RECOGNITION of two Chinese governments — Chiang Kaishek’s on Formosa and Mao Tsetung’s in Peking—is being studied in External Affairs as a possible way of bridging the gulf which divides the Western allies on Far Eastern policy.
The idea didn’t originate in Canada. It came from Britain and is said to have been conceived by Sir Winston Churchill himself. However, it’s in harmony with the general line of thinking in Ottawa. Canada’s attitude toward Formosa has changed a good deal since 1950.
Nominally, of course, it has been the same for years. Canada formally recognizes the Formosa regime as the legal government of China. Chiang Kai - shek’s ambassador, Dr. Liu Chieh, still lives with a skeleton staff in Sir Robert Borden’s old home on Charlotte Street.
Actually, though, Canada was on the point of recognizing the Communist victory in China when the Korean War broke out. Recognition after June 25, 1950, was obviously impossible—it would have looked like giving in to armed extortion. But if the Communist invasion had l>een postponed for even a month Canada might now have a minister in Peking and Mao have one in Ottawa.
For some time, even after the Chinese entry into the Korean-War in November 1950, Ottawa took it for granted that the change was merely postponed—that the Peking Government would be recognized and the Chiang regime abandoned as soon as hostilities ended. The Canadian government, like the British, thinks it is only realism to accept the fact that the Communists have won
in China and cannot be dislodged by anything short of a major war on the continent of Asia. Neither Canada nor Britain has the slightest intention of becoming involved in such a war.
On the other hand Chiang Kai-shek is still on Formosa with half a million soldiers and, apparently, the firm continuing support of the United States. It may be unrealistic to pretend he is the president of China, but it is also unrealistic to pretend he isn’t there at all.
So far there isn’t the slightest indication that Mao Tse-tung would agree to such a deal or accept anything less than complete recognition and the return of Formosa to “China” as promised in the Cairo Declaration of 1945. Neither is there any indication how to determine which Chinese government would hold China’s seat, and China’s veto, on the United Nations Security Council. These and other problems can be faced, if necessary, after the first big question is answered:
Will the United States agree to any compromise, any middle ground, in Far Eastern policy?
The truce talks in Korea demonstrated how difficult it will be to get a firm, final answer to this question. It’s difficult because U. S. delegations are constitutionally incapable of sticking to negotiated agreements. This has been proved all too often, but seldom more dramatically than at Panmunjom.
Ottawa is firmly convinced that we could have had a Korean truce in April if Washington had wanted one. We failed to get one because Washington came up with a brandnew set of proposals, radically different from the proposals Washington had accepted (along with fifty-three other UN governments) in the Indian resolution of last December.
At the time the Indian resolution was flatly rejected by Stalin’s spokesman at United Nations, and thereupon by Red China. But in April, Stalin was dead. The Communist attitude changed. They did not openly reverse their position on the Indian resolution—that would have been too great a loss of face—but they did come out with an eight-point proposal of their own.
In Canada’s view the Communist eight-point proposal did not differ from the Indian resolution in any important particular. It could have been accepted. Instead, to Ottawa’s astonishment and dismay, the American truce team offered “counter-proposals” which neither Canada nor any other United Nations government had ever seen before. They differed from the previously agreed terms in three important respects:
• They proposed different treatment for Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war, something which had never been suggested before by either side. North Koreans who didn’t want to go home were to be set free at once in South Korea.
• The Indian resolution had provided that after an agreed interval the question of unrepatriated prisoners of war would be referred to the political conference which would follow the armistice. The U. S. counter-proposals made no mention of any political conference.
• Instead, the counter-proposal was that all prisoners of war who still refused repatriation after a stated interval should be automatically released without further ado. (The Indian resolution had referred the matter for ultimate disposal, if necessary, to the United Nations General Assembly.)
Ottawa regarded the new American offer as preposterous. Why treat the North Koreans differently from the Chinese, for instance?
“Why, they’re Koreans—they’d fade right into the landscape in South Korea,” Washington explained.
“Fade into the landscape, hell,” was one Canadian rejoinder. “You know perfectly well that Syngman Rhee would pop them right into his South Korean army, en bloc.”
In any case Washington cheerfully admitted that two of the three new features had been inserted in the counter-proposals because “Syngman Rhee insisted.” The third was put in at the insistence of Congressional leaders like Senator William Knowland, deputy majority leader and a devoted friend of Chiang Kai-shek.
This admission drew an unusually blunt reply from Ottawa—even more so, in fact, than the replies from Britain. But both nations’ reaction boiled down to the same ultimatum: If truce negotiations are broken off as a result of these new stipulations of yours, we are getting out. You’ll have to make up your mind whether you’re dealing with the United Nations or with Senator Knowland and Syngman Rhee.
SO MUCH FOR the gloomy side of the Korean armistice story. There is a bright side which may turn out to he much more typical. The bright side of the story is the emergence of President Eisenhower from the cautious silence he had preserved almost since his election. Ottawa gives Eisenhower personal credit for the quick succession of “concessions” which brought the United States back to the position it had accepted last December. He appears to have had a showdown not only with Syngman Rhee but also with the China Lobby spokesmen in the U. S. Senate, a showdown all the more auspicious because it seems to have been carried out with a minimum of fuss, furore and hard feelings.
The President was settling disputes behind the scenes at the same time as he was having his public disagreements with Senator Taft, who’d like the U. S. to assume a “free hand” in Asia, and with the Senate Appropriations Committee which threatened to bankrupt the United Nations if Red China were ever admitted. With Taft he merely agreed to disagree; the Appropriations Committee he persuaded to his way of thinking and the Red China rider was dropped.
President Eisenhower also demonstrated his powers of persuasion in a completely different but important field. Representative Richard Simpson, the Pennsylvania Republican who sponsored a series of crippling amendments to the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, agreed not only to withdraw his original bill but to be the sponsor of another bill, extending the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in virtually its previous form for another year. True, this doesn’t mean that a Republican Congress has been converted to free trade, but it does mean the White House can quiet some of the congressional wild men when it really wants to.
The President still has a long way to go before he fully recaptures the control of foreign policy which the U. S. constitution assigns to the executive branch, but which Senator Joe McCarthy et al. have gone so far toward usurping. But he has shown that his friendly quiet approach to Congress can be just as effective as a stern one, and—perhaps most important of all— he has proved again that he is the strongest figure and the dominant figure in Washington, the capital of the free world.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.