(9 of 11)
For the U.S., the situation presents three major issues: CHINA AND VIET NAM. What would better U.S. relations mean to the Indochina war? One version holds that they will be a great help. That theory rests on the supposition that when Chou visited Hanoi during the South Vietnamese incursions into Laos, he found that the North Vietnamese were taking a bad beating and could no longer sustain a major war effort. Therefore, he concluded that the best course for China was to open up contacts with the U.S. so that Peking could help Washington negotiate its way out of Viet Nam. This view is pushed in Saigon, and even some White House aides hope that this highly unlikely version is true.
The other version is just the opposite. It holds that only the South Vietnamese defeat in Laos made it possible for the Chinese to approach the Americans without seeming to betray their North Vietnamese allies. "We snatched diplomatic victory from the jaws of military defeat," jokes one U.S. official. According to this theory, the Chinese are now convinced that the U.S. is going to withdraw from South Viet Nam anyhow, and that in due course Hanoi will win its objectives in South Viet Nam. Thus the Chinese cannot be expected to place any pressure on the North Vietnamese to make them more tractable in the Paris peace negotiations. However, Peking may wish to have more influence in any Indochina settlement by having its own direct line of communication with Washington.
RUSSIAN REACTION. The Chinese have from ancient times followed the dictum: "Use barbarians to control barbarians." The Ming dynasty used the western Mongols to crush the eastern Mongols, and then the eastern Mongols to defeat the western Mongols. The chief recourse of 19th century China was to play off one imperialist against another, the Americans against the British, the British against the Russians, and more recently the League of Nations and the U.S. against Japan. Today, suggests Harvard Sinologist John K. Fairbank, confronted as they are on the northeast by the Russians and to seaward by the Americans and Japanese, the Chinese again have reason to apply a sophisticated version of the dictum.
How will Russia react to this situation? Washington hastened to reassure the Russians that its new dealings with China were not directed against Moscow. Yet most U.S. Sovietologists feel that the Russians are bound to be alarmed by the specter of its two main rivals finally talking together. Until now, the Russians have enjoyed a unique, pivotal position between China and the U.S., because of Peking and Washington's hostility toward each other. That assurance is no longer there, and now the Soviets must urgently reassess their own position.
The optimistic view in the West is that, in order to counteract Peking's new thaw, the Russians will also turn friendlier toward the West. The Eastern Europeans hope that increased Soviet preoccupation with China's designs will give them