The 1960s could be considered the beginning of changes of U.S. policy toward China. During the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson’s administrations, the U.S. policy toward China seemed to be not as fixed as that of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. We could discern that the subtle change by and large came from either the “Republic of China policy of retaking the mainland China” or the issue of “Representation of China” in the United Nations (UN). Therefore, the main purpose of this thesis is to explore the U.S. decision-making process when dealing with China-related issues during the Johnson administration.
Graham Allison''s three models of decision-making process as the main analytical framework, namely Rational Actor Model (RAM), Organizational Behavior Model (OBM), and Government Politics Model (GPM) will be applied in this thesis, analyzing how the United States during Johnson’s years dealt with Taiwan’s military operations on mainland China, PRC’s nuclear tests, and the issue of representation of China in the UN.
First, the Johnson administration’s response to Nationalist China’s military operations on mainland China could be regarded as a continuity of the policy toward Taiwan in the Kennedy administration. Bearing maximal national interest in mind, President Johnson explicitly told Taipei that it would not support Taiwan’s military offensive against Communist China so that an unnecessary nuclear war with the Soviet Union could be avoided. After scrutinizing the consequences of Taiwan’s military operations on mainland China, all departments and agencies of U.S. government believed the acts of Nationalist China government might drag the United States into an unnecessary war, thereby jeopardizing the national interests of the United States. And during the interactive process of bureaucracy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s opinion helped to boost Johnson’s decision in turning down U.S. support of Nationalist China’s unilateral military actions.
Second, President Johnson eventually decided to choose diplomatic means instead of military means in response to red China’s nuclear tests. Actually, each of these two policy options was discussed and supported by different departments in the Johnson administration. Due to insufficiency of CIA’s intelligence report, however, State Department’s assessment incrementally gained the upper hand over CIA report, thus becoming the mainstream views of the administration. As a result, President Johnson took the advice of Rusk-dominated State Department, ending up with responding to Communist China’s nuclear test via diplomatic means merely.
Third, on the issue of representation of China in the UN, President Johnson accepted Dean Rusk’s suggestion in trying every possible means to keep the UN seat under Nationalist China by supporting the founding a study committee designed to win the support of other countries on the Important Question Resolution proposed by Washington. Meanwhile, because of its expertise and capabilities, State Department played the dominant role in the decision-making process on this issue. With President Johnson’s trust and authorization, Secretary Rusk gained more direct and effective access to the president in the decision-making process than other secretaries. As a result, secretary Rusk’s personal opinion had profound impact on President Johnson’s decision on this issue.
Judging from the Johnson administration’s blunt refusal of the request from Nationalist China government in supporting Taiwan’s military operations on Communist China, and the way Washington dealt with the issue of representation of China in the UN, it seemed that the Johnson Administration might have intended to advocate in support of “Two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” policy. However, believing that the possibility of a conflict with the Soviet Union would endanger U.S. national interest, the Johnson administration could not but abandon any adjustment of its China policy. Therefore, the main theme of this thesis is that in order to avoid a possible conflict with the Soviet Union, the Johnson Administration decided to abandon any adjustment of its China policy even though its policy toward China-related issues such as the issue of Taiwan’s military operations on mainland China and the issue of representation of China in the UN were engraved with strong characteristics of “Two Chinas” or “one China, one Taiwan” policy.”