Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Herbert S. Parmet

Committee Members

Hans L. Trefousse

Thomas Kessner

Subject Categories

United States History


This dissertation focuses on Richard Nixon's view of Communist China from the 1949 Revolution through the 1960 presidential election. There is also an extended epilogue examining his position on the issue in the 1960s prior to his election as president, and a discussion of the opening to China in 1972.

It is, in essence, an attempt to trace Nixon's "education," so to speak, in the foreign policy arena during his early career–a "gestation" period, if you will, for his presidential China policy. This is discussed within the context of the Cold War and the never ending melodrama of domestic politics, in which Nixon played a vital role.

The thesis is that Nixon's approach to the Communist China question was far more consistent than most historians and journalists have recognized. The Nixon that emerges is pragmatic rather than ideological. He was a politician sensitive to the domestic political considerations of the emotional China issue. He was phenomenally adept in appearing bellicose before hard-line groups while offering hope of a modus vivendi when he addressed audiences not in lockstep with the China Lobby. Nixon was not a Janus nor should he be considered simply in terms of the tired images of "new" and "old" Nixons; rather, he was a complex, multifaceted politician who could be scurrilous on the hustings while pensive and far less partisan in private musings on foreign affairs.

Nixon's opening to China has usually been portrayed as a volte-face. The supposed "turnaround" has been emphasized rather than the maturation of Nixon's vision of China as an integral part of a "Pacific strategy" that served the interests of both nations. Nixon was hardly a conventional Republican right-wing politician because he was a staunch internationalist who backed Truman's Europe policy. In addition, he supported foreign aid as congressman, senator, vice president, president and "elder statesman."

Finally, there was far more consistency and continuity between Nixon the vice president and Nixon the president instead of the melodramatic metamorphosis that other historians have portrayed.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.