by Rod D. Martin
October 1, 1999
Whatever good points Pat Buchanan may have made about American adventurism in his latest tome, they certainly did not apply to the creation of Communist China, or to our role in that catastrophe, fifty years ago today.
The struggle against Communism, sometimes a Cold War, just as often hot, was a nearly-fifty year battle to the death. In it, America had thrust upon it the necessity of being everywhere at once, taking direct responsibility for every square inch of the globe. Failure to fill any vacuum assured that the vacuum would be filled by the enemy, and used to launch the next move. Only one side could win. Only one side could survive.
Soviet propaganda – and innumerable Western apologists and “wise men” – denied this truth right up to the moment Ronald Reagan won the Cold War. They repeatedly mischaracterized the most evil political and economic system ever to exist. They told us that figures like “Uncle Joe” Stalin – who murdered at least fifty million of his countrymen – were benevolent. They told us Ho Chi Minh was another George Washington. They told us Pol Pot would liberate his people.
They said the same of Mao.
Mao Zedong came to power in China because the United States sold out his democratic, Christian opposite, Chiang Kai-shek (a trend repeated when JFK ordered the coup that killed the South Vietnamese Christian leader, Diem). Part of this was just bumbling, such as when America allowed the Soviets to give Mao the arms of virtually the entire surrendered Japanese army, and then placed Chiang in an impossible military position in Manchuria.
Part of this was short-sightedness: faced with local corruption and economic turmoil, George Marshall and others in the Truman administration hoped that anything would be better than the status quo.
And, of course, part of this was treason by Communists in the State Department. We can say this with confidence now: the testimony of Whittaker Chambers and Richard Nixon is now established conclusively by the archives of the late USSR.
But regardless of the specific roots, China needlessly fell because America failed to stand fast. And oh what a price has been paid.
Almost immediately, Mao attacked America, resulting in the devastation of Korea and a stalemate which continues to this day. Every North Korean famine victim, every Korean War widow, can thank Red China and the Americans who made it possible. Similar can be said of Vietnam.
Tens of millions of Chinese owe their deaths to the Communist victory as well. From the post-Revolutionary purges to the Great Leap Forward to the Cultural Revolution to Tiananmen Square, the sea of blood rises year after year. Even today, the number of Christian and other martyrs continues to mount.
America’s flirtation with this gargantuan enemy produced much fruit in the Seventies and Eighties, no doubt, as China helped counterbalance the Soviet Union. But this marriage was clearly “of convenience”: at it’s first opportunity, China’s hostile, totalitarian leadership sought to buy an American election in exchange for a greater national security breach than that of the Rosenbergs. One way or another, it got the breach; and far too much evidence exists that it got that breach on the terms it sought.
American leftists and appeasers have long argued that Chiang’s government was itself corrupt and authoritarian, and that our betrayal was therefore justified. That Chiang was trying to build a democratic state from scratch in the face of fourteen years of foreign occupation and forty years of civil war is conveniently overlooked.
But more to the point, just as history bore out conservatives in Cambodia, South Vietnam, and every other “workers’ paradise”, time justified the Republic of China as well. Exiled to Taiwan, vulnerable to annihilation at a moment’s notice, Chiang’s government operated for many years under martial law. But even then, it provided an economic liberty which transformed the tiny, rural island into a global powerhouse in one generation, and Taiwan today, though more threatened and isolated than ever, is one of the freest, most democratic nations on Earth. Its contrast with the rest of China is stark.
Red China is not now, nor is it likely to become, the sort of global expansionist force that Russia was. But the fact that 1.3 billion people live and die to this day under a brutal, totalitarian regime is a catastrophe all by itself; and the fact that it’s our fault makes it all the worse. Fifty years of Communist China later, we have an incalculable obligation to the rump republic on Taiwan. Moreover, we owe an immense debt to all the people of China. As with Cuba, until the last red flag comes down, the blood of a people which should have been free remains indelibly on our hands.