Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Religion, Press Freedom, and Equal Protection on Campus

Establishment of Religion

Viewpoint neutrality extends beyond political speech on campus, and into what may be an even more contentious area – religious freedom. The courts have ruled that colleges cannot treat individuals or groups espousing a religious belief in away that is less favorable than other religious or secular groups on campus. The courts have struck down rules that prohibited religious groups from using campus facilities or being awarded funding. If secular groups receive access to funding or facilities at a public institution of higher learning, then religious groups must also receive funding and access to facilities under the same criteria as secular groups seeking services from the school.

At the same time, in order to remain viewpoint neutral in the eyes of the courts may not take actions that establish a specific religious tradition or practice at a public institution. Because this is a contentious issue, the Supreme Court has developed a three-pronged approach known as the Lemon test to assess the policies colleges set. Essentially, programs must have a secular purpose, must not hinder or promote religion, and does create government entanglement. One effect of the Lemon test is to make fora on campus that secular groups can access also open to religious groups. The most obvious result on some campuses is that student affairs administrators end being required to allow members of religions to preach in public for a on campus unless they cause a significant disturbance to the educational mission. When I was a student at the University of Alabama, this meant that students, especially female students, found themselves the targets of the harangues of an individual calling himself “Brother Micah” as they went to the student center on campus.

Freedom of the Press

Student organizations have levels of press freedom at colleges and universities far beyond that found in the K-12 setting as a result of the 1973 Papish ruling by the Supreme Court, which affirmed that student organizations in higher education have the same press freedoms as regular media. Both content censorship and prior restrain of student media are generally held to be unconstitutional. This means that campus newspapers are subject to the same standards as other publications in regard to defamation and copyright. Electronic student media have the same levels of protections, although, student affairs administrators can still impose limits on Internet access  or other limited public for a or nonfora – analysis of appropriate time, place, and manner still apply to campus media organizations. In an area that is potentially less obvious, the courts have ruled that media generated as part of a class assignment for grades or other evaluation, may be more closely regulated in regards to academic standards. In the teaching role, colleges can use grades to assert that articles do not meet academic standards for quality. In another caveat for administrators and faculty, though, even when a campus newspaper is produced in class, the college still cannot exercise censorship over the content.

Right to Privacy

The issue of student rights to privacy seems one of the more challenging of the civil rights that student affairs administrators must navigate. In some regards a right to privacy is implied in the First Amendment to the Constitution in the rights to free speech or association, as students cannot be forced to speak or join organizations outside the context of the classroom. In addition, although campus administrators are not law enforcement, the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal search and seizure apply at public colleges. In practice, it seems that student affairs administrators need to be more aware of the restraints and requirements of Federal and state privacy laws on student privacy. FERPA, for example allows students access to their records, and allows employees of an institution of higher education to discuss a student if there is a legitimate educational reason to do so, but it also prevents them from releasing information about a student’s grades or class performance without written permission unless health and safety are at stake. As in other parts of life, individual privacy rights tend to be less if safety is an issue, so student affairs administrators are advised to err on the side of caution when privacy is an issue – if there is a legitimate reason to know that students are a danger to themselves or others, it is best to contact appropriate authorities and face potential privacy litigation than to risk that people be harmed by their inaction.

Equal Protection

Federal law and Supreme Court rulings have established that institutions of higher education may not discriminate based on race or gender. The Court’s ruling in Brown v the Board of Education in 1954 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ban discrimination based on race, while Title IX bars discrimination based on gender. There are some important exceptions for Greek organizations, religious schools, and military academies, but in general, at public institutions of higher education, may not discriminate based on either of these categories. In addition, the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Acts prohibit discrimination based on disability.

When it comes to race-based discrimination, the issue that seems the largest challenge for student affairs administrators in the 21st century is the issue of Affirmative Action in admissions or access to limited programs. The courts have ruled that quotas and systems that treat students as groups based on race or ethnicity are not acceptable ways to promote diversity. Student affairs administrators are encouraged to evaluate each student as an individual, and can use race only as a bonus on a student’s side when considering them for admission if it can be shown that doing so to enhance diversity is a benefit to the educational mission.

Disability seems another area in which student affairs administrators face a very difficult task in acting appropriately, serving student needs, and following legislation. Part of the problem is that because higher education is not legally defined as a right, when students leave the K-12 environment for college, they face a radically different methodology when it comes to accommodation. In colleges, students needing accommodation must self-identify in order to receive evaluation and accommodation. Student affairs administrators also face the challenge of not having established competencies to guide admissions to disciplines, which makes it more difficult to determine whether a student with a disability could succeed regardless of their disability. Once again, treating students as individuals, and evaluating each case on its own is really the watchword for student affairs administrators. Disability law is so highly specialized that administrators to seek help from specialists when dealing with this area of responsibility.


References

Lake, Peter F, Foundations of higher education law & policy: Basic legal rules, concepts, and principles for student affairs. Washington, DC: NASPA.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Freedom of Speech on Campus

In light of recent controversies over free speech on college campuses, I thought I would share some insights from my Higher Education Law class, which is a requirement for the Graduate Certificate in Title IX that I've been working on recently. All stages of this have been an eye-opener, but the ideas here seem relevant. I'm focusing entirely on the legal aspects of speech on campus because the question of whether students should protest speakers invited to campus is not a legal issue, but a cultural, political, and social one. The idea that colleges, or states, should prevent protests or punish students for law-abiding protests is ludicrous for the reasons below. Violence and destruction of property are different issues entirely.

Freedom of speech

Students in the educational context do not give up their First Amendment rights, including those of free speech. The Supreme Court has recognized that protected forms of expression are not limited to speaking, but also include symbols. Whiles there are limits to free speech - it doesn't cover obscenity or threats, or speech that is disruptive to the educational missions of colleges. Despite that, protected speech includes many things that students and faculty might find distasteful. That means that colleges cannot punish hate speech, and can only adopt viewpoint neutral regulations that restrict conduct if they can legitimately foresee that the conduct, including speech, might disrupt education on campus. Student affairs administrators don't have to wait until a riot erupts to disperse a protest or other gathering on campus.

However, at the same time, student affairs administrators cannot ban speech or other activities simply because they fear that there might be a disruption. The Supreme Court holds that colleges and universities must tolerate a modicum of incivility and disruption as part of campus life as long as it does not rise to the level of "material and substantial" disruption of educational activities. In order to take proactive measures to restrict speech, student affairs administrators must have a reasonable basis for doing so - mere concern of what might happen is not sufficient. There must be legitimate cause to foresee a significant disturbance of campus activities (Lake, 2011, p. 198-204).

Time, place, and manner

Because the Supreme Court has also held that organizations and institutions also have free speech rights, and that it has recognized the rights of colleges to restrict speech that interferes with their educational mission, they can insist that speech be limited to reasonable times, places, and manners. In recent years, the Court has been interpreting these restrictions in ways that tend to favor government institutions, which may give student affairs administrators a bit of leeway in implementing these restrictions on campus, especially when narrowly tailored to promote a significant interest that would not be achieved if there were no limits. However, student affairs administrators must also be aware that any restrictions must be reasonable, and selecting an option to restrict speech that essentially closes it off, does not meet the standard of being reasonable. Restrictions of time, place, and manner of speech must also be viewpoint neutral.

Free speech zones, which are becoming increasingly popular, fit into the category of time and place restrictions, and they pose some special challenges for student affairs administrators. They must ensure that they are not using free speech zones to close of speech in areas of the campus that are traditionally open public fora. In addition, administrators must takes steps to ensure that they are restricting certain types of speech based on the potential to disrupt education, rather than on the content of the speech. Student affairs administrators must also ensure that while restricting speech to free speech zones, they are not preventing "ample" opportunities for communication - free speech zones that no one goes near do not really provide a chance to communicate ideas (Lake, 2011, p. 204-205).

Chill, overbreadth, and vagueness

First Amendment rights extend beyond direct restrictions, but are also concerned with the issue of "chilling" of expression. If students worry that their speech may result in some kind of punishment due to campus rules. They do not have to actually be punished for campus limits to violate the First Amendment, but merely the threat rules pose might be enough. One of the ways in which this can happen is if rules are so vague or broad that they can be made to cover just about anything. Broadly written rules intended to restrict speech that would not normally be protected may end up restricting protected speech unintentionally. What this means for student affairs administrators is that they should try to be specific when creating rules and regulations related to speech. Assertions that rules are overly broad, or are too vague often appear in litigation on First Amendment matters, so administrators need to be aware of these potential problems (Lake, 2011, p. 206).

Public fora

Colleges have multiple types of spaces, and each type of space allows varying levels of free speech, including (among others) a traditional public forum and a limited public forum. Although institutions have a bit of control over which places on campus are designated as what type of fora, student affairs administrators are unable to simply dictate which spaces will develop into which type of forum. As is common in public places in American society, the use of various fora on campus evolves over time. Colleges and universities cannot simply attempt to claim that there are no fora on campus, and while they can create preferred locations for speech, they cannot wipe out all nonconforming speech on campus.

Traditional public fora are generally seen as neutral public spaces in which no perspective is privileged above others. Spaces normally open to the public fall into this category - parks are one example. Other spaces that were not originally intended to be public fora may also develop into them over time. What is important for student affairs administrators to understand is that in traditional public fora they generally may only apply restrictions on the time and manner of speech. Content may only be regulated in traditional public fora if it serves “a compelling” interest of the state, which means that speech the administrators do not like often cannot be regulated.

Limited public fora present different challenges for student affairs administrators. These are areas that the university has created as different from other fora, and they may have features that allow administrators to limit speech in these locations because they are created for certain purposes. Student newspapers and student organizations, areas for signs and notices, and some types of Internet use fall into the category of limited public fora, as these areas are created specifically to further the educational mission of the institution. Student affairs administrators have more latitude in regulated limited public fora, but they still must obey the rules that their own institutions have created. However, they still cannot regulate points of view expressed(Lake, 2011, p. 207-217).

Nonfora

Some places that are generally not open to the public are not fora at all. In these places the college’s First Amendment rights of freedom of association or speech are likely at stake. Board meetings or administrative meetings fall into this category, as the administrators must have the ability to determine time, place, and content of the meeting in order to conduct the university’s business. Student advising appointments might also fall into this category.

In addition, although it may seem that private institutions of higher learning should have greater leeway in determining what type of speech occurs on campus, some parts of even private schools are so similar to traditional public fora that legislation and judicial rulings often treat fora at private colleges in ways similar to those at public institutions of higher education. As a result, student affairs administrators at private colleges should consult with legal experts in their jurisdiction to determine how local laws treat regulation of speech on their campuses (Lake, 2011, p. 218).

References

Lake, Peter F, Foundations of higher education law & policy: Basic legal rules, concepts, and principles for student affairs. Washington, DC: NASPA.

Contrasting Approaches to Faith: Roger Williams and John Winthop

Gaustad, Edwin S. Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America.
Morgan, Edmund S. The Puritan Dilemma: The Story of John Winthrop.
Understanding the comparative roles of Church and State in the development of England’s American colonies is crucial to understanding the modern United States and the cultural and political setting of the 21st century.  Religious differences and the proper role of religion in government create fissures in modern American society, just as those issues caused divisions in England and the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  In their biographies of Roger Williams and John Winthrop, Edwin Gaustad and Edmund Morgan take up the difficult task of navigating the mists of time to not only discuss two key figures instrumental in Early America, but to examine the larger issue of the proper place of religion in society.
Although both Roger Williams and John Winthrop were Puritans, it would be difficult to find two men whose views on religion and government were more disparate.  On the one hand, Roger Williams held the view that civil governments should have no role in enforcing “the rules of the first table”, or the first four of the Ten Commandments, which relate to worshiping only the God of Moses, not creating images of the deity, and keeping the Sabbath holy (Gaustad, 81).  On the other, John Winthrop and the majority of Puritans believed that it was the responsibility of rational governments to absolutely enforce the requirements of the first table Morgan, 125).  The protagonists chosen by Gaustad and Morgan also held very different views on whether individuals and congregations should be allowed to hold divergent religious beliefs within the same society.  Williams believed that people should be allowed to worship according to his own conscience, whether they were Anglicans, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, or chose to believe in no deity at all (Gaustad, 89).  In contrast, Winthrop held that to avoid internal strife, societies must agree to homogenous religious beliefs (Morgan, 132)
Both texts cover much of the same material, albeit from radically different perspectives.  Using biography as the vehicle for this discussion has some unique pitfalls: judging the subject by the ethical standards of the modern era, identifying with the subject to the extent that the narrative is no longer objective, selecting anecdotes merely for shock value, or expanding available facts to fill in the gaps.  Unfortunately, it seems that both Gaustad and Winthrop fall into at least some of these traps.  However, by choosing biography as the medium for approaching this important stage of American development, Gaustad and Morgan are able to lend an air of immediacy to their subjects, which is frequently not the case is traditional histories.  The reason for this is simple: by choosing a protagonist for the story, they allow readers to become absorbed into the material.
It is easier to find areas for criticism in Morgan’s The Puritan Dilemma than in Gaustad’s Liberty of Conscience, if only because John Winthrop’s views on the proper relation between Church and State offend modern American sensibilities.  Winthrop’s early life reads like every Americans expectation of Puritan migrants to the New World, and in this respect he is a likable figure.  Focusing on the Puritanism’s difficult path, which dictated that the adherent “devote his life to seeking salvation but told him that he was helpless to do anything but evil,” (Morgan, 7), Morgan shows how the young Winthrop struggled with the requirements of his new faith.  In addition to the quest for salvation, which was a predetermined fate, Puritanism required that Winthrop live in the world, but not be part of it.  This meant that he could not withdraw to a strictly religious life focused on God, but had to live to the best of his ability as part of his devotions.  This meant walking the fine line between enjoying the pleasures God provided and not becoming so absorbed in them that he lost sight of God (Morgan, 8).  Attaining this balance was as difficult for John Winthrop as it would be for modern Americans and Britons, and Morgan’s depiction of him staggering between the pleasures of the good life and complete abstinence from fine living paints a picture of a real man that counters the modern caricature of Puritans as strict, unbending, humorless folk (Morgan, 10).  This picture of Puritan humanity allows Morgan to create sympathy for Winthrop as he leaves for New England.
The Puritan Dilemma shines when it shows the depth and sources of Puritan belief, as well as their connection to how Puritans conducted their affairs.  This is particularly true when it comes to Puritan flight from England to America in the 1620s.  Rather than simply reiterating the tired textbook answer that “religious persecution” cause Puritan migration to the New World, Morgan casts it as an attempt to save England from the punitive hand of God.  Winthrop and his associates believed that “every nation or people…existed by virtue of a covenant with God, and agreement whereby they promised to abide by His laws, and He in turn agreed to treat them well,” (Morgan, 19).  This led them to the conclusion that governments were instituted to enforce God’s laws in order to hold His wrath at bay, and that as long as the government fulfilled this task it was the responsibility of the people to assist it.  However, when a government failed to enforce God’s law, they believed it was the duty of the people to replace the corrupt government with one that was up to the task of leading the nation away from sin (Morgan, 19).  Late 16th and early 17th century England presented the Puritans with a government that frequently seemed to lead the nation to damnation on Earth.
The oscillations of England’s rulers between Catholicism and Protestantism under Mary Tudor, Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I presented Winthrop with a dilemma: when was a government corrupt enough to warrant its overthrow?  Simply fleeing the scene to more agreeable shores seemed to fly in the face of his belief that God required him to live in the world while doing His work.  During the reigns of Elizabeth and James, Parliament and Puritans had some measure of influence to move England toward their vision of a righteous society, but when Charles I ascended the throne everything changed (Morgan, 27).  Charles dissolved Parliament and moved the Anglican Church in a theological direction that Winthrop considered heresy.  Charles and his followers advocated the belief that people could achieve faith and salvation on their own, without the predestination which Puritans believed in.  When they tried to fight this doctrine in Parliament, he dissolved it (Morgan, 27).
In this setting, along with Catholic victories in France and Central Europe, Winthrop faced a decision: accept Charles’s Arminianism, withdraw from the Church of England to become a separatist, or flee England.  Because becoming a separatist would mean turning his back on England and the Church, which he believed could be saved, he chose to migrate to New England with the King’s approval (Morgan, 31).  This would allow him to create the Kingdom of God on Earth, and hopefully save England from God’s wrath.
Winthrop’s life in New England is both what most concerns American audiences and the area in which Morgan seems to become too close to his subject.  A first example of this comes in his discussion of Winthrop’s acts as Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in establishing a government for the colony.  Acknowledging that Winthrop and the other members of the Massachusetts Bay Company were not required to extend participation in governing the colony (Morgan, 93), Morgan seems to praise Winthrop for not keeping an oligarchic control, along with his deputy and seven assistants over all aspects of life (Morgan, 89).  Winthrop decided to extend the franchise to all of the “freemen” in the colony, which would allow them to vote in annual elections for the Governor and assistants.  The problem was that Winthrop restricted membership in this group to male members of the colony’s churches, which only admitted those people that they deemed were “saved” (Morgan, 95).  Morgan writes that this extended opportunities to participate in government to more people than in England, as way of justification, but the fact of the matter is that Winthrop believed that democracy was dangerous and biblically unwarranted (Morgan, 94).  He did this to protect the colony’s “special commission” from God, which he saw as creating a righteous society.
Morgan seems to want to justify the autocratic nature of both religious and civil rule under Winthrop and other early colonial governors.  In addition to their role in combating heresy within Massachusetts churches, which was used against separatists and those deemed merely in error, (Morgan 100) the General Court levied taxes for public works and otherwise performed the functions of civil government.  When some colonists protested against taxation on the basis that they had no representation, Winthrop replied that because they could elect new autocrats every year, they were indeed represented (Morgan, 109).  This is used as a sop by Winthrop (to the colonists) and Morgan (to the readers) to justify the efficiency of the despotism created in Massachusetts Bay, which Morgan writes was due to the simplicity and lack of pre-existing rules in the structure (Morgan, 101). He does admit that the kind of despotism found in Massachusetts was incredibly susceptible to the whims and abilities of the Governor.
The largest issue with The Puritan Dilemma is the way it deals with the issue of religious separatism.  While it is possible that he is simply attempting to make the issue more immediate for the reader, Morgan appears to side with Winthrop in his attempts to suppress dissension or drive it out.  The one exception being the case of Anne Hutchinson, which Morgan calls “an unsavory triumph of arbitrary power,” (Morgan 153) which he excuses by saying that “it represented more than the mere crushing of a helpless woman,” (Morgan, 153).  Both Morgan and Winthrop seem to feel that the abuse of power was justified because it restored the unity of the Boston church (Morgan, 153)
A key case Morgan uses to illustrate is that of Roger Williams, the subject of Gaustad’s work.  Morgan portrays Williams just as Winthrop did, with no clear separation between his opinion and Winthrop’s, writing that not only was he an avowed separatist, but that he “expressed the dangerous opinion that civil magistrates had no authority in any religious matter, that they could not even require people to keep the Sabbath,” (Morgan, 118).  Morgan makes absolutely no mention that this doctrine would eventually rule England, but the United States as well, instead he continues to show Williams and his beliefs (which were admittedly peculiar for the time) as so strange as to be beyond the pale, including “that a regenerate man ought not to pray in company with an unregenerate one, not even with his wife and children, and that he ought not give thanks after the sacrament or after meals,” (Morgan, 125).  Williams also proclaimed that the practicing of forcing witnesses to swear oaths to God could put a regenerate magistrate in communion with an unregenerate person, thus corrupting them.  Morgan portrays these beliefs as not only abominable to Winthrop, but possibly to himself (Morgan, 124).
Gaustad’s treatment of Roger Williams seems more balanced, although it seems to include a fair tinge a hero worship.  The first two paragraphs of Liberty of Conscience tell us why Gaustad believes Roger Williams is worthy of study: he was the founder of Rhode Island, and he was the originator of the modern ideal of religious freedom one hundred fifty years before Jefferson (Gaustad, ix).  Because little information regarding Roger Williams’s early life exists, Gaustad supplements it with an overview of the development of the Anglican Church, the reign’s of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, and the development of the Puritan and Baptist movements in England and Holland.  Although he generally is able to successfully maintain his distance from the object of his biography he does make at least one stretch for which he provides no evidence when he writes that “Certainly by the time he was in college, if not well before, Williams came to see Christianity as more than a commitment of faith, though it had to be that above all else.  It was also, however, a religion of wondrous complexity and some contradiction,” (Gaustad, 8).  This train of thought appears to be based on Williams’s 1673 comments that he became religious at an early age (Morgan, 6)
Gaustad’s stylistic differences from Morgan are clear almost immediately.  Where Morgan wrote in a fashion that makes it appear that he agrees with the assertions of John Winthrop, Gaustad endeavors to make it crystal that Roger Williams’s opinions belong to Williams.  A single sentence is evidence enough: “Their idealism was high, their motivation clear, their method – for Williams – suspect,” (Gaustad, 25).  In this it seems that Gaustad avoids overly identifying with his subject.
Gaustad also treats Williams’s charge that the patent of the King of England was not enough justification for the colonists to seize land in New England.  Williams based his argument regarding the King’s right to give away the land of others on his observation of Indian behavior regarding land boundaries and their methods of bargaining for rights to even small plots (Gaustad, 29).  Morgan includes this episode in his litany of Williams’s offenses against the Massachusetts Bay Colony, writing that the alternatives that Williams suggested “were ridiculous”, (Morgan, 123) without ever mentioning why Williams claimed that the King’s land grants were invalid.
What Gaustad and Morgan really set out to do with their biographies of Roger Williams and John Winthrop is to shed some light on how the United States developed its religious and governmental structures.  Both illustrate the depth of religious belief of many early colonists, as well as their attitudes toward the proper relations between Church and State.  Edmund Morgan’s The Puritan Dilemma clearly shows how intertwined church and state were in both Old and New England during the early 17th century, while Liberty of Conscience shows the long road toward religious tolerance among Christian denominations and other religious groups.  Both texts show how difficult it was for people to accept the idea that a polity could be the home of a variety of religious beliefs without constant discord, even if those people had migrated primarily so they could worship according to their own beliefs.
It is interesting to note that some of the issues examined in both texts are still with us today.  The proper role of religion, particularly Christianity, in government continues to be a major issue in American politics.  The current Supreme Court docket contains multiple cases regarding the public display of the Ten Commandments, with the First Table continuing to represent the key argument.  At the same time Constitutional Amendments have appeared in Congress that attempt to further identify civil marriages according to religious dictates found in the Old Testament book Leviticus.  Congress is also involved in a national debate over whether the courts should be allowed to rule on the phrase “under God” being included in the Pledge of Allegiance – passing legislation that would prevent the United States Supreme Court from even hearing cases on this issue.  Even at the start of the 21st century religious issues remain at the forefront of American public discourse.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity

Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity.
Three major themes grace Mark Noll’s Turning Points in the History of Christianity: the development of a cohesive doctrine of faith, the relationship of church and state, and the spread of Christianity from the Middle East to Europe and the rest of the world.  The themes overlap in many ways, which Noll also illustrates.  However, these themes may not be the message that Noll is attempting to deliver to readers.  In the introduction he sets out four reasons, which he specifically aims at fellow believers, that church history is an important topic (Noll, 15).  Noll believes that it is important to recognize that Christianity is more than “simply a set of dogmas, a moral code, or a picture of the universe,” (Noll, 15) but that it is also “the acts of God in time and space, centrally the acts of God in Christ,” (Noll, 15).  This means that to “study the history of Christianity is continually to remember the historical character of the Christian faith,” (Noll, 15).  The remaining three reasons Noll believes it is important to study the history of Christianity: to place the study of scripture into historical perspective, to examine how Christians interact with various cultures, and to separate what is truly an aspect of genuine Christian Faith from things that are not core beliefs (Noll, 18), illustrate that this is not the typical historical work.   Rather, it is primarily designed for the laity and new students, not scholars (Noll, 13).  Turning Points is specifically written for an audience that is mostly composed of Christians of certain denominations, and Noll accepts this bias, while at the same time pledging to be as fair as possible within those limits.
The development of a cohesive and standard doctrine of faith dominated both the early history of Christianity and the beginning chapters of Turning Points with good reason.  It was as necessary for early Christians to define what they believed in, as it is to start a discussion of church history with the beginnings of the church.  Noll traces the adoption of the books of the New Testament by examining their content, the earliest dates they are referred to, and the Jewish tradition of consulting sacred texts for understanding the divine, as well as the social environment of the first and second centuries.  Noll’s attributes the necessity of developing a canon of accepted writing to what the Second Epistle of Peter calls the errors of “ignorant and unstable people,” (Noll, 35).  An example of the challenge posed by different interpretations of the New Testament is the canon provided by Marcion, who heavily edited the Gospels and other writings to support his belief that the loving God of the New Testament was at war with an evil and restrictive God of the Old Testament (Noll, 35).
The doctrinal result of the Marcionite heresy was for early church leaders to develop their own cannon, so that by 200 A.D. a familiar canon of New Testament writings appeared, which included writing believed divinely inspired, as well as writings that should be read and understood.  The New Testament as modern civilization understands it was largely in place by 367 A.D.  The canon was only the first tool the church used to develop official doctrine.  Other tools were the development of a church hierarchy, the use of creeds to teach and affirm what believers stood for, and the use of councils for resolving disputes over matters of faith.
Creeds hold a special place both in religious services and in Turning Points, because they represent a concrete and coherent synopsis of the foundations of Christianity.  Examining differences between chronologically divergent creeds allows us to understand the issues that previous generations struggled with, or that were central enough to their belief system to necessitate spelling out.  They were also used to protect believers from outside heresy (Noll, 44).
Turning Point’s second theme, the relationship of church and state takes center stage with the Council of Nicaea in 325, which also shows the commingling of the three main themes of the work.  Nicaea was the result of both a need for 4th century Christians to establish the nature of the Trinity and divinity of Christ, but it also provided the Emperor Constantine an opportunity to use the church to enhance the stability of the Roman Empire (Noll, 51).  Constantine’s main goal in calling the council was not so much to resolve the Arian heresy, as it was to remove a potential source of stress in the Empire.  Other than the previous Roman persecution of Christians, this represents the first official involvement of Christianity with the state.  This is where Noll turns to the obvious issue: what is the proper relationship between the church and the state?
The Emperors obviously thought that they should be in charge, after all, that was why they became Emperors.  The leaders of the church, predictably, believed otherwise, which comes into clear focus when Ambrose refused communion to Theodosius saying “the Emperor is in the church, not above it,” (Noll, 60).  This debate continued to flare between rulers and church leaders: Holy Roman Emperors challenged the authority of the Pope, Henry VII of England separated from Rome and was declared the head of his church, and modern Roman Catholic Bishops threaten to refuse communion to Democratic Party candidates who support abortion.
The marriage of church and state is not always a happy one, which Noll tends to gloss over.  The carnage of the Crusades is largely absent from Turning Points, as are the torture and death of the Inquisition, and the suppression of the Templar Order.  This could be overlooked if it were not for the selection of the French Revolution and its attempt to dechristianize France (Noll, 252).  Noll introduces this topic as part of the greater discussion of the end of Christendom, but it is difficult to see how such an emphasis on assaults on Christians by atheists is justifiable in the absence of discussions of the assaults by Christians on others.  The neglect of these issues can hardly be covered by his statement that “Throughout the entire history of Christianity, problems have constantly arisen when believers equate the acts of the church with the acts of God, when Christians assume that using the name of God to justify their actions in space and time is the same as God himself acting,” (Noll, 15).  To be fair, Turning Points acknowledges the horror of the Latin sack of Byzantium as the endgame of the Great Schism, and that the capture of Jerusalem saw the slaughter of all of its inhabitants (Noll, 141).  However, it depicts them as mere aberrations of behavior without further examination.
The final theme of Noll’s work is the spread of Christianity from the Middle East to Europe and beyond.  This concept is pervasive throughout, and Noll attributes it primarily to the forced separation of Christianity from its Jewish roots after the destruction of the Temple of Solomon by the Romans (Noll, 26).  Noll finds the destruction of the Temple particularly important as it transformed Christianity from a mere offshoot of Judaism “toward universal significance in the broader reaches of the Mediterranean world, and then beyond,” (Noll, 27).
At first the spread of Christianity was encouraged by the pax Romana, which allowed easy travel and communication within the broad reaches of the Roman Empire.  Noll believes that it was also aided by what he calls “ a widespread dissatisfaction with the inherited religions of the Mediterranean,” (Noll, 29).  However, he does not back this last claim up with any evidence, either assuming that it is already general knowledge, or that it should be taking it as an article of faith.  The spread of Christianity continued throughout the Roman Empire, sometimes sporadically, but rapidly enough that Constantine the Great made it the official religion of the state in the 4th century.  Strangely, Noll makes no mention of the contributions of European pagan traditions to the practice of Christianity: no mention of changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, of the placement of Christmas at Yuletide, the use of fertility symbolism at Easter, or the connection between Samhain and All Saint’s Day.  Is this an example of the bias that Noll admits he brings to the Project, an oversight, or does he truly believe that none of these items have any relation to the success of Christianity in Northern Europe and the Roman Empire?  Similarly, Noll makes no mention to the resistance of some female Scandinavian rulers to Christianity because they believed that they would lose status in a Christian system as James Reston suggests in The Last Apocalypse: Europe in 1000 A.D.
The real meat of the growth of Christianity beyond the Mediterranean world comes in the discussion of missionary work by Catholics and Protestants after the 15th century.  Although missionaries traveled to the New World shortly after Columbus’ first voyage, Noll believes that most important and pioneering missionary work began with the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, in the 16th century.  The Jesuits early missions took them to India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Japan (Noll, 202).  The problems they experienced, Noll claims, are important because it directly relates to missionary issues of the 20th century.  The central debate was how to appropriately deliver the message of Christianity to radically different cultures.
This debate came about after Francis Xavier began missionary work in Japan, but adopted Japanese modes of dress that violated the spirit of Jesuit principles.  Xavier wore expensive clothes to impress Japanese rulers and used the patronage of Portuguese traders to gain influence and protection.  These steps not only violated his vows of poverty, but also the Jesuit tradition of independence from everyone but the Pope (Noll, 216).  The debate over how to proselytize to other cultures intensified when Matteo Ricci wore the clothing of China’s literati and worked to include Confucian ancestor worship into a Christian metaphor (Noll, 216)
By 1659 the Catholic Church was makings strides to work out the problems of cultural adaptation by sending a document to missionaries in what is now Vietnam, which said that they should not try to change any of the customs of the Vietnamese unless they were inherently immoral (Noll, 218).  However, it is difficult to reconcile this document, which says, “What would be sillier than to import France, Spain, Italy, or any other country of Europe into China?  Don’t import these, but the faith.  The faith does not reject or crush the rites and custom of any race, as long as these are not evil. Rather, it wants to preserve them,” (Noll, 218) with practices in the Americas, where missionaries attempted to change all aspects of Native American life without respecting those cultures.  The same was largely true of the Polynesian experience.  Again, Noll seems to provide the most agreeable view of missionary efforts without acknowledging abuses against other cultures.
Turning Points is a valuable work, in that it lays out the development of Christianity in an easily understandable form and includes a large amount of documentation related to the subject matter, including hymns and prayers from the eras and traditions discussed.  It provides great historical context for the development of Christian tradition and thought, so that readers understand the cultural and political environments Christians experienced in different ages.  However, the reader must be prepared to either accept a rosy picture of the development and spread of Christianity, or be willing to supplement Turning Points with outside sources that specifically deal with the issues that Noll avoids.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Leadership Styles and Sino-American Relations

The impact of both key figures and lesser personages on U.S. foreign policy toward China, both Chinese and American, cannot be overemphasized.  This extends from leaders like Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Deng Xiaoping, to bureaucrats like Paul Wolfowitz operating at lower levels.  As in every other human endeavor the people involved brought their own goals and prejudices to their role in Sino-American relations, and even those not in high-profile positions were able to dramatically impact the course of Sino-American relations.

The biases and goals of the Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong had the longest enduring impact because of his virulent early anti-American stances.  Mao’s anti-American strategy took the form of his “lean to one side” policy of aligning with the Soviet Union, and was part of a concerted effort to exclude Western influences from China.  Sino-American disputes over Taiwan and during the Korean War solidified Mao’s anti-American policies, as did American efforts to exclude China from the United Nations.  Only the failure of the Sino-Soviet Alliance pushed Mao toward better relations with the United States, particularly after border disputes led to armed clashes between Soviet and Chinese troops.

Mao’s virulent anti-Americanism also meant that during his lifetime, only he could truly push for reconciliation with the United States, just as Nixon was one of the few Americans with the anti-Communist credentials to reestablish relations with China.  This is particularly true on the issue of Taiwan, where Mao brushed aside the question of reunification by saying that he could wait one hundred years to resolve that issue.  Taiwan continued to be a disruptive factor in Sino-American relations: issues of diplomatic recognition, American arms sales, and the Mutual Defense Treaty remained, but Mao was able to brush away a major obstacle in Sino-American reconciliation by indicating that it could wait a long time for resolution.

On the American side, President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger were pivotal in reestablishing relations between China and the United States.  Nixon came to office with the goal of enhancing relations with China, which Kissinger agreed with as a ploy to counter the Soviet Union.  Further, Nixon saw better relations with China as a means to withdraw American forces from Vietnam without embarrassing the United States.  His long record of active anti-Communist activities immunized Nixon from any claims that pursuing reconciliation with China was “soft” on Communism, which allowed him to make moves in this arena that would be difficult for Democrats. Nixon’s anti-Communist record also allowed him to partially deflect outcry from Taiwan when he pulled the 7th Fleet out of the Taiwan Strait in order to assist negotiations with China.  He was also able to tell Taiwanese leaders that he would sell them out, and then announce his trip to China without providing his opponents an opening to attack him politically – or prevent the trip.

Nixon’s distrust of the State Department and its career Foreign Service Officers also colored reconciliation efforts during his Administration.  His belief that the State Department never contributed new ideas, combined with his desire to run Foreign Policy from the White House, served to cut the department’s China specialists out of the loop.  American ambassadors also felt the impact of Nixon’s hands-on approach to foreign policy, as they were excluded from meetings between the President and foreign leaders.  Running his own foreign policy, and the exclusion of the State Department from the policy process, also allowed Nixon to hold negotiations with China in secret, avoiding disruptions from Congress.

If anything Henry Kissinger was even more concerned with controlling foreign policy than Nixon, especially in his role as National Security Adviser.  When Nixon met with foreign leaders, Kissinger only provided the State Department the information he thought they needed, and generally kept the ambassadors and China specialists out of the negotiation loop.  This also tied into Kissinger’s desire to control access to the President, which prevented both full use of the available resources and airing of opinions contrary to his.  Kissinger did not even allow the National Security Council staff to attend meetings with Nixon.

The Nixon-Kissinger penchant for secrecy was also designed to keep negotiations with China from becoming negotiations with the American press, and to keep American allies from attempting to insert their own policy goals into the process.  However, Kissinger’s need to keep information to himself also extended to not informing individuals the President wanted involved in the process of what was going on, as in the case of William Rogers and Kissinger’s first trip to China (Tucker, 246).  Kissinger’s reaction is only partially due to a fear of information leaks, but also due to insecurity about his role and arrogance regarding his particular knowledge of the situation.

Kissinger also brought the attitude that geopolitical advantage should triumph all other concerns in foreign affairs.  This led him to convince Chinese leaders that the American alliance with Japan was for the benefit of both nations.  Not only did it assist in isolating the Soviet Union, but also it prevented Japanese remilitarization.  As long as Japan was comfortable with the security provided by American forces, it would not attempt to create powerful armed forces or develop nuclear weapons.  Kissinger also promoted his favored concept of balance of power with Chinese leaders as a method to contain Japan, and prevent Japanese hegemony in Asia.  Kissinger also placed geopolitical concerns far above human rights issues, which led him to urge President Bush not to damage relations with China over the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.

American President Jimmy Carter pushed normalization of relations with China further than either Nixon or Ford, and came into office with this as a policy goal.  Unlike earlier, or even later, Administrations, Carter accepted the idea that the United States had to accept Chinese demands to achieve normalization.  As a result he virtually abandoned Taiwan and revoked the Mutual Defense Treaty, stopped development efforts for the Taiwan liaison office, and failed to insist on Chinese renunciation of force as a means to reunite with Taiwan (Tucker, 284).  When Congress forced passage of the Taiwan Relations Act, Carter told Chinese leaders that he would interpret TRA in a manner compatible with the Sino-American normalization agreements.  Most of these developments regarding China arose from Carter’s desire to radically alter American relations with Asia in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

Post-Mao Chinese leaders also had a significant impact on Sino-American relations, but none more that Deng Xiaoping.  During the Carter Administration, Deng acted to further improve relations based on his pragmatic view of the world.  Not only was he pragmatic on issues important to Americans like free emigration, but also he made Zhou Enlai’s four modernizations top priorities for the CCP.  He also moved to rid China of the last remains of the Cultural revolution, introduced pro-capitalism economic reforms, and tried to develop closer ties with the West in order to gain trade opportunities and access to technology (Tucker, 283).  Deng’s plans to modernize China forced him to develop much closer ties to the United States.

Deng and Carter’s efforts did not ensure good relations between the United States and China.  After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in June 1989, Congress pushed for a larger role in determining American foreign policy.  This was largely a result of President George Herbert Walker Bush’s attempt to preserve ties with China at all costs, which made him seem weak when confronting dictators.  Bush continued to show that he was generally weak on human rights issues when he blamed Winston Lord and the Beijing embassy staff for Chinese displeasure over Fang Lizhi’s invitation to a Presidential dinner in China.  When Bill Clinton criticized President Bush for being weak on dictators during the 1992 Presidential Election, Bush broke an agreement with China regarding the capabilities and numbers of weapons sold to Taiwan and damaged Sino-American relations to score domestic political points.

Bill Clinton’s record regarding China was no better than Bush’s.  Clinton created strains in relations during the election by attacking Bush as soft on China after Tiananmen.  Clinton further damaged relations by trying to tie Most Favored Nation trade status to Chinese improvements on human rights, and then reversed the decision after Chinese leaders refused to make any changes.  Winston Lord blamed Clinton’s policy problems on a lack of true focus on China or foreign policy during the Clinton years.

Finally, at least one sub-cabinet official had a dramatic negative impact on Sino-American relations during the Reagan Administration.  As Assistant Secretary of State, Paul Wolfowitz claimed to prefer a “more pragmatic approach” to relations with China than the methods of the Carter Administration, which included a willingness to offend the Chinese.  However, Wolfowitz’s claimed pragmatism was really a cover for his negative and ideologically based view of China, which caused him to pander to the extreme right wing of the Republican Party for personal benefit.  His ideology drove Wolfowitz to actively work to prevent a meeting between North Korea, South Korea, China, and the United States, even altering memos containing offers from Deng Xiaoping to Caspar Weinberger and George Shulz that China host talks.  The results of Wolfowitz’s tampering with the process remained evident in tensions in Northeast Asia during the George W. Bush administration, and were also evident in his role in promoting the United States’ invasion of Iraq from 1998 – 2003.

Monday, May 22, 2017

China Confidential: American Diplomats and Sino-American Relations, 1945-1996

Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, China Confidential: American Diplomats and Sino-American Relations, 1945-1996 

Tucker exaqmines the complex relationship between the United States and China from the perspective of the foreign service officers who worked in the trenches.  This allows Tucker to examine the inner workings of the American State Department, the psychology of decision makers, and include the small details of Sino-American relations that are not captured in speeches, treaties, or policy documents.  Tucker’s ground level focus in China Confidential sets it apart from most other texts dealing with Sino-American relations.  Only Chen Jian’s Mao’s China and the Cold War and David Lampton’s Same Bed, Different Dreams even attempt to examine the psychology of policy makers, and Tucker is alone in examining the motivations of sub-cabinet officials.  China Confidential also clearly shows the economic and political development of the Nationalist government on Taiwan, including its slow move toward the goal of independence.  However, this approach also means that she does not address issues like the “Chinese victim complex” or sources of the Sino-Soviet Split discussed by Chen and others.

Looking at the impact of sub-cabinet level officials on Sino-Soviet relations, Paul Wolfowitz’s ideological biases had a negative impact as he removed Chinese offers to hold four-party talks to reduce tensions from memos sent back to Washington, even though senior officials like Secretary of State George Shulz were the targets of those offers.  Tucker does not focus only on the negative impacts and opinions of lower-level American diplomats; she also illustrates the contributions and frustrations of those trying to make Sino-Soviet relations work. As an example of the positive efforts of American diplomats, Ambassador Winston Lord and his Chinese wife Bette Bao Lord tried to subtly educate Chinese officials on the need for reform in politics and on human rights by having “philosophical discussions” with them.  They also utilized Mrs. Lord’s language skills and cultural knowledge to deal with Chinese officials and their unique psychology.  Her knowledge of China and her academic and literary credentials also gave Winston Lord access to part of Chinese society that he would not normally be part of as ambassador.  The Lords used this to establish ties with China’s future leaders, as well as dissidents and intellectuals.
           
As important as the impact, methods, and motivations of State Department officials are, those of senior policy makers reign supreme.  This is particularly true when assessing the relative impact on Sino-American relations of individuals like Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, and Jimmy Carter.  Both Nixon and Kissinger acted to keep the State Department out of foreign policy decision making: Nixon because he did not trust or respect the Foreign Service, and Kissinger because he wanted to control access to the President and wanted to manage relations along his own geopolitical lines.  In Kissinger’s case, this included ignoring human rights issues in favor of strategic concerns and not informing key personnel of impending developments.  Jimmy Carter’s desire to normalize relations at all costs, and uncritically accepting Chinese demands in the process caused him problem with Congress, which passed the Taiwan Relations Act to force his Administration to maintain some ties to Taiwan over Chinese objections.

By examining the psychology and motivations of American leaders, Tucker provides the perfect counterpoint to Chen’s discussion of the psychological and cultural motivations of Chinese leaders.  Chen attributes Chinese actions to the “Chinese victim mentality”, and Chinese belief that China is the “Central Kingdom”.  In the “Chinese victim mentality” theory, China’s leaders believe that Western powers have exploited and humiliated China during the modern era, which prevents China from taking the place on the world stage that they believe it deserves.  The Chinese victim mentality feeds on the Chinese belief that China is the “Central Kingdom”: the glorious source of culture and civilization that other nations should want to be near or emulate.  These twin psychologies combine in a manner that makes Chinese leaders believe that the West owes China for past wrongs, and deal with foreign leaders in an arrogant manner.  Tucker also briefly mentions the Chinese concept of the Central or Middle Kingdom, when she quotes Lindsey Grant describing the phenomenon that Chinese “feel themselves the center of the earth” and that the Chinese name for China, Zhongguo, literally means “Middle Kingdom.”
           

In an area of study dominated by analysis of geopolitical strategic actions and motive, or by political science theory based explanations of the Sino-American relationship, Tucker provides a more personal look at the events, decisions, and actors in managing Sino-American relations.  In this she provides the American side of the equation, which balances Chen Jian’s effort to explain the Chinese interpretation of those same events and decisions.  While China Confidential does not provide a complete explanation of all of the factors behind Sino-American relations, it does allow a more complete understanding of the interaction between the two nations and their leaders.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Mao's China and the Cold War

Chen Jian, Mao's China and the Cold War

The historical rivalry of the GMD and CCP and the autocratic nature of Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) and the start of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States to ensure that the Chinese Civil War was inevitable.  The efforts of American and Soviet diplomats and leaders served only to exacerbate the coming conflict between Nationalist and Communist forces. Chen Jian argues that the legacy of colonialism that led Communist leaders to develop a “Chinese victim mentality” combined with its leaders continued belief in China as the “Middle Kingdom” led not only to its long difficult relationship with the United States, but also to the Sino-Soviet Split and its war with Vietnam.

The GMD and CCP had a long and bloody history that was scarcely interrupted by the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931.  Despite the invasion, Jiang made it the mission of the GMD to destroy the CCP before turning aside to deal with the Japanese.  He stopped short of this goal only after two Nationalist generals kidnapped him in order to force him to unite China in resistance to the invaders.  Even then, Jiang’s forces attacked the CCP whenever the opportunity arose, notably in the 1941 “Wannan incident,” in which the GMD destroyed the CCP’s New Fourth Army as it moved its headquarters across the Yangtze River.  After Mao called for an immediate campaign against the GMD, the United States and Soviet Union intervened, which Chen asserts merely delayed the Civil War.

Diplomatic and military maneuvers by both sides indicate that they planned for war, not peace.  In 1943, Jiang broadcast his belief that the CCP should have no post-war role in governing China in a pamphlet.  Mao responded by telling his CCP brethren that they must prepare to take over China, and began dispatching military units to strategic areas of China to use as bases against the GMD.  The CCP also began trying to convince Americans that they were Nationalists that were interested in promoting “democratic reforms.”

By early 1945, it was clear that both the CCP and GMD were gearing up for war: the GMD blockaded CCP-controlled areas and Mao made plans to move CCP units into Japanese-controlled areas of Northeast China to prepare for combat, telling military commanders “to abandon any illusion of peace between the CCP and the GMD.”  In August 1945 the two sides were already fighting battles for control of Northeastern cities.  When the United States sent George C. Marshall to mediate, the GMD used the resulting armistice to further prepare for war against the CCP.

Jiang Jieshi’s refused any significant power-sharing arrangement with the CCP.  Chen argues that the dictator’s authoritarian streak made it impossible for peace negotiations to succeed as long as Jiang led the GMD.  Jiang insisted that rather than simply being included in a new government, the CCP would be required to “earn” a place by surrendering control of its armed forces.  Because a willingness to share power at some level was required to form a coalition government, it seems that even the basic requirements for peace were missing.

Both the United States and Soviet Union initially attempted to maintain the peace in China. Stalin acted to delay the Chinese Communist Revolution at the 1945 Yalta Conference by agreeing that the Soviet Union would not support the CCP against the GMD in exchange for restoration of Russian privileges in China that were lost in the 1904 Russo-Japanese War.  The Sino-Soviet Treaty followed in May 1945, recognizing the independence of Outer Mongolia, Soviet privileges in Manchuria, and the Soviet occupation of the naval base at Port Arthur in exchange for supporting the Nationalists.  The Soviet leader also advised the CCP that it should negotiate a peaceful resolution with the GMD.

By September 1945 Stalin’s peacemaking efforts gave way to support of the CCP.  Soviet forces began allowing the CCP to occupy all but the largest cities in Northeast China and declined to assist the GMD in occupying areas its forces left.  International developments contributed to Stalin’s change of heart: after the United States refused the Soviets any role in governing Japan, the Soviet Union began actively assisting the CCP to occupy the Northeast and blocked GMD forces from moving in.

Under these conditions, Chen argues that a positive relationship between the CCP and the United States was simply not possible, and that assumptions that the CCP desired quick recognition from the West in order to enhance China’s economic recovery, and that the Sino-Soviet partnership was vulnerable to outside influences were patently false. Chen contends that in contrast to being a desirable result, normal relations with the United States would be counter-productive for Mao. The Ward incident in Shenyang demonstrates Mao’s unwillingness to pursue diplomatic relations with the United States in 1949-50.  In order to push foreign diplomats out of Shenyang after its capture by the CCP, Mao ordered all radios in foreign possession confiscated.  This order was specifically targeted at the consulates of Great Britain, France, and the United States, which the CCP did not recognize due to their ties to the GMD.  When American consul Angus Ward refused the order, he and his staff were arrested and held until December 1949. Chen argues that CCP pressure on Western diplomats was due to Mao’s determination to make a “fresh start” in China’s external relations, but also had roots in his “lean to one side” policy toward the Soviet Union.  Soviet influence dictated the type of pressure brought to bear on the diplomats; Stalin suggested confiscating their radios in order to keep them from communicating with the GMD.

There were also other indicators that Mao was not particularly interested in establishing relations with the United States.  In March 1949, CCP leaders formally decide not to pursue relations with the west “for a fairly long period after nationwide victory,” although it is doubtful Americans knew of the decision.  Chen dismisses Mao’s April 1949 offer to normalize relations with the United States if it severed all ties with the GMD, treated China as an equal, and apologized for past American unfairness toward China as a red herring because Mao knew that it was unlikely that the United States could repudiate the model of its past relations with China and other nations.  This was followed in July of 1949 by Mao’s declaration that the United States was the most dangerous enemy of the Chinese people and the Chinese Revolution.

In Chen’s model, the source of Mao’s animosity toward the United States is more complicated that simple support for the GMD.  Chen believes that the true source of conflict lay in a Chinese inferiority complex, which emphasized China’s victimization by Western powers.  This model is based on the Mao generation’s obsession with China as the “Central Kingdom”, the sole source of civilization surrounded by barbarian hordes.  This conception of China was challenged when Western military power forced China to open its borders to the rest of the world.  Chen argues that irritation with Western arrogance toward China, combined with a Nationalist philosophy determined to make China the center of civilization again, led Chinese leaders to adopt a universal Marxist-Leninist model that aimed to reform China and the international system.

Promoting this vision of returning China to glory and re-civilizing the world became Mao’s preoccupation, and caused him to develop the concept of continuous revolution as a tool for maintaining movement toward his goal.  This concept required a constant and viable external threat, which the United States provided through its support of the GMD and its anti-Communist rhetoric.  To Chen, this means that there was no chance of good relations between China and the United States in 1949-1950. This is a stark contrast to Gordon Chang’s argument in Friends and Enemies that the causes of Sino-American tension were the insistence of the United States in maintaining political ties to the GMD on Taiwan and the offshore islands, and its requirement that China have good relations with either the Soviet Union or the United States.

Despite Mao’s policy of favoring the Soviet Union, Chen contends that Sino-Soviet “relations were bound to be rocky” based on the design of the 1950 Sino-Soviet Treaty, in which the Chinese allowed to the Soviet Union to keep its traditional privileges in Northeast China in exchange for an increase in military and economic support.  The alliance provided China with the military and economic resources that Mao needed to secure China from external threats and to promote China’s development into the model nation he envisioned.  However, it also created the basis for future conflict between the PRC and USSR.  This is particularly true in light of Chen’s interpretation of Mao’s goal of re-creating the “Central Kingdom”, with China playing the dominant role in global politics, and his sensitivity to being treated as the junior partner in the alliance.

The Korean War also contributed to tensions between the Soviet Union and China when Mao interpreted Stalin’s refusal to send troops as him acting only in the USSR’s narrow interests rather than the global proletarian revolution. Mao believed that sending Chinese “volunteers” to Korea reflected his own “moral superiority” over Stalin. Although the war in Korea served to strengthen practical cooperation between China and the Soviets Union as they managed the crisis, Soviet insistence that China pay for most of the military aid the Soviets provided further enhanced Chinese leader’s “sense of moral superiority in relation to their Soviet comrades.”


Chen’s view of the Sino-Soviet Split takes a radically different direction from those of Gaddis or Chang. Gaddis argues that the primary source of the Sino-Soviet split was disagreement over aggressively promoting world revolution and challenging the United States, even in the face of significant risks, while Chen interprets the divide as a result of Mao’s psychology. Mao’s mistaken belief that the Soviet Union held military superiority over the West exacerbated their disagreement over goals and methods, and Khrushchev was unable to admit that the Soviet Union was militarily outclassed. Gaddis also attributes conflict between China and the Soviet Union over proper models of internal economic debate.  The unifying thread to Gaddis’s argument is that conflicts between China and the Soviet Union were traditional national security arguments.

Chen believes that Chinese cultural memories of the Central Kingdom, China’s modern humiliation at the hands of foreign powers, and Mao’s belief in his own moral superiority in promoting justice and revolution were the root cause of the Split when the Soviet Union did not meet his expectations in its treatment of China or its promotion of the global proletarian revolution. The differences in interpretation extend to their analysis of why the Korean War ended. While Gaddis argues that Stalin’s death, combined with allied forces advancing back to the 38th parallel allowed an end to the conflict, Chen focuses on China’s changing domestic and international aims in the face of the stalemate on the battlefield and lack of Soviet military support.  Mao hoped to use the external stress on Chinese society brought by war in Korea as a tool to “strengthen the CCP’s control of China’s state and society and serve to promote an Eastern revolution following the Chinese model.”  Mao also hoped to increase China’s international prestige by defeating the United States in combat.  Chen claims that Chinese negotiators expected to settle on a peace agreement quickly when talks began in July 1951, but failed to anticipate the difficulty involved at each stage of the process.  Part of this was the result of Mao’s continuing belief that PRC and North Korean forces held favorable positions on the battlefield.

Another difficulty in the negotiations was the Chinese insistence on including a Taiwan settlement in the North Korea peace, as well as withdrawal of all foreign troops from Korea.  For its part, the UN insisted that only items directly related to a military armistice be included in the peace settlement.  Repatriation of prisoners of war also presented a difficulty, as the PRC insisted on the return of all POWs, even those that the US claimed did not wish to return.  Finally, both sides were intractable at the bargaining table, which caused both negotiations and combat to drag on.

Ultimately, Chen seems to believe that the final agreement on the Korean armistice came after long negotiations because Chinese leaders determined that they would be able to portray their accomplishments as a great victory because the PRC was able to save North Korea from the United States.  Once it became obvious that complete military victory was impossible, and they concluded that they had achieved enough in Korea to enhance their international prestige, CCP leaders worked to resolve the problems at the negotiation table.

Chen argues that the 1954 and 1958 Taiwan Straits crises show a focus on domestic agenda, rather than a geopolitical one. While Gaddis and Chang contend that the Chinese aim in 1954 and 1958 was to either show the United States that China was willing to stand up it or, to break the stalemate in negotiations with Jiang Jieshi’s GMD on Taiwan, Chen argues that both crises fulfilled domestic political needs for Chinese leaders: in both 1954 and 1958, Mao sought to use the offshore islands crises to “stir up our people’s revolutionary enthusiasm, thus promoting our nation’s socialist reconstruction.” Mao believed that external threats were the best motivator for the masses, and Taiwan and the offshore islands presented the easiest target because they were unlikely to lead to a large-scale conflict.

Late 1957 and early 1958 witnessed a new revolutionary outburst from Mao after four years of relative peace and consolidation, in which Mao endeavored to improve China’s international image and root out reactionary or “revisionist” elements within China. The period of relative peace between the 1954 and 1958 Taiwan Straits crises saw China attempt to mediate Soviet-Polish and Soviet-Hungarian disputes, which Mao believed established China as the moral center of international Communism.  After the 1956 crisis Mao used the Hundred Flowers Campaign to identify elements of Chinese society that were critical of the PRC and mark them for re-education, imprisonment, or execution.  Finally, the PRC used peace negotiations with Jiang to show the world that China was a mature and responsible actor on the international stage.

In 1957 Mao began instructing the PLA to move aircraft and artillery units to the coast opposite Jinmen and Mazu, which many scholars interpret as a plan to intimidate the Nationalists on Taiwan into serious effort in peace negotiations.  However, Chen argues that this approach ignores Mao’s preparation for the Great Leap Forward and his use of military conflict to mobilize the Chinese people for internal revolutionary purposes.  This tendency of Mao’s is amply illustrated by his comment that “a tense [international] situation can mobilize the population, can particularly mobilize the backward people, can mobilize the people in the middle, and can therefore promote the Great Leap Forward in economic construction.“ Mao supported this idea with Lenin’s teaching that war is a useful motivation factor, assuming that a lesser military confrontation could produce the same effect.  Even without using war as a mechanism to promote political orthodoxy, Mao believed that it could create a significant increase in domestic steel and grain production.

Chen and Chang again disagree on the beginning and outcome of the 1958 crisis, which Chang views in strictly geopolitical terms.  Chang argues that Mao initiated the 1958 crisis to break the Sino-American stalemate in the Taiwan Straits and break the American alliance with the Nationalists.  In contrast, Chen insists that China’s external behavior was primarily due to domestic policies. The end to the crisis appears to support Chen as China later claimed that it ended the crisis to prevent the United States from forcing Jiang to abandon Jinmen and Mazu.  Even Chang acknowledges that Mao decided that it was to the PRC’s advantage for the Nationalists to keep the offshore islands because it provided a ready-made crisis any time Mao needed to promote patriotic mobilization, and it made it more difficult for the United States to adopt a true Two-China policy.

Chen’s unique contribution to the historiography of the Sino-American rapprochement is the addition of ideological change within the CCP as an element that allowed Chinese leaders to attempt establishing relations with the United States.  Rather than the traditional argument that political leaders will always choose to sacrifice ideology in the face of national security concerns, Chen promotes the idea that Mao and the CCP required a change in ideology before they could address the security issues presented by clashes with the Soviet Union and India.  Chen further argues that if Mao desired better relations with the United States, he first had to counter the two-decade long propaganda campaign that claimed that the United States was the main enemy of the people and the source of China’s humiliation in the modern era.

Mao’s designation of the Soviet Union as the main enemy of the people in the late 1960s provided him a way to partially rehabilitate the United States.  In order to focus the Chinese populace on the Soviet Union, Mao invented a new type of imperialist state: the “social-imperialist” country by claiming that Soviet capitalism was restored in the form of a privileged bureaucracy.  Where it would be easy to argue that this was simply the mechanism Mao chose to focus Chinese society on a new enemy, Chen argues that it was “determined by the essence of the Cultural Revolution,” which Mao launched to prevent a capitalist restoration along Soviet lines from occurring in China.  Identifying the Soviet Union as the main imperialist threat allowed Mao to ally with the United States as the lesser of the two evils.

Chen believes that this development was fully in line with the “Central Kingdom” philosophy that Mao pursued throughout his career.  In this model, it was perfectly reasonable for China as the central power of the world to ally with lesser barbarian states in the face of a greater enemy.  He also argues that these logical circumlocutions were necessary because the Cultural Revolution failed to produce a new type of state in the PRC, although it was sufficient to tear down the old structures.

Chen identifies the failure of the Cultural Revolution as the end of Mao’s theory of continuous revolution and the end of China “as a revolutionary state” due to the decreasing frequency of Mao’s pronouncements on the role of tension in creating revolutionary fervor, and an increase in declarations that it was time to consolidate the achievements of the Cultural Revolution.  Chen identifies two important results of the end of the ideology of continuous revolution: Mao was able to increase his personal position as a socialist dictator, and it indicates a willingness to live at peace with the rest of the world. 

This leads Chen to the conclusion those ideological and psychological issues unique to China led to rapprochement with the United States, not mere national security issues.  He does not deny that China faced important security problems on its coast, and on multiple borders; instead, he believes that Mao found a way to deal with those threats through changes in his ideology.  Mere pragmatism does not fully explain China’s new relationship with the United States. In this context, the Chinese “victim mentality” continues to work as a tool for the CCP to justify its continued domination of China.  The CCP argument is that without the revolution China would still be the “weak, corrupt, divided country with no status on the world scene,” that it was in the 18th and 19th centuries.  This allows the CCP to claim that it is uniquely positioned to maintain China’s sovereignty.  Chen writes that the “victim mentality” will remain a core attitude in China until a strong middle class emerges and adopts a political system that includes checks and balances on political power.

Chen develops five points of advice for Western nations dealing with China based on his analysis of Chinese history and psychology in dealing with outsiders, especially the concepts of Chinese “victim mentality” and Chinese leaders’ continued acceptance of China as the “Middle Kingdom.”  However, following the ideas represented in Chen’s five points amount to a policy of appeasement, particularly after he states that “Chinese leaders have consistently claimed that under no circumstances will the Chinese government allow foreign powers to impose their values on China’s external behavior, or to use their norms to interfere with China’s internal affairs.” At their core, Chen’s five points amount to simply addressing China’s needs and perspectives in world forums, promoting economic and cultural exchange with China, acknowledging China’s global and regional contributions, and developing long-term strategies for international dealings with China.  What this comes down to is avoiding the kind of paternalistic attitudes toward China that Chen believes caused the Sino-Soviet split.  Avoiding giving China the impression that it is a junior partner in any endeavor is further enshrined in Chen’s second point, which states, “the Chinese ‘victim mentality’ should be handled with deep sensitivity.”  Because Chen attributes many Chinese actions to the belief that foreign powers humiliated China in the modern era by forcing unfair treaties on it, not taking this attitude into account could have seriously negative consequences.

Most of Chen’s five points address either China’s “victim mentality” or the old leadership’s belief that it is a central actor in the world.  Chen’s third point: “China’s contributions to regional and global peace and stability should be adequately acknowledged and properly encouraged,” suggests that the West use the Chinese concept of the Central Kingdom to keep it involved in global and regional affairs.  If this belief truly contributed to Chinese actions during the 1956 Polish and Hungarian Crises, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and its promotion of global revolution as Chen suggests, then properly channeling it will save the world much conflict.

The problem with Chen’s five points of advice to properly integrate China into the international community is that it leaves no mechanism for other nations to voice their displeasure with China.  How are Western nations supposed to deal with issues like copyright infringement, unfair labor and trade practices, or human rights issues, if they follow Chen’s recommendations?  How are disputes with China supposed to be resolved if the West is pandering to the Chinese “victim mentality” or its belief that it plays the central role in the world?

Chen uses a variety of new Chinese primary and secondary sources as the basis for much of the work in Mao’s China.  His sources are Chinese Communist Party documents, memoirs, and oral histories; Chinese scholarly articles and monographs; and Chinese publications that sometimes use classified documents as sources.  He also uses documents from regional archives in what he calls “a limited scale.”  Chen attributes the availability of these sources to “the flowering of the ‘reform and opening’ era in China,” during the 1980s.

In his discussion Sino-American rapprochement, Chen relies on Chinese and American sources to support his arguments in this chapter of Mao’s China.  Sources include Renmin ribao (People’s Daily), which Chinaonline.com calls the most influential daily newspaper in China, minutes and transcripts of conversations between Zhou Enlai and Alexander Haig, memos between Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong, Nixon’s memoirs, and The Kissinger Transcript.  Chen also includes Chinese historical studies from both individual scholars and official CCP archives, as well as official reports from the PLA leadership to the Central committee on the progress of the Vietnam War.  Finally, Chen uses Luo Yisu’s My Years in Poland, which contains telegrams and reports regarding the Sino-American ambassadorial talks in Warsaw.

However, as tempting as this cascade of Cold War data from inside China might be, Chen acknowledges that relying on them poses certain risks: the collections of documents provided may not be complete or accurate.  Chen attributes this problem to the fact that the government of China remains a Communist one that continues to restrict academic inquiry into sensitive areas.  Selective release of documents that might obscure the truth, or present decisions or people in a favorable light is a major concern.  What this means for Chen and other researchers is that despite the opportunity for research presented by newly available Chinese sources, each one must be carefully scrutinized in order to verify its authenticity.  In the case of Mao’s China, Chen has used endnotes to identify sources that are questionable or seem to contradict other documents.  He has also endeavored to cross-reference his sources to verify their accuracy.  These issues are indicative of the problems of inquiry under repressive regimes, or into subjects that ordinarily open governments find embarrassing.