The possibility of breaking China apart into separate regions, outside of Beijing’s influence, has been an integral part of American foreign policy ever since the end of the 1940s, when China exited Washington’s control following the communist revolution.
The 1949 communist takeover of China was termed in imperialist language as “the loss of China” in Washington. China’s revolution was lamented by American politicians as a major blow to United States power, which it undoubtedly was, after China had been a Western client nation for many years.
Soon thereafter the Harry Truman administration (1945–53), severely criticised for “losing China”, made concerted efforts to undermine America’s new rival. Between 1949 and 1951, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) increased the number of its operatives tenfold which were engaged in covert actions relating to China. (1)
The CIA budget, for activities against China, reached 20 times greater than the sum of money expended on the 1953 US/British-backed overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh’s government in Iran. (2)
Scanning maps of east Asia, US government strategists were inevitably drawn towards Tibet, in south-western China, as an area of critical importance. The Tibetan landmass, which is recognised internationally to be within China’s frontiers, is the highest in the world, and it has an average altitude of over 4,300 metres above sea level. At 1.2 million square kilometres in size, the region of Tibet is more than twice larger than France; but it doubles to 2.5 million square kilometres, by taking into account much of the surrounding Tibetan Plateau which is scarcely inhabited by humans.
It should be noted, in modern history, that Tibet was under effective Chinese control for almost two centuries (from 1720–1912), during the Manchu-led Qing dynasty of China.