhat differently.

As you know, the last NSC paper which dealt exclusively with Communist China was 166/1 of November 6, 1953.3 This was superseded by NSC 5429/5 of December 22, 1954, which resulted from a Presidential directive in August 1954 that the main features of our Far East policy be reviewed in the light of the Geneva meetings on Indochina and Korea. My understanding is that in preparing this paper the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Joint Chiefs and other participants agreed that the focus should be on China, because our attitude and policy toward it were central to our entire Far East policy. In its final form 5429/5 incorporated all the 166/1 objectives and courses of action with respect to Communist China, except for the deliberate omission of paragraph 5(h) which had stipulated that the United States should assist the Government of the Republic of China in increasing “the effectiveness of its armed forces for . . . raids against the Communist mainland, and for such offensive operations as may be in the United States interest.”4

I believe that the considerations which resulted in the superseding of NSC 166/1 by NSC 5429/5 in 1954 are still pertinent, most importantly that it is unrealistic and unwise to set down our policy toward Communist China in isolation from the over-all Far East situation. In seeking to realize our basic policy objective of checking the growth and expansion of Chinese Communist power and influence we largely follow two different but complementary lines of action. On the one hand we seek to maintain a strong defensive posture in Eastern Asia as a means of deterring Peiping’s expansionist ambitions. The other and equally important facet of our policy is our effort to build up the strength and stability of the free Asian countries around the Chinese Communist periphery. The threat that Chinese Communist power poses to the existence of free Asia is the central fact in the determination and implementation of our policy toward the region as a whole. For this reason it seems certain to me that if we were to prepare a separate paper on Communist China it would be necessary almost immediately to prepare in addition a new over-all paper on our policy toward the Far East which would inevitably cover much the same ground. I believe that it would make more sense in terms of efficient use of limited time and personnel to do the whole job in a single paper.

[Page 518]

I propose therefore a) that no separate paper on Communist China be undertaken and b) that, instead, a new paper on United States policy toward the Far East as a whole be prepared to replace 5429/5.

I would also like to comment briefly on the suggestion in paragraph 4 of your memorandum that the question of how to deal with a possible revolt in Communist China be studied within the NSC framework. I fully agree with you that this is a most important problem and wish to assure you that it is already receiving careful attention in this Department.5 In my view, however, it is essentially a contingency planning question which does not lend itself readily to consideration by the NSC, at least at this point. Once a new over-all Far East policy paper has been prepared, we can take another look at the matter in terms of possibly preparing an NSC paper dealing with this specific problem.

Christian A. Herter6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.93/1–1459. Secret. Drafted by Lutkins; cleared by Furnas, Murphy, Robertson, Parsons, and Green; and initialed by Stimpson.
  2. Document 252.
  3. A memorandum of January 23 from Herter to Robertson states that he had discussed Gray’s proposal with Secretary Dulles and continues: “He told me that he Felt it would be desirable for us to have such a paper, placing less emphasis on explanations with regard to recognition since this was pretty well covered in 1954 and has not really changed much since, and more emphasis on the growing strength inside Communist China, the changes in its relationships with other nations, the commune system, etc. In other words, an evaluation of its position in the world in relation to our national security.” (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2359)
  4. “U.S. Policy Towards Communist China”; for text, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. XIV, p. 278.
  5. Ellipsis in the source text.
  6. A January 22 memorandum from Robertson to Dulles proposed establishment of a working group within the Department to prepare a preliminary staff study on this subject. It reads in part as follows: “While the possibility of such a development still seems remote, the possibility of the GRC claiming the existence of such a development is considerably less remote, and in view of what amounts to a moral commitment by us to permit its intervention in case of such an uprising and the grave implications for the United States of such intervention, it would seem wise to do some advance thinking about the kind of answer we would give.” (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2259; see Supplement)

    A January 27 memorandum from Greene to Robertson states that Dulles had not had time to see the memorandum and suggested that Robertson institute the study; a January 28 note from Robertson to Martin authorized him to proceed. (Department of State, Central Files, 793.00/1–2759)

  7. Printed from a copy that bears this stamped signature.