- Editor’s Note
This issue begins with an article by Hugo Meijer regarding U.S. exports of weapons and other military technology to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the 1980s. Meijer shows that the “China differential” in U.S. export control policy—the relative treatment of exports to China and exports to the Soviet Union—went from harsher treatment of the PRC in the 1950s and 1960s to much more favorable treatment in the 1980s. U.S. military exports to China in the 1980s were encouraged by a shared desire to prevent Soviet expansionism, but the volume and nature of the exports were limited by other key U.S. security interests in East Asia, including the need to prevent the PRC from threatening U.S. allies and friends in the region, concerns about China’s behavior on nuclear proliferation (especially its links with and assistance to Pakistan and North Korea), and worries about the possible negative repercussions for U.S.-Soviet relations, an issue that gained in salience after the ascendance of Mikhail Gorbachev to the highest Soviet leadership spot in March 1985. Meijer concludes that although the goal of confronting a common enemy was a key motivation, it was never the only factor that shaped U.S. export policy toward China. Other U.S. security interests in East Asia almost always had a restraining influence on U.S. military exports to the PRC. Even within such limits, however, the extent of U.S.-Chinese military supply cooperation in the 1980s reached levels unimaginable in the 1950s, a pattern that continued until the Chinese Communist regime ordered heavily-armed troops to carry out a brutal crackdown against peaceful mass protests in Beijing in early June 1989, putting an abrupt end to U.S. military sales to China.
The next article, by Moe Taylor, discusses Guyana’s relations with North Korea from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, when the South American coastal state was ruled by the authoritarian leader of the socialist People’s National Congress (PNC), Forbes Burnham. In examining this bilateral relationship, which blossomed at a time when North Korea was eager to assist radical leftist governments in the Third World, Taylor discusses the ideological and practical features that brought the two countries together. The emphasis placed by the North Korean authorities on unswerving discipline and self-reliance, embodied in Kim Il-Sung’s juche program, appealed to Burnham, as did North Korea’s emphasis on collectivist activities supporting the regime. Burnham saw himself as a supreme leader akin to Kim Il-Sung, and he believed that much greater discipline on the part of the Guyanese in strict accordance with his own wishes would help the PNC realize his vision of “co-operative socialism.” Taylor’s analysis of this strange bilateral relationship between two messianic dictators who defied all entreaties from the West shows how even small states on the periphery of the Cold War could gain notoriety on the international scene. (The most chilling illustration of this came in November 1978 when Guyana, which had become a protective haven for Jim Jones’s [End Page 1] People’s Temple cult, was the scene of the mass suicide and murder of more than 900 cult members.)
The third article, by James Curran, turns to the question of U.S.-Australian relations during the Cold War. Focusing on U.S. policy under President Lyndon B. Johnson, including Johnson’s important visit to Australia in October 1966 (the first such visit by a U.S. president), Curran considers how U.S. officials sought to maintain Australia as a solid ally in the Vietnam War and to secure increases in the number of Australian troops fighting alongside U.S. forces. During the visit and afterward, Johnson urged Prime Minister Harold Holt to increase Australian troop deployments in Vietnam, a request the prime minister initially deflected. Even though Holt and his Liberal Party were strongly committed to the alliance with the United States, they were wary of expanding Australia’s role in the Vietnam War, not least because doing so would give the opposition Labor Party a political wedge to exploit. Australian troop strength in Vietnam did eventually...