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

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image of Journal of American-East Asian Relations

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.”

Affiliations: 1: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, Email:


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