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The China ThreatMemories, Myths, and Realities in the 1950s$
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Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159241

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159241.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
The China Threat

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker

Columbia University Press

This introduction debunks a myth about Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy: that however much Kennedy wanted to change a China policy he allegedly did not believe made sense, Eisenhower kept him from doing the right thing. On January 19, 1961, Eisenhower and Kennedy met at the White House. Eisenhower warned that Kennedy's actions on China could bring the former president out of retirement. Historians and policymakers have accepted and retold this story for decades. They used it to explain Kennedy's unwillingness to change his China policy. The truth is that the incident almost certainly never happened. That Eisenhower would have tried to coerce Kennedy regarding the Chinese contradicts—indeed is diametrically opposed to—the former's ideas about China. In fact, Eisenhower believed the United States should, and eventually would, open diplomatic relations with Beijing, anticipated China's entry into the United Nations, and thought that Washington's efforts to smother a rising China had put it in an embarrassing position with allies and adversaries.

Keywords:   diplomatic relations, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, China, United States

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