Abstract

Based on declassified documents from the People's Republic of China (PRC), Vietnam, and the former Soviet Union, this essay examines China's policy toward the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina in relation to the United States. The article shows that Chinese leaders wanted to neutralize Indochina in order to forestall U.S. military intervention in the conflict, which, if it occurred, would directly threaten the PRC's southern flank. In pursuit of this objective, Chinese officials sought to exploit differences between the United States and its two main allies, Britain and France, and thereby induce U.S. policymakers to agree to end the first Indochina War between France and Vietnam. Because Chinese leaders worried that the United States might respond by trying to foment splits within the Communist camp, they worked to build a united front with the Soviet Union and North Vietnam, both of which shared Beijing's anxiety about U.S. intervention, and to convince the Viet Minh guerrilla leaders to make necessary concessions for a negotiated settlement at Geneva.

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