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The China Threat - Memories, Myths, and Realities in the 1950s


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Nancy Bernkopf Tucker confronts the coldest period of the Cold War-the moment in which personality, American political culture, public opinion, and high politics came together to define the Eisenhower administration's policy toward China. In her sophisticated account, she convincingly portrays Eisenhower's private belief that close relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China were inevitable and that careful consideration of the PRC should constitute a critical part of American diplomacy. Tucker provocatively argues that the Eisenhower administration's hostile rhetoric and tough actions toward China obscured the president's actual views, and she deftly explores the contradictions between Eisenhower and his advisors' public and private positions. Ultimately, Tucker finds Eisenhower's strategic thinking on Europe and his fear of anticommunist domestic politics constrained his leadership, making a fundamental shift in U.S. policy toward China difficult, if not impossible.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations Introduction Part I. The Players and the Context 1. Eisenhower's World 2. Fire, Brimstone, and John Foster Dulles 3. Constraints Part II. The Practice 4. Fear of Communism 5. No Inherent Worth 6. Diplomatic Complexities 7. In Moscow's Shadow 8. "The Perils of Soya Sauce" 9. Back to the Strait 10. Waging Cold War Conclusion Abbreviations Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker (1948-2012) was professor at the Department of History and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a former senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. She wrote and edited several books, including the award-winning Uncertain Friendships: Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States, 1945-1992.


This authoritative account reflects Tucker's life-long engagement with the vicissitudes and nuances of U.S.-China relations. Her book offers insightful, often original portraits of policy makers in Washington, incorporating such themes as racism that still governed the way American leaders viewed Asia. It also considers Chinese trade, the importance of which Eisenhower and other administration officials well understood, but which, because of the Cold War policy of rigid restrictions, caused serious friction with such allies as Britain, Canada, and Japan. A must read for anyone who wishes to understand the tortuous origins of today's Asia-Pacific community. -- Akira Iriye, Harvard University One of our most distinguished and influential analysts of American relations with China, Tucker has now exploited newly declassified Chinese and U.S. records-as well as films such as The Manchurian Candidate-to provide a superbly told account. Eisenhower's unvarnished opinions about John Foster Dulles, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy, among others, make eminently interesting reading, and Tucker's nuanced conclusions about the actual U.S.-China relationship during this era of Senator Joe McCarthy and multiple threats of nuclear war make the volume exceptionally significant. -- Walter LaFeber, author of The American Age: U.S. Foreign Policy at Home and Abroad Since 1700 Tucker shows us again why she is a giant in the study of America's Cold War diplomacy toward China. While theories of abstract rationality abound in contemporary scholarship, The China Threat takes a more complex and convincing approach, reminding us that even our greatest strategists are human beings and that their choices are affected by emotions, biases, and misperceptions. -- Thomas J. Christensen, Princeton University Any collection strong in China culture and politics or U.S. political history will find this a winning addition. Midwest Book Review A crisply written, judicious, and comprehensive appraisal of the Eisenhower administration's policy towards China. It will be of greatest use to undergraduates and laymen. -- R. Thomas Bobal H-War This book should be highly recommended for students of U.S.-China relations in general and U.S.-China policy during the 1950s in particular. -- Guangqiu Xu Journal of American History An interesting case study -- Yafeng Xia American Historical Review A comprehensive, informative and authoritative account of Sino-American relations during Eisenhower's presidency... Important and refreshing. Journal of American-East Asian Relations A welcome summation of a lifetime's effort in understanding the intricacies of Sino-US relations. -- Pang Yang Huei Asian Studies Review Highly informative, insightful, and engaging. China Review International

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