The China Lobby

Warren I. Cohen

"China lobby" is a pejorative phrase first applied in the 1940s to a disparate collection of Chinese and Americans who tried to influence the people and government of the United States on behalf of the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jie-shī;) and in opposition to the Chinese communists. Opponents of aid to the Nationalists commonly used the term to imply that Chiang's American supporters were paid and that their activities were coordinated by Chiang and other officials of his government or members of his family. A second usage implied the existence of an organization of Chinese Nationalist officials and American rightists joined to stimulate anticommunism in the United States. Americans most commonly associated with the China lobby were the noted publisher Henry R. Luce; Alfred Kohlberg, a retired New York importer; Frederick C. McKee, a wealthy Pittsburgh manufacturer and philanthropist; Republican Representative Walter H. Judd of Minnesota; and the Republican senators William F. Knowland of California and Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin. The lobby was presumed to have tremendous influence in American politics by contemporaries. It has been credited with forcing a reluctant Truman administration to continue aid to Chiang during the Chinese civil war, preventing recognition of the People's Republic of China and barring it from the United Nations, and blocking the distribution of a book exposing the operations of the China lobby.

Although the Chinese Nationalist regime employed American lobbyists and public relations operatives and had the support of the American right in the struggle against communism in China, support for Chiang's China cannot be written off as either hired or right wing. In the United States popular support for Chiang—or, more precisely, opposition to communist control of China—was broadly based, including liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and southerners, northerners, easterners, and westerners. Popular antipathy toward the Chinese communists derived from a widespread and profound distaste for communism and from traditional sympathies for the heathen Chinese. But it was the Korean War—especially the intervention of the People's Republic of China in the war—that brought about the results for which Chiang's supporters worked in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Without the Korean War, the limited public interest in Asian affairs and the reality of the communist victory in China might well have led to an early accommodation between the United States and the regime of Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), despite the efforts of the friends of Nationalist China.


Bachrack, Stanley D. The Committee of One Million: "China Lobby" Politics, 1953–1971. New York, 1976.

Borg, Dorothy. American Policy and the Chinese Revolution, 1925–1928. New York, 1947. Includes references to the activities of Americans sympathetic to the Chinese Nationalist cause during the 1920s.

Cohen, Warren I. "The Role of Private Groups in the United States." In Dorothy Borg and Shumpei Okamoto, eds. Pearl Harbor as History: Japanese-American Relations, 1931–1941. New York, 1973. Discusses the lobbying activities of a number of groups and individuals between 1931 and 1941.

Friedman, Donald J. The Road from Isolation: The Campaign of the American Committee for Non-participation in Japanese Aggression, 1938–1941. Cambridge, Mass., 1968. A useful study of the organization and its work.

Keeley, Joseph. The China Lobby Man: The Story of Alfred Kohlberg. New Rochelle, N.Y., 1969. A biography that epitomizes Kohlberg's exploitation by the American right.

Koen, Ross Y. The China Lobby in American Politics. New York, 1974. A comprehensive account of Chinese Nationalist and pro-Nationalist activities in the United States during Truman's term as president. Koen is better at describing the impact of these activities than at explaining how the Chinese and their American friends functioned.

Liebman, Marvin. Coming Out Conservative: An Autobiography. San Francisco, 1992. A first-person account of the origin and activities of most of the right-wing fronts of the Cold War era, including the Committee of One Million.

Sutter, Robert G. U.S. Policy Toward China: An Introduction to the Role of Interest Groups. Lanham, Md., 1998. Focuses on lobbying activities on behalf of China and Taiwan in the post–Cold War era.

Thomas, John N. The Institute of Pacific Relations: Asian Scholars and American Politics. Seattle, Wash., 1974. An unsympathetic study of the organization with a useful chapter on Kohlberg.

See also Congressional Power ; Economic Policy and Theory ; Foreign Aid ; Public Opinion ; Recognition .

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