The Foreign Office and policy-making in China, 1945-1950 : Anglo-American relations and the recognition of Communist China
The thesis contributes to the broad body of literature which examines the role of Great Britain in the origins of the Cold War. In particular it focuses on the Foreign Office attitude towards the course of the Chinese Civil War, and ultimately the establishment of a Communist government in China between 1945 and 1950. It is a revisionist interpretation of cold war history drawn from a study of Anglo-American relations with regard to Chinese politics during this period. Traditional interpretations have emphasised the unchallenged nature of American involvement in China after the war. The thesis argues that during this period Britain actively sought to compete for such a predominant position, and specifically that the Foreign Office sought to replace the United States with Britain as the preeminent Western influence in post-war Chinese politics. To this end, Britain gradually moved its policy from one of cooperation with the United States to one of competition. Whilst originally seeking collaboration with Washington, the Foreign Office became increasingly frustrated with the problems within the American policymaking machinery, and ultimately pursued a unilateral position in China. This was most evident after 1948 when the rapid collapse of the Kuomintang position forced Western states to closely consider their relationship with the Chinese communists. Different views of Mao's communism, and different policy objectives in China, consequently led the British to move away from the American position. The thesis demonstrates such differences had actually existed since 1945, and charts the gradual breakdown of relations between that point and 1950. It specifically argues that unilateral recognition was as much an attempt to demonstrate to the Americans the error of their ways as it was to 'secure a convenience' of limited trade with the communists. Source material is drawn primarily from the Foreign Office 371 series, and Record Group 59 of the State Department Papers.