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Power and Primacy

A History of Western Intervention in the Asia-Pacific

A.B. Abrams

Today the Asia-Pacific region stands on the verge of major change, with centuries of western dominated regional order being seriously challenged and quite possibly nearing its end. The emergence of a potential new order dominated by regional rather than extra-regional powers - an «Asia for the Asiatics» in the words of Japan’s pan-Asian scholars - means it is now more than ever essential to understand the history of the current western-dominated system, the full implications should it continue and the nature of the West’s intentions towards the region.

This book undertakes the task of elucidating the complex and little-known history of western intervention in the Asia-Pacific, providing information critical to understanding contemporary developments

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Chapter 3: Emergence of a People’s Republic in China: Efforts to Undermine the Rise of an Independent Asian Power

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Chapter 3

Emergence of a People’s Republic in China: Efforts to Undermine the Rise of an Independent Asian Power

China … looms as a major power threatening to undercut our importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us.1

— 1969 Pentagon Papers

Our hope of solving the problem of the mainland of China was not through attack on the mainland but rather by actions which would promote disintegration from within.2

— Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Walter Robinson

The United States and the Chinese Civil War

By the time of the Japanese Empire’s surrender in 1945 China had been in a state of civil war for 18 years. This period was itself preceded by years of factionalism and instability in which the country was governed by several rival warlords – somewhat resembling Afghanistan in the 1990s. The civil war had primarily been fought by two factions, the nationalist Guomindang (GMD) led by Chiang Kai-shek, and the communist forces led by Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. Hostilities between the formerly unified factions broke out in 1927 when Chiang Kai-shek, following the death of nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen, had taken power and sought to purge communist elements of the nationalist movement – which he perceived to be a threat to his own position. Japan’s occupation of Manchuria in China’s far east in 1931 and the outbreak of open hostilities...

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