In 1949, the Communist takeover of China rattled the US foreign policy establishment to its core. China's fall to Communism was correctly perceived as a massive strategic defeat for the US. The triumphant Mao Zedong placed China firmly in the Soviet camp and implemented foreign policies antithetical to US interests.
For the American foreign policy establishment, China's fall forced a reconsideration of basic axioms of US foreign policy. Until China went Red, the view resonant among foreign policy specialists was that it was possible for the US to peacefully coexist and even be strategic allies with Communists.
With Mao's embrace of Stalin this position was discredited. The US's subsequent recognition that it was impossible for America to reach an accommodation with Communists served as the intellectual architecture of many of the strategies the US adopted for fighting the Cold War in the years that followed.
Today the main aspect of America's response to China's Communist revolution that is remembered is the vindictive political hunt for scapegoats. Foreign Service officers and journalists who had advised the US government to support Mao and the Communists against Chiang Kai Shek and the Nationalists were attacked as traitors.
But while the "Red Scare" is what is most remembered about that period, the most significant consequence of the rise of Communist China was the impact it had on the US's understanding of the nature of Communist forces. Even Theodore White, perhaps the most prominent journalist who championed Mao and the Communists, later acknowledged that he had been duped by their propaganda machine into believing that Mao and his comrades were interested in an alliance with the US.
As Joyce Hoffmann exposed in her book Theodore White and Journalism as Illusion, White acknowledged that his wartime report from Mao's headquarters in Yenan praising the Communists as willing allies of the US who sought friendship, "not as a beggar seeks charity, but seeks aid in furthering a joint cause," was completely false.
As he wrote, the report was "winged with hope and passion that were entirely unreal."
What he had been shown in Yenan, Hoffmann quotes White as having written, was "the showcase of democratic art pieces they (the Communists) staged for us American correspondents [and] was literally, only showcase stuff."
Contrast the US's acceptance of failure in China in 1949, and its willingness to learn the lessons of its loss of China, with the US's denial of its failure and loss of Egypt today.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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