| This article challenges three popular impressions. First, the general belief, especially prevalent in Taiwan, that a “special relationship” existed between United States and China that also explains Washington’s support for “Free China” after the Chinese civil war. Second, the argument made by Western scholars that Chiang Kai-shek manipulated U.S. China policy in the 1950s so that Washington supported Taiwan and adopted a hostile policy toward China. Third, the assumption that U.S. policymaking process was entirely rational and hence that a grand Cold War strategy encompassed Far Eastern/China policy. This article argues that external factors such as public opinion, moral principles, international agreements, allies' positions, and even policy announcements all had very little effects on the essence of U.S. policy toward Taiwan in the 1950s.
Instead, the perceptions of U.S. policymakers, such as their loathing and suspicion of the Nationalists and Chiang; their concern for U.S. prestige; and their unwillingness to pay a sufficient price to pursue other objectives in Asia greatly conditioned U.S. policy towards Taiwan. This study discerns three clear patterns to U.S. policymaking. First, Washington tried to retain flexibility at all costs—thus its Taiwan/China policy often appeared to be indecisive. Second, Washington was time and again forced to take actions in response to crises, thus leaving the initiative to its enemies (in Taiwan's case, Communist China). And third, policymakers were too inclined to wishful thinking and rarely took the positions of its allies or enemies into consideration, which greatly hampered the practicability of their policy design.