Tumultuous developments in Asia ensured that the Cold War would become global. U.S. policy appeared well in hand in the early postwar years, as the occupation of Japan provided an unprecedented opportunity to further Washington's economic and political agenda in Asia. Establishing Japan as the focal point of an economic program across the "great crescent" of Asia, Washington sought to ensure an anticommunist order friendly to the supremacy of the dollar and U.S. ideology. The Japanese proved largely compliant, but the triumph of the communists in the Chinese civil war promptly shattered the American quest for a noncommunist Asian postwar order.
The rise to power of the Chinese Communist Party in October 1949 was a stunning blow to Americans, who had long waxed sentimental about the prospects of expanding Western influence in "the Orient." Roosevelt had given rise to false hopes during the war by floating the ill-fated concept that China would serve as one of the "four policemen" of the postwar world. In reality, the democratic China was a chimera. And while Stalin had repeatedly shown himself willing to sell out the Chinese communists during the war, now that they had come to power, he entered into an alliance with Mao Zedong's regime in 1950. Inexperienced in foreign affairs, and plagued by demagogues and opportunists in Congress, millions of Americans believed the leaders who told them that only domestic subversion could account for the dastardly turn of affairs in East Asia. Still adjusting to the burdens of world power, Americans became resentful when events did not unfold as they expected.