How the Communist 1949 Victory in China's Civil War Changed America and the World

September 30, 2019 Topic: History Region: Asia Tags: ChinaXi JinpingCommunismCivil WarHistory

How the Communist 1949 Victory in China's Civil War Changed America and the World

What can Washington learn for dealing with Beijing today?


Taken together, these five lessons above from Peraino’s enlightening historical focus on 1949 yield up many conclusions for current U.S. foreign policy dilemmas. 

For all the talk about foreign meddling in U.S. politics, Washington has done so blatantly in Chinese politics over a period of decades going back almost a century. This habitual desire to pit Chinese against themselves, whether in Hong Kong or Xinjiang, stands as a huge impediment to the cooperative and pragmatic superpower relationship that the world now requires. Dirty tricks and subterfuge have been employed by America to divide the Chinese, and the Nationalists also used such tools against America. Going forward, any such efforts need to be curtailed. 


Furthermore, the United States is not a great role model when it comes to either minority rights or righting grave historical wrongs. Beijing is surely due for some historical introspection in the coming years, but it is not alone in that regard among the various major powers, such as Japan.

In addition, while Washington is certain to view a Russia-China alliance as anathema to its global interests, major efforts to interfere with or disrupt that bilateral relationship could well have the opposite effect. These Eurasian giants are neighbors and are entitled to a partnership if they so wish to enact one. This leads to the final point, which is that the United States has already been dragged once into an unforeseen East Asian tragedy of massive proportions, namely the Vietnam War, by the potent combination of hysterical anti-Communism and anti-Chinese sentiment. Let us not repeat that immense historical mistake.

In its coverage of the upcoming Beijing celebrations, the New York Times front page article for September 29 concludes on rather bizarre note. It notes that PLA service members were given “disposable diapers” for the military parade rehearsals, because there were not to be any bathroom breaks. That’s titillating and amusing, but perhaps not what Americans really need to know about China’s military modernization program. That bit of giggling at Chinese expense rather perfectly fits the mold of American foreign policy elites’ spiteful and condescending attitude toward Beijing. If such buffoonery permeates the thinking of national leaders in Washington, as it most certainly does, how can America hope for a constructive and positive relationship with China?

Lyle J. Goldstein is Research Professor in the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) at the United States Naval War College in Newport, RI. In addition to Chinese, he also speaks Russian and he is also an affiliate of the new Russia Maritime Studies Institute (RMSI) at Naval War College. You can reach him at [email protected]. The opinions in his columns are entirely his own and do not reflect the official assessments of the U.S. Navy or any other agency of the U.S. government.

Image: Reuters