Perception and misperception in US China policy, 1941-1963: the role of politics and decision making processes

Bartley, A 2018, Perception and misperception in US China policy, 1941-1963: the role of politics and decision making processes, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Perception and misperception in US China policy, 1941-1963: the role of politics and decision making processes
Author(s) Bartley, A
Year 2018
Abstract This dissertation examines White House administration China policies in the United States in the years from 1941 to 1963. This timeframe and the crossing over from the wartime presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman to the Cold War presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy has been overlooked in the literature in favour of Great Power relations with the Soviet Union and, as a periphery extension, the People’s Republic of China. The chief argument, and pattern discernible throughout these years, is that each president rarely gained through their own personal history, education, experience, and White House organization a coherent strategy for addressing China policy. Each administration represented the well-developed cognitive belief system of the president and his chosen advisers that, except for a few years of the first and second Truman administrations, influenced the misunderstanding of China’s internal revolution and political development in the White House, encouraging as a result the adoption of policies often counter to American aims. The best approach to measuring this misunderstanding is through an examination of administration decision-making processes.

I contend that misperception of China in the White House was more widely systemic during this time than has been previously thought. Each administration, whether intentionally or not, suppressed the information gathering and analytical program of the State Department and the intelligence agencies on China encouraging incomplete images and intelligence regarding both the Kuomintang and Communist governments. This development required decision-makers to make educated guesses about Chinese intentions often coloured by anti-Communist prejudices and informed by historical circumstances divorced from on the ground Chinese experience. It is further argued that concepts of the ‘China problem’ based on realist appraisals of American interests during this timeframe blur important distinctions in the decision-making process on China policy. This concept fails to properly account for the influences of domestic politics at both the information gathering and decision-making level, and the important influence of chosen advisers to a president’s decision-making process and the barriers to nuanced policies they and their bureaucracies may erect.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects North American History
Decision Making
International Relations
Keyword(s) United States
China policy
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Created: Wed, 05 Dec 2018, 16:50:00 EST by Keely Chapman
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