We often engage in historical "what if's" such as "what if Robert E. Lee had won at Gettysburg?" Or "what if Hitler had never opened a second front against Russia in WWII?"
This post about Communist China got me thinking once again about one of my favorite historical "what if's" - "what if Nixon had never gone to China?"
Most forget but in 1969 Russia and China were very close to an all-out war. According to Henry Kissinger, it was this fact that spurred much of the US's policies towards both countries with Nixon supporting China because he "decided that it was against American national interest to have China defeated." The side benefit of such a strategy, again according to Kissinger, was that "the opening to China facilitated the opening to Moscow and vice versa."
The first few years after the opening to China the biggest fear on the part of the Chinese was still an attack from Russia which made the nascent relationship with the US all the more important as a counterbalance against Soviet aggression. But, again, what if Nixon had never made the opening to China and instead allowed a conflict between Russia and China to play out?
I'm convinced the US followed the correct policy in the late 20th century of standing on the sidelines as the Iran-Iraq war played out with both sides fighting each other to a bloody standstill. What if we had done the same here? I'm guessing that Russia would have initially had the upper hand but the sheer numbers of the Chinese could have bled Russia white the way they later were in Afghanistan in the 1980's.
With both sides focusing their country's resources on each other there also would have been little or no support for either North Vietnam or North Korea. The history of both of those nations also could have been vastly different. We may even have had a unified Korea today as a result.
Taiwan, aka the Republic of China, could been allowed to grow and prosper in relative security with US arms and the protection of the US Navy. A strong Taiwan might have even been positioned to pick up the pieces from a failed Communist China after the shooting war ended.
Instead we have our current situation.
Of course another "what if" that has to be considered is what if the USSR was losing so much men and material that they decided it would be easier to just nuke Beijing? That's a "what if" that doesn't have such rosy outcomes.