The Words of the Jarmin Family

China's Power Struggle and the President's Trip

Gary Jarmin
February 1972

In his previous article on the struggle for power in Communist China, Mr. Jarmin presented background information and argued that President Nixon's trip to Peking might have been and still could be an important factor in determining the outcome of the struggle itself. Here, Mr. Jarmin discusses not only the importance of the President's visit for the power struggle but also the effect of the visit on prospects for peace with freedom in Asia.

There is little doubt that the Administration was well aware of the struggle for power in Peking. China experts had been pointing it out for some time, and the President undoubtedly had the best intelligence gatherings available on the subject. However, since precise knowledge about the conflict was so deeply hidden, President Nixon cannot be criticized for not knowing all the facts concerning it. But the prematurity of his move to establish relations with Peking, especially when the Chinese leadership was in the midst of a period of obvious instability, must be judged.

At the time Nixon accepted the invitation to visit Peking, the Chou-Mao faction still had a strong and well-entrenched military leadership to overcome before their coalition of "moderates" could claim effective control of the government. Nixon's visit was very likely the added leverage needed by Chou and Mao to help offset the increasing power of Lin Piao and his group of military leaders, who had been strongly opposed to any moves toward the U.S. which might anger Moscow at a time when China's military still needed modernization. It appears that Chou and Mao have gained the upper hand in the conflict; and Nixon's visit to Peking, although not the sole factor in the power struggle, has undoubtedly had its effect on the outcome. The fight for leadership in Peking is not yet resolved, and it is likely that the issue of Nixon's visit will continue to be used as a political lever. Recent reports indicate at least two dozen military leaders have tried to flee the country, which -shows that the purges of leaders in opposition to Chou and Mao are still continuing.

To speculate as to what might have happened had Lin and his generals become the domineering faction is, at this point, purely academic. The real question is whether or not President Nixon had considered these matters seriously enough before he announced his trip. In any case, the fact remains that he finally decided in favor of the trip, and in so doing undertook a grave risk. Whether Providence has worked for or against Nixon on this matter will probably not be known for some time. However, if recent developments in China, the U.N. and elsewhere are any indication of what is to come, then the future of freedom in Asia does not look very bright.

Despite the widespread feeling that Peking would tone down her rhetoric once she was admitted to the U.N., her opening U.N. remarks have only reemphasized her determination to wage more wars of "liberation" against the so called forces of U.S. imperialism. In addition, a U.N. seat for a loyal U.S. ally, innocent of any charter violations, has been lost in favor of a regime that was branded by the U.N. itself as an aggressor, guilty of genocide.

Our New China policy, moreover, cannot be denied as an important factor in driving India (a nation which can hardly be written off an unimportant) farther into the Soviet camp. Surely the possibility of Japanese detente with China against the economic strength of the U.S. must disturb anyone with a concern for the development of a prosperous, non-Communist Asia. Nor can we refuse a major portion of the responsibility for the recent de-democratization of countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Korea whose relative openness depends so heavily on the credibility of Americas' commitment to defend them against Chinese aggression or Chinese-sponsored Communist insurgency.

The very predictable reaction of the Soviets to exploit the fears of the Vietnamese and Korean Communists and to make a more hostile situation capable of undermining the President's visit in Peking is another factor which leads one to wonder about Dr. Nixon's foresight in this matter. The Soviets have supplied the North Vietnamese with new and better equipment which they have been using in their latest offensive in Laos; and Laos' chances for survival appear increasingly slim. The new Communist offensive in Cambodia and South Vietnam also relies heavily on Soviet support and is no doubt at least in part an attempt to stymie Nixon's visit, which the North Vietnamese fear. In addition, the recent warming of relations between Moscow and Pyongyang was probably an important factor in South Korean President Park's decision to declare a state of national emergency for the Soviets would like nothing better than to see increased border incidents or even more serious trouble between North and South Korea as a means of putting an additional wedge between Peking (Pyongyang's foremost ally) and the U.S.

In short, the balance of power has been tottering seriously since the announcement of Nixon's trip. It is hard to believe that an expert in power balance strategy like Henry Kissinger could counsel the Peking move at the time it was made. Perhaps, we must consider, the decision was more political than strategic.

The only thing President Nixon has made perfectly clear about his New China Policy is that, at least in the short run and quite possibly in the long, America has been willing to sacrifice the security of its less powerful allies for the sake of big-power detente. We wander, along with Zigniew Brezenski, (Newsweek Jan. 24) whether the next decade will see the beginning of the Generation -- or the Degeneration -- of peace. Hopefully these thoughts will be perfectly clear in the mind, of President Nixon when he travels to Peking this February 21. 

Table of Contents

Tparents Home

Moon Family Page

Unification Library