This dissertation constructs the first analytical account of Poland's role in East and Southeast Asia during the Cold War from 1949 until 1965. It proposes that Poland was neither Moscow's puppet nor a dissenter in that Poland exhibited more autonomy in its foreign policy than has been previously assumed within the limits and constraints of various Cold War structures. By employing "pericentrism" - a framework which emphasizes the role of smaller players during the Cold War - Poland's story reveals the dilemmas of smaller nations finding their place in the communist bloc and the world and learning how to pursue their interests despite pressures from the bigger powers. Finally, the dissertation provides a personal picture of Poland's leadership and its diplomats.Poland's presence in and involvement with Asia were both natural and accidental. By virtue of being in the communist bloc, Poland entered into close relations with the People's Republic of China, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, following the establishment of the PRC in 1949. In the mid-1950s, Soviet and Asian communist allies drove Poland to become more involved in the region by serving as a member in international peace commissions on the Korean Peninsula and in Indochina. While this new mission raised Poland's international status and opened opportunities, it also presented challenges. Warsaw had to increasingly juggle its relations with Moscow, Washington, Beijing, and Hanoi, while keeping its own interests in mind, a task that became even more difficult in light of major developments such as the Sino-Soviet split and the conflict in Vietnam. This dissertation relies primarily on unpublished state, party, and foreign ministry archival records in Poland; archival research and oral history interviews in Poland, China, Vietnam, Japan, Canada, and the United States; and translated Russian and Chinese documents. It contributes to our understanding of the rise and fall of the international communist movement, the Sino-Soviet split, and the Cold War in Asia, especially the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict.
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