EASSC Publications

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Conference Paper


This paper identifies both the utility and risks of using linkage in foreign policy by considering a historical example. In September of 1949, Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, uttered the now famous words: “占人类总数四分之一的中国人从此站立起来了[The Chinese who account for one-fourth the world’s humanity, have stood up]” putting the world on notice that China had “stood up.” This marked a dramatic break with modern Chinese history of foreign domination, invasion, and civil war. The newly established People’s Republic of China (PRC) had declared that it had the will and ability to end the remaining vestiges of the Unequal Treaties that originated with the Treaty of Nanjing of 1842. In addition, Mao had already announced that the PRC would “lean to one side” when it came to foreign relations.

However, despite the anti-imperialist tone and socialist revolutionary rhetoric this paper demonstrates that the Communist Chinese based their early foreign policy towards Britain less on ideology than on London’s attitude toward the Guomindang, and did not necessarily deliberate on Britain’s imperialist past. The British initially failed to comprehend this opportunity and the PRC’s diplomacy of linking issues. The PRC Government linked seemingly unrelated issues, including withholding recognition of the British to indicate the PRC’s displeasure with Britain’s vote in the United Nations that helped the Guomindang. Similarly, questions over continued ties between the British and the Guomindang also caused the PRC to stall the British as they sought to deal with issues related to custody and upkeep of the Chinese Embassy in London. This paper utilizes the archives of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing and the United Kingdom’s National Archives in London which both record Chinese linkage and stalling, as well as, how British actions and attitudes towards the Guomindang fractured this fragile relationship and lost the opportunity to establish diplomatic relations in the months before the start of the Korean War in June of 1950.



Journal, Book or Conference Title

East Asia Security Symposium and Conference 东亚安全座谈谈论会

Publication Details

Author Information: Tracy Steele is an Associate Professor of History at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. She teaches and writes on diplomatic and Asian history including articles on Anglo-American relations in Asia and a textbook for Chinese students on Cross-Cultural Communication. She is presently completing a monograph on Sino-British relations in the 1950s. It emphasizes the extent to which China linked Britain’s actions and attitudes toward the Republic of China on Taiwan, particularly its vote in the United Nations on Chinese representation and the British Consulate in Taiwan, to improving the two countries’ trade and diplomatic relations.



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This document has been peer reviewed.