Hard Line Until the End
In September 1958, the British Ambassador to the US, Sir Harold Caccia, reported to the Foreign Office in London that the American public was getting increasingly frustrated with the difficult state of Sino-American relations. “Dissatisfaction is nothing new, but it is being expressed more openly now,” he wrote. The American public particularly blamed Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kei-shek) and his associates in Washington for the dangerous situation in the Taiwan Straits. A large portion of the public was now willing to abandon Eisenhower’s hard line policy and implement a softer approach if it could avoid another military crisis or worse, nuclear war.
The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the public discontent that plagued the last years of the Eisenhower administration. The calls for a reassessment of Sino-American relations, which had begun at the end of the first Taiwan (Formosa) crisis, intensified through 1958 and reached a peak when the Chinese Communists began shelling the offshore islands for a second time in the autumn of that year. While support for establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing (Peiping) and its admission into the United Nations never reached an overall national majority, removal of the trade embargo and negotiations to minimize tensions and lower the risk of a nuclear conflict were advocated tor by an overwhelming majority of Congressmen, press, and the public. Only a few diehard Nationalist supporters continued to argue that hostility was the only correct policy toward the Communist regime. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles refused to acquiesce to popular demand. They remained convinced that their hard line policy was the best way to protect American national security interests.
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