Leeds History First

‘Sharp Divisions of Interest and Function’? Anglo-American Relations and Containment in the Far East, 1949-1951

The Anglo-American ‘special relationship’ became a stable factor in international relations during the Second World War and early Cold War period, but it is frequently asserted that this crucial friendship was closer and more cooperative in Europe than Asia. This study offers a reevaluation of this traditional interpretation, arguing that the dynamics of the alliance underwent a fundamental transition during the critical years of 1949-51. By analysing inter-allied relations in conjunction with advances in containment theory on both sides of the Atlantic, it becomes apparent that London and Washington moved together towards a more assertive understanding of the need to challenge Communist power in Asia following Maoist victory in the Chinese Civil War. This resulted in a greater convergence of interests than in the preceding period, when relations were governed by a doctrine of ‘divided responsibilities’, thus providing for unprecedented levels of meaningful consultation and collaboration in the Asian theatre. To analyse this transformation in relations, it is necessary to move away from an East Asian-South East Asian divide. A more comprehensive understanding of broader ‘Far Eastern’ developments better reflects contemporary policy-makers’ concerns and enables linkage to be drawn between the impact of the Korean War on Anglo-American cooperation in Indochina and Japan. The new collaboration reached its zenith in May-June 1951, symbolised by tripartite military planning with French representatives in Singapore and John Foster Dulles’ visit to London to create a joint draft of the Japanese Peace Treaty. This analysis is based primarily on documentary evidence from the British National Archives, drawing on Cabinet, Foreign Office and military records, in addition to memoirs and published source material.

Download the file.

This entry was posted in 1920-1949, Asia, Britain and Ireland, HIST3800, International History, USA and tagged .

© Copyright Leeds 2020