John K. Fairbank '29, Francis Lee Higginson professor of History said last night that there is "a better than 50-50 chance that the United States will have a knock down, drag out conflict with the Chinese regime." Fairbank admitted, however that his warning was "more an emotion than a scientific judgment."
A group of 48 newspapermen here for a two-day seminar on Far Eastern affairs heard Fairbank speak. The seminar was organized by some Harvard graduate students for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
Fairbank deplored what he felt was the American emphasis on short-term crisis planning in dealing with China. U.S. leaders, he alleged, seldom seem to plot out any long term programs.
"Our record of predicting what's going to happen in China rates a grade of about D," he said.
To remedy this, he suggested that the U.S. realize that "China is bound by culture and tradition. Its options are ways of doing things it has inherited from Chinese history."
"Historical perspective," he continued, "can show us the old patterns which limit the Chinese when they plan their programs, and so can help us plan our approach."
He also recommended that the U.S. remove all discrimination against Peking as a means of reducing tension between the two radically different countries. We should put China "on an equal basis with the other Communist countries in trade, in the U.N., and in any other ways we can arrange," he proposed.
China feels that she was once the best nation on earth according to Fairbank, and that much of her former self-pride has been taken away from her. "If we could put on a 'You're the greatest' act for China's benefit, it might be theraputic," he speculated.
Many of the journalists appeared skeptical about Fairbank's historical perspective approach. One of them asked him what the press could do along this line.
"I would like to see a series of articles on the rise and fall of the Ming Dynasty," replied Fairbank.
After the laughter died down, the journalist asked how you would get people to read it.
"Make it interesting," said Fairbank, "though I don't know how much sex you could get into it."