Cold War & Revolution: Soviet-American Rivalry and the Origins of the Chinese Civil War

In This Review

Cold War & Revolution: Soviet-American Rivalry and the Origins of the Chinese Civil War

By Odd Arne Westad
Columbia University Press, 1993
260 pp. $50.00

This volume is an impressive piece of historical scholarship on the origins of the Cold War in East Asia. Its primary importance stems from the interesting way in which it weaves together the policies and perceptions of the four key actors in the critical 1944-46 period: Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists, Mao Zedong's communists, Stalin's Russia and Truman's America.

The book demonstrates that the Cold War in East Asia predated the triumph of the Chinese communists or the Korean War. Already by August 1945 many high-ranking U.S. officials saw F.D.R.'s design for U.S.-Soviet cooperation in East Asia as outdated, viewed Soviet demands on China as aggressive, believed that the Chinese Communist Party was an instrument of Soviet foreign policy, and were acting to keep the Red Army out of Japan and to contain Soviet influence in China.

By mid-1946, the leaders of both the Soviet Union and the United States viewed the civil war in China as linked to the Soviet-American conflict of interest in Europe and the Middle East. In short, there was an early globalization of the U.S.-Soviet conflict. The author also has interesting things to say about Stalin's diplomacy, which he finds erratic and incoherent. Instead of seeking to overcome American suspicions by working out a cautious foreign policy designed to achieve limited goals, Stalin alternated between aggressive and conciliatory measures that increased U.S. wariness and Soviet isolation.

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