Today China is projecting itself as the new superpower, many factor seem to indicate that the pacific coexistence between superpowers USA-China is not possible:

  • US networks hacked
  • The Third Taiwan Strait crisis
  • US increasing its military presence in the Pacific.

America became a global superpower before the Chinese Communist Revolution, and many leaders warned about the Chinese prospect, MacArthur recommended to take measures and it resulted in his dismissal when he tried to take action:

Of even greater significance than our tactical successes has been the clear revelation that this new enemy, Red China, of such exaggerated and vaunted military power, lacks the industrial capability to provide adequately many critical items necessary to the conduct of modern war. He lacks the manufacturing base and those raw materials needed to produce, maintain and operate even moderate air and naval power, and he cannot provide the essentials for successful ground operations, such as tanks, heavy artillery and other refinements science has introduced into the conduct of military campaigns. Formerly his great numerical potential might well have filled this gap but with the development of existing methods of mass destruction numbers alone do not offset the vulnerability inherent in such deficiencies. Control of the seas and the air, which in turn means control over supplies, communications and transportation, are no less essential and decisive now than in the past. When this control exists, as in our case, and is coupled with an inferiority of ground firepower in the enemy's case, the resulting disparity is such that it cannot be overcome by bravery, however fanatical, or the most gross indifference to human loss. These military weaknesses have been clearly and definitely revealed since Red China entered upon its undeclared war in Korea. Even under the inhibitions which now restrict the activity of the United Nations forces and the corresponding military advantages which accrue to Red China, it has been shown its complete inability to accomplish by force of arms the conquest of Korea. The enemy, therefore must by now be painfully aware that a decision of the United Nations to depart from its tolerant effort to contain the war to the area of Korea, through an expansion of our military operations to its coastal areas and interior bases, would doom Red China to the risk of imminent military collapse. These basic facts being established, there should be no insuperable difficulty in arriving at decisions on the Korean problem if the issues are resolved on their own merits, without being burdened by extraneous matters not directly related to Korea, such as Formosa or China's seat in the United Nations.

All questions are related, I could split the question in different threads if requested:

  • Why didn't the USA (west) take measures to stop China from became the new superpower while they can?
  • Why didn't Truman let MacArthur to take action if the USA was already in the Cold War and fighting in Korea?
  • Why did the UK give Hong Kong to China, when they still keep other claimed territories like Falkland Islands or Gibraltar?
  • Why did the Clinton Administration handle Nuclear technology to China?
  • Why is the US so aggressive against other perspective superpowers like Russia but so indulgent against China?

Note: I am not American nor Chinese, I am neutral, i am not supporting intervention nor taking sides, it just curiosity about the behavior of big superpowers.


The main question here is:

Why didn't the USA (west) take measures to stop China from became the new superpower while they can?

USA having knowledge that China will someday become their main competitor had the opportunity to undermine them, like it was done with other nations (i.e. CIA participation in Latin-America), also China never got the antagonist role Russia have today in the diplomatic relationships. UK as the main allied to the USA returned Hong Kong to China, while they keep other disputed territories like Falkland and Gibraltar.

  • What makes China a more acceptable superpower to the west than other nations?
  • Why didn't they stopped China in the 1950 while they could knowing that China and the USA will be in the collision course (as stated by authorities of both countries recently)? Was it impotence, miscalculation or other reason?
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    This is waaaaaay too broad a question, so not really answerable in the SE, but it's worth considering that despite some tensions between the US and China, they're the largest economies in the world and they trade constantly. Especially given economic motivations, we've generally been able to solve our disputes diplomatically, or at least prevent them from boiling over too much, and that seems like a much better outcome. Seriously though, there are a million different questions here. narrow it down. – Publius Dec 7 '14 at 20:35
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    They wished, but China taught the whole world a lesson. Take a look at Korea war belligerents. Everyone at least lost a couple teeth in there. – George Chen Dec 8 '14 at 2:37
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    "knowing that China and the USA will be in the collision course" = I think 'collision course' might be a bit hyperbolic. – user1530 Dec 8 '14 at 5:20
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    Well, the media can definitely be hyperbolic. :) – user1530 Dec 8 '14 at 6:27
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    China by and large is where it is today because the US actively helped them. For one example of many, it was US insistence that initially got the Republic of China their seat on the UN security council. Not that they didn't work hard on their own behalf too of course, but for the most part the US has been working to help them, not hinder them. – T.E.D. Oct 25 '17 at 17:15

Why didn't the USA (west) take measures to stop China from became the new superpower while they can?

Because, as your own subsequent question points out, China is (or, at least, in 1950s, was) a more acceptable superpower, unlike Russia; or for that matter a lot further from becoming a superpower, acceptable or not.

Why is the US so aggressive against other perspective superpowers like Russia but so indulgent against China?

What makes China a more acceptable superpower to the west than other nations?

The answer is geography and geopolitics.

  • Russia per se as a superpower isn't the big threat to USA. It lacks force projection capabilities against USA beyond nuclear threat, what with Pacific to cross.

    What is the big threat is Russia that rolled over Europe and combined its own natural resources with European economic power. And, given a near-complete absence of geographic barries to such a rolling-over, containing Russia (which - even in 1945 - managed to get to Berlin) was absolutely required.

  • China is a completely different kettle of fish.

    1. At least as far as 1950s, it was NOT really a threat due to the same reason - geography.

      It is surrounded by either mountains, or deserts, on all sides. Yes, it can project power into insignificant little corners like Korea. But it can't (or at least couldn't back then, and realistically still can not) roll over Europe, or even Siberia, or India.

    2. Now, this is somewhat changing in 2000+, due to advances in technology (hyperspeed capable missiles pose credible threat to aircraft carries; space bourne weapons platforms are somewhat closer to reality than science fiction) and economics (China finally industrialized; developed better economy; and developed, bought and stole enough technology to place it on a better level). But your question was about 1950 when none of that was even a glimmer in anyone's imagination except maybe Mao's.

  1. Why do you think they can or ever could? China has four times more population, vast natural resources, venerable ancient culture, and the Chinese are in no way less intelligent, resourceful or determined than Americans. The only way to stop China from realizing its human potential is to constantly create havoc and misery for them, preventing them from developing their full capacity. Are you sure there is any moral justification for that? Would you want your government to be any part of keeping a billion people in misery because you're afraid of them? I don't think that would pass a minimal moral muster. The Chinese had made a long string of errors and have undertaken some spectacularly disastrous policies which prevented them so far from realizing their full potential, but that can not continue forever, and there is no good reason for it to continue. And the Chinese are starting to realize it too, albeit slower than one would desire.
  2. The capacity for war is limited, both militarily and politically, and successfully taking on communist China was probably way beyond US capabilities then (or now). The US couldn't even take North Korea, and Vietnam wasn't a spectacular success either.
  3. Because that's what they agreed to back in 19th century. It is bad business to violate agreements. It is even worse business to do so if the result is pissing off the largest nation on Earth. Also, the Brits had absolutely no chance of defending Hong Kong by force if the amicable solution has not been found.
  4. This probably requires a reference to the specific event to discuss further, but usually for any political action there is a myriad of reasons deeply rooted in contemporary situation and probably each could be expanded into a passable doctorate thesis and still not have definite answer. In any case, thinking that the country with the size and potential of China would stay outside of the nuclear club for long is completely pointless. And indeed, China became the nuclear power in 1964.
  5. Again, reference to specific events is required - what is "so aggressive" and what is "so indulgent"? Specific events are handled according to specific situations, and expecting all events would be handled the same is like expecting all people are handled the same and so a guy who treats differently his wife and a total stranger dude he meets on the street is somehow weird. It is completely natural, and so handling relations with different countries differently is natural. More specific answer would require more specific question.
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    The US did successfully take on North Korea; UN forces were beaten back when China entered the war (which still goes to "US couldn't have taken China") – cpast Dec 7 '14 at 23:16
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    @StasM: On point one, I agree there is not moral justification to intervene a country, my question is from the geopolitical point of view. in the 50s the USA and the USSR were the only global powers, China is a great nation with vast resources but in the 50s they didn't had the capacity the USA had. No offense my question is not about imperialism but rather about political decisions. – S182 Dec 7 '14 at 23:30
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    @S182 political decisions in democratic countries are approved by people. Doing something openly and obviously immoral and unjust would be hard to get approved. – StasM Dec 8 '14 at 6:32
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    @StasM Can you really say that with straight face after Iraq, Lybia, Checkoslovakia, etc? Approval can be manipulated. Tell the world about hidden chemical weapons, wave some random vial with "biological threat". If nobody can find them - just tell this is even worse - those guys are OBVIOUSLY evil if they hide their evil weapons so well! Even if you say 10 years later that this was just a "fake for sake of example", nobody will hold it against you. Not having a physical ability, that you also mention, is much more real reason. – Oleg V. Volkov Dec 1 '17 at 3:28
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    "Approval can be manipulated" is dangerously close to "people which agree with me are thoughtful, moral individuals, but people that disagree with me are mindless drones controlled by nefarious shadowy puppetmasters". Politicians of course can engage in deception, sometimes successfully, but the whole point of deception is to not appear openly immoral and unjust. Which confirms my point - if there weren't any value for moral and justice, why would one bother to appear just and moral, even deceptively? – StasM Dec 6 '17 at 1:17

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