Chapter

‘We the People’: US Public Opinion and China Policy

Rosemary Foot

in The Practice of Power

Published in print April 1997 | ISBN: 9780198292920
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599286 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198292929.003.0004
 ‘We the People’: US Public Opinion and China Policy

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This is the last of three chapters that analyse the connections between legitimacy and power and seek to demonstrate the erosion of international and domestic support for America’s China policy. It presents a historical account of changing US public (domestic) opinion on the country’s China policy in the period 1949–79, and describes this as going through four main phases. There was an uncertain first phase from the last stages of the Chinese civil war until October 1950, when the mass public were indifferent, this was followed by the phase when China’s entry into the Korean war dramatically shaped attitudes, generating criticism of those in government who in an earlier period had failed to identify China as an implacable enemy. In the next ‘transitional’ phase, the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, doubts about the rigid quality of America’s policy towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC) surfaced, articulated most strongly within Congress, but also among the wider public and at various levels within the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. From then on through to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1979, there was a widespread consensus that China should neither be left in ‘angry isolation’ nor diminished through a Soviet attack; thus, for reasons of world order and American political and security interests, many in the USA came to believe that Beijing needed to be brought into the international community.

Keywords: American China policy; China; Korean war; legitimacy; People’Republic of China; power; public opinion; United States

Chapter.  13100 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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