The Cold War’s Lessons for U.S.-China Diplomacy
In 1948, President Harry Truman’s diplomats approached representatives of Joseph Stalin with an offer to discuss the many issues dividing the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviet dictator responded with a simple “ha ha,” and 40 years of Cold War ensued.
That episode seemed newly resonant earlier this month, when a meeting between American and Chinese officials in Alaska turned into a televised airing of grievances. This tussle in the tundra signaled that there will be no “reset” between Washington and Beijing; a period of high-tempo competition is upon us. But Cold War history shows that diplomacy can still play a critical role, if U.S. officials view negotiation as a tool of competition rather than a replacement for it.
The Cold War: A New History
The “dean of Cold War historians” (The New York Times) now presents the definitive account of the global confrontation that dominated the last half of the twentieth century. Drawing on newly opened archives and the reminiscences of the major players, John Lewis Gaddis explains not just what happened but why—from the months in 1945 when the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went from alliance to antagonism to the barely averted holocaust of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the maneuvers of Nixon and Mao, Reagan and Gorbachev. Brilliant, accessible, almost Shakespearean in its drama, The Cold War stands as a triumphant summation of the era that, more than any other, shaped our own.