The conference took place on 26 April 1954 at the Palais de Genève. The first item on the agenda was the Korean question, which was to follow Indochina. :549 For Beijing, a negotiated solution to the Indochina War was an important opportunity to advance China as a great Asian power, whose voice could not be ignored in Asian councils. When the Berlin Conference decided in February 1954 to hold an international conference on Indochina, the Chinese welcomed it and prophesied that the invited People`s Republic would thus be recognized for its important role in Asian affairs. The Geneva conference took place at a time of vigorous Chinese diplomatic activity in India and Burma, and Beijing felt that an agreement would be acceptable without a total victory for De Viet Minh, as it would demonstrate China`s sincere commitment to peace. If the RPC had stimulated Viet Minh, it would not only have been in conflict with the Soviets, whose aid was essential to China`s economic recovery plans, but would also have lost ground in the support that Chou En-lai`s travels deserved. The war in Indochina had become a test for China of its sincerity in promoting peaceful coexistence. From a tactical point of view, dedication to peaceful cohabitation could also be seen as a reduction in the prospects of broad Asian support or participation in the American regional alliance plan. With the end of the conference, China was able to offer Asian nations an alternative to the alliance with the United States – the concept of “collective peace and security,” supported by mutual agreement to promote the five principles. In April 1954, representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, the People`s Republic of China, France and the United Kingdom met to resolve several problems related to Asia. One of the most disturbing concerns was the long and bloody struggle between Vietnamese nationalist forces led by the communist Ho Chi Minh and the French who wanted to continue colonial control of Vietnam. Since 1946, the two sides had fought each other.
In 1954, however, the French tired of the long and inclusive war that emptied both the public treasury and public patience. The United States had supported the French for fear that a victory for Ho`s troops would be the first step in communist expansion throughout Southeast Asia. When America rejected France`s calls for more direct intervention in the war, the French announced that they were inserting the issue of Vietnam into the agenda of the Geneva conference. Our concern now is that we are very sceptical about the presence of a single front with regard to Indochina and we do not believe that the mere fact that the high representatives of the three nations react physically together in Geneva will serve as a substitute for a clear agreement on a common position involving an agreement on what will happen if this position is not accepted by the Communists. We fear that the events in Geneva, if there is no reality of such a single front, will reveal differences in conditions that will only amplify relations between our two countries, as if the United States did not reappear in Geneva in the person of General Smith or myself. [doc. 67] Bedell Smith, who revealed a much more flexible attitude towards the communist world, was able to shut down Washington`s approval at the partial American acceptance of the final declaration. On 19 July, he had been approached by Mends-France, who had tried from the outset to identify the United States as closely as possible with the final conditions, proposing that Washington not only respect the military agreements reached, but take note of them, as well as the political statements contained in the first nine paragraphs of the proposed conference statement.