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Bamboo Curtain

Russia had its 'Iron Curtain', Asia had its 'Bamboo Curtain'. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union had essentially extended its borders to include all of Eastern Europe. The borders were so impenetrable that Winston Churchill coined the term Iron Curtain. Within four years of war's end, communists had won the Chinese civil war and the Iron Curtain was augmented by the Bamboo Curtain. Red China systematically isolated itself behind a bamboo curtain as it implemented asocialist controlled economy.

The Communists formed an uneasy alliance with the Nationalists against Japan during World War II, but that alliance crumbled by wars end, resulting in a civil war won by Maos forces, as the Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949. Proclaiming the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China, Mao swiftly solidified his rule over the country, removing his opposition to re-education camps and modeling his state after the Soviet Union, on whom he depended for assistance. Within a year China found itself defending Communist North Korea against the United Nations. The Korean War ended in a stalemate in 1953, but its aftermath ensured the United States and China would be Cold War enemies. If the Soviet Union hid behind an iron curtain, China, many thought, now resided behind a bamboo curtain.

When President Eisenhower described the situation in Southeast Asia as a row of dominoes during a press conference on April 7, 1954, the image captivated the media. Ikes successors were stuck with it for all time. One after another they were called upon to confirm its validity. Eisenhower stressed Japans still shaky economic place in the free world. Japan was the last domino; when the others fell, that vital Asian nation would also pitch over toward the Communist areas in order to live. Eisenhower talked about losing raw materials and people as country after country toppled over behind the Bamboo Curtain.

One of the first public hints of improved U.S.-China relations came in 1971, when the American table tennis team accepted an invitation to visit China, ushering in an era of "Ping-Pong diplomacy." They were the first Americans allowed into China since the Communist takeover in 1949. But despite the thaw in relations with China, President Nixon kept the negotiations secret. It was only after Henry Kissinger's secret mission to Beijing, that Nixon announced that he would visit China the following year.

The first visit to China by a sitting United States president was a momentous occasion. At odds for more than a century, "the Eagle" and "the Dragon" sought to find common ground. Millions of Americans were glued to their TV sets, getting their first glimpse of life behind the "Bamboo Curtain." Although the visit was extraordinary, many difficult issues remained. The bamboo curtain began to rise as China now looked to the West for help modernizing its country.

Under the security umbrella provided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the people of Taiwan were able to move forward dramatically. The act by making available to Taiwansuch defense articles and defense services in such quantity as maybe necessary, assured that the people of Taiwan did not have to live in fear that a Bamboo Curtain would suddenly descend upon them through proactive military action.

Hong Kong ended colonial rule on July 1, 1997 and was returned to the sovereignty of the Chinese people. There was no immediate descent of a Bamboo Curtain. Instead, however, like drops of water falling upon a rock, there has been a slow erosion of those qualities which made Hong Kong unique.

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Page last modified: 17-02-2017 19:32:50 ZULU