Red China Blues: Paul Martin, Lester B. Pearson, and the China Conundrum, 1963-1967

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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Like any number of American allies, Canada declined to recognize the revolutionary government of the People’s Republic of China, and helped exclude it from the United Nations in the 1950s. By the early 1960s, there were strong pressures for change. This article examines the efforts of Paul Martin, Sr., Canada’s foreign minister from 1963 to 1968, to respond to those pressures and modernize his country’s approach to the emerging Asian giant. After establishing Martin’s diplomatic credentials, the paper traces the evolution of his attitude toward Beijing during the 1950s as he accepted the logic and necessity of recognition. Opposed by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and many of his cabinet colleagues, who feared U.S. retaliation, Martin persisted in trying to win over their backing. Progress, when it finally came in 1966, was incremental and much too late, prompting critical attacks on the minister’s reputation and his “hush puppy style.”

Red China Blues: Paul Martin, Lester B. Pearson, and the China Conundrum, 1963-1967

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations



Woodcock to Weaver 20 June 1967cited in George Woodcock Taking it to the Letter (Montreal: Quadrant Editions 1981) 18.


Holmes to Martin 4 Jan. 1956vol. 167 Martin Papers LAC.


Page“Representation of China in the United Nations” 89.


Permisny to External 12 Oct. 1964ibid.


Washington to External 15 Oct. 1964ibid.


Candelny to External 1 Dec. 1964ibid.


Evans“Ronning and Recognition” 148-67.


George HerringThe Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War: The Negotiating Volumes of the Pentagon Papers (Austin: University of Texas Press1983) 171.


HerringSecret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War176.


Paul HellyerDamn the Torpedoes: My Fight to Unify Canada’s Armed Forces (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart1990) 209.


MacDonald to Hadwen 11 July 1966and Marcel Cadieux “Memorandum for the Minister” 22 July 1966 ibid.; emphasis in the original.


Rusk to Pearson 9 Nov. 1966file 821/C359.1.Conf. vol. 7 series N4 Pearson Papers LAC.


Cabinet Conclusions 18 Nov. 1966.


Roy MacLarenThe Fundamental Things Apply: A Memoir (Toronto: University of Toronto Press2010) 77.


Stephan Clarkson“Conclusion,” An Independent Foreign Policy for Canada? (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart 1968) 257.

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