Archival Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library

A. Doak Barnett papers, 1929-2010 bulk 1940-1999 

Creator: 
Barnett, A. Doak.
Phys. Desc: 
92 linear feet (92 linear feet 182 boxes)
Call Number: 
MS#0075
Location: 
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
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Online information

Biographical Note

Arthur Doak Barnett (1921-1999) was born in Shanghai, the fourth child of Eugene Epperson and Bertha Smith Barnett. His father worked in China for the Young Men's Christian Association until 1936 when the family returned to the United States. Barnett graduated from Yale University summa cum laude with undergraduate and master's degrees in international relations. He served in the U.S. Marine Corp in the Pacific during World War II. In 1947 Barnett returned to China as a fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs and a correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He traveled throughout China, covering the civil war, the occupation of Peking (Beijing) in 1949, and the establishment of the People's Republic of China. After the revolution he became a public affairs officer for the American Consulate General in Hong Kong. A 1955 Daily News clipping described him as "the last American correspondent to leave China after the Reds took over.". Returning to the United States in 1959, Barnett joined the Ford Foundation where he secured funds for research projects on China despite the political climate of McCarthyism. He joined the Columbia University faculty in 1961 as Professor of Public Law and Government and taught there for eight years. His students included Kenneth Lieberthal, an advisor on China to the Clinton Administration, and Michel Oksenberg, who participated in the Carter Administration's establishment of diplomatic relations with China. In 1966 Barnett was principal witness for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee review of U.S. China policy. Consistently advocating a non-confrontational approach, he advised Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon to reach out to China, coining the phrase ''containment without isolation." President Ronald Reagan adopted Barnett's position against the sale of jet fighters to Taiwan in early 1980s, and the Bush and Clinton Administrations were guided by his views on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Barnett was instrumental in establishing several organizations on China, including the Joint Committee on Contemporary China, the Committee on Scholarly Communications with the People's Republic of China, and the National Committee on US-China Relations. He returned to China many times throughout his life to conduct research that formed the basis for his many published works and as a member of delegations and exchanges he helped to organize. He told an interviewer his most interesting years were spent traveling to every province in China, often on horseback, in the 1940s as a half-time reporter for the Daily News. "We in the West, and particularly in the United States, keep going through cycles, or swings of the pendulum, from unrealistic euphoria about China to a feeling of disillusionment because it doesn't live up to our unrealistic expectations. " (Brookings, 22). A. Doak Barnett died at age 77 in Washington, D.C.

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of documents created in the course of Barnett's academic and government careers. Included are typed and handwritten letters, reports, speeches, organizational records, academic records, instructional materials, manuscripts, photographs, cassette tapes and videos, maps, and some books. Among the major works included are CADRES, BUREAUCRACY AND POLITICAL POWER, CHINA AND THE MAJOR POWERS, UNCERTAIN PASSAGE, CHINA'S ECONOMY IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE, and the unpublished manuscript of "Reds, Rice and Revolution." Files on Association for Asian Studies projects and Barnett's Oreon Scott Lectures are also included. Also, extensive files on Columbia University, the Ford Foundation, additional materials on CHINA'S ECONOMY IN GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE and other writings of Mr. Barnett.