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Chinese Civil War, U.S. Involvement in the

Chinese Civil War, U.S. Involvement in the (1945–49).Beginning with the ambiguous Yalta Conference (1945), the United States and the Soviet Union failed to agree on the future political shape of Asia or to control their Asian allies and clients (as they did in postwar Europe). Manchuria, which Yalta had effectively awarded to the USSR, played the pebble that starts an avalanche.

After the Japanese surrender, the U.S. transport moved Chinese government armies from the southwest to key cities such as Peking, Tientsin, and Shanghai, and 50,000 U.S. troops landed in China proper. The Soviets who arrived in Manchuria in August 1945 excluded Nationalist forces and helped bring Chinese Communist main forces there from Northwest China.

Fearing deep involvement in China, the United States attempted to deal with this and other issues primarily by negotiations between Nationalists and Communists, sponsored first by Ambassador Patrick Hurley (1945) and then by Gen. George C. Marshall (1945–47). Unrealistic to begin with, this approach was further undermined by a clear American tilt toward the Nationalists, made worse by the abandonment of the direct U.S. contact with the Communists that had been provided, for example, by the military “Dixie Mission” of 1944.

The Chinese Communists' concentration on civil administration rather than military preparation in Man churia suggests that they expected an East European–style outcome: a stable partition and the establishment of a “Red China” in Manchuria under Soviet tutelage. Their calculations were upset by Soviet withdrawal and by the unexpected initiation, in early 1946, of a massive Nationalist offensive that saw American‐equipped elite Nationalist divisions quickly throw the Communists into full retreat. The Communists in Manchuria were saved when Marshall evidently pressured Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai‐shek to stop the offensive, in June 1946, just short of Harbin.

Thereafter the tide of war shifted toward the Communists, and American public opinion became increasingly concerned. In October 1947, an Army Advisory Group was formed to counsel Chiang and $27.7 million in aid was supplied. The Nationalists requested far more and eventually another $400 million was paid, but only in 1948, long after the Truman administration had lost faith in Chiang's Nationalist government. In 1949, after Truman won reelection, he refused further aid and ordered the U.S. ambassador not to follow the retreating Nationalists to Taiwan but rather to remain in Nanking to establish contact with the Communists.
[See also China‐Burma‐India Theater; China, U.S. Military Involvement in.]


Edward L. Dreyer , China at War: 1901–1949, 1995.

Arthur Waldron

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