The withdrawal was supposed to aid the Communists in controlling the areas vacated by the Japanese, who had succeeded in controlling vast portions of Manchuria.
Stalin's efforts were aimed at forcing "the GMD [Guomindang or Chinese Nationalist Party] to make economic concessions, to prevent a united China from allying with the United States, and to placate Washington on the international arena by giving in to American demands for withdrawal," but in actuality he not only laid the groundwork for the Communists' eventual victory, but also opened up a window for the possibility of a U.S.-Communist alliance that would have destabilized the Soviet Union's power; as will be seen, the United States failed to capitalize on this opportunity, but the fact remains that Stalin's withdrawal seems to have backfired.
Stalin's withdrawal was not directly aimed at ensuring a Communist victory, but rather was an attempt to destabilize the country so as to deter American interests. In fact, at times Stalin seemed to actually favor the Nationalist government, because it had succeeded in developing relatively close diplomatic ties with Moscow, to the point that Stalin "much preferred negotiating with [the Nationalist government] that with Mao, whom he considered an opinionated upstart."
As a result, "Mao regarded Stalin's policies towards China as being deliberately devious," and "he had strong grounds for thinking so," because prior to the withdrawal, Stalin repeatedly stifled the Chinese Communists' attempts to take ground in an effort to keep China divided, and thus less of a threat.
Mao was well aware that the Soviet's actions regarding China were entirely self-interested, in the same way the United States' tepid support of the Nationalists had been a larger part of their war effort, and so following the Soviet withdrawal he made no attempts to conform to Stalin's wishes. The rift between the Soviet and the Chinese Communists was so great that throughout the rest of the Civil War, Stalin repeatedly entreated Mao to form a coalition government rather than take complete control of China, and each time, Mao confidently rebuffed him.
This rift is crucial to understanding the role of the Dixie Mission and the China Hands following the conclusion of World War II, because it demonstrates the complexity of a geopolitical situation that is frequently viewed as simply another front of the rapidly burgeoning Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The period from 1945-1949 is one of the most important in all of twentieth-century history, because for this brief period, the possibility of a Chinese Communist-U.S. alliance was very real, and if it had come to pass, it would have reconfigured the course of the entire century. Though the United States and the Chinese Communists were obviously divided by political and economic ideology, for a brief moment it appeared as if practical considerations would trump an ideological gap. The Chinese Communists were a force entirely apart from the Soviet Union, because as mentioned above, Mao Zedong was well aware that the Soviet Union's partial support of the Communists was motivated entirely out of self-interest. Furthermore, the United States had begun to recognize the Communists popular and military support, to the point that it dispatched the Dixie Mission. Furthermore, because the Soviet Union feared a united, strong China, an alliance between the United States and the Chinese Communists would have been a boon to the U.S.' larger strategic interests.
The members of the Dixie Mission recognized all of these facts, and from nearly the outset, reported back that the Chinese Communists would prove a useful ally, not only during World War II, but afterward. It was the near-unanimous belief of the Dixie Mission that the Chinese Communists would eventually gain control of China, and that it was in the United States' best interest to support them over the corrupt and disorganized Nationalist regime.
Even after the Dixie Mission's departure in 1947, President Truman's own special fact-finder, a.L. Wedemeyer, publicly condemned the Nationalist government.
The inevitable tragedy of the situation, however, came from the fact that although the position of the United States' diplomatic intelligence apparatus was that support for the Communists was the best option, the military position and behavior of the United States during the Chinese Civil War took nearly the opposite tack.
Almost immediately after the end of the war with Japan, the United States airlifted Nationalist forces into the northeast in attempt to help them secure the area vacated by the Japanese, and U.S. troops stationed throughout China were responsible for a number of assaults, rapes, and other acts that greatly diminished the U.S.' standing in the eyes of the Chinese, Communist and Nationalist alike.
This support continued throughout the Civil War, including the authorization of over $450 million in support of the Nationalists in 1948.
This was partially in response to the Nationalists' economic woes, which included hyperinflation born out of monetary expansion and emergency economic reforms in 1948 that did little to stem their flagging fortunes.
In fact, official U.S. support of the Nationalist government continued all the way until the conclusion of the war, with U.S. Navy ships waiting off the coast to evacuate Americans in fear of a Communist victory; this evacuation never occurred, because the Navy, "along with the rest of the U.S. government, [resigned itself] to the eventual victory of the Communists."
However, just because the United States had backed the losing faction in the war, this did not mean that there was no hope for a Communist-U.S. alliance, nor that it was impossible for Truman to shift his approach to China. As discussed above, the Chinese Communists had no allegiance to the Soviet Union, and a number of American journalists and diplomats had developed close relationships with Mao Zedong and other Communist leaders. Despite the United States' support for the Nationalist government during the Civil War, it seems entirely reasonable to presume that the United States and the Communists had enough common ground, or at least common enemies, that they might come to some sort of agreement. This was not to be, however, and the fallout in Sino-American relations actually had very little to do with China itself.
To be sure, the speed with which the Communists succeeded in taking control over mainland China surprised the United States and its allies, even with the intelligence provided by the Dixie Mission.
The Communists had outmatched the Nationalists at every level, defeating them militarily, economically, politically, and diplomatically.
The relatively rapid success of the Communists surprised the American public more than anyone, and almost immediately after the conclusion of the Civil War there was a widespread belief that China had been "lost" to the Communists.
That this belief was predicted upon a serious ignorance regarding Mao Zedong's relationship with the Soviet Union goes without saying, but it is worth reiterating the particular form this ignorance took in order to better understand the public and congressional reaction to the Civil War's conclusion. In short, the popular reaction to the Communists' success was the belief that "Stalin […] had outmaneuvered the U.S.A., and, using Mao as a puppet, had established China as a Soviet satellite in Asia," such that "the establishment of the PRC was thus one of Stalin's great Cold War triumphs."
Quite naturally, the blame for this loss had to be placed on someone, and there were no easier targets than the China Hands and members of the Dixie Mission who had spoken so highly of the Communists only a few years earlier, and who now found themselves without any institutional support.
Obviously, the notion that China was "lost" to the Communists is woefully incorrect, because as the China Hands pointed out, a would likely be a better ally to the United States than the Nationalist government. However, the practical considerations of the China Hands could not overcome the ideological terror felt by the American public, and so rather than leap at the chance to establish mutually beneficial relations with the new Communist regime, the United States government responded to domestic ignorance and terror with its own reactionary response, spearheaded by the most famous avatar of Cold War paranoia, Joseph McCarthy. The Dixie Mission had effectively rescued the United States from the intelligence failures of the OSS, but following the end of the Chinese Civil War, the China Hands, and their recommendations for establishing closer relations, were met with suspicion and hostility.
The reaction of anti-communists to the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War ensnared not only the China Hands, but the State Department as a whole, because as the previously supplied history demonstrates, the State Department was seemingly alone in its approach to the Chinese Communists. While the United States Congress and military were busy supplying the Nationalists with troop transport and emergency funds, the State Department was engaged in a concerted effort to establish closer ties with the Communists. Thus, it was only a small leap…