China 1945: Mao's Revolution and America's Fateful Choice
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A riveting account of the watershed moment in America’s dealings with China that forever altered the course of East-West relations
As 1945 opened, America was on surprisingly congenial terms with China’s Communist rebels—their soldiers treated their American counterparts as heroes, rescuing airmen shot down over enemy territory. Chinese leaders talked of a future in which American money and technology would help lift China out of poverty. Mao Zedong himself held friendly meetings with U.S. emissaries, vowing to them his intention of establishing an American-style democracy in China.
By year’s end, however, cordiality had been replaced by chilly hostility and distrust. Chinese Communist soldiers were setting ambushes for American marines in north China; Communist newspapers were portraying the United States as an implacable imperialist enemy; civil war in China was erupting. The pattern was set for a quarter century of almost total Sino-American mistrust, with the devastating wars in Korea and Vietnam among the consequences.
Richard Bernstein here tells the incredible story of that year’s sea change, brilliantly analyzing its many components, from ferocious infighting among U.S. diplomats, military leaders, and opinion makers to the complex relations between Mao and his patron, Stalin.
On the American side, we meet experienced “China hands” John Paton Davies and John Stewart Service, whose efforts at negotiation made them prey to accusations of Communist sympathy; FDR’s special ambassador Patrick J. Hurley, a decorated general and self-proclaimed cowboy; and Time journalist, Henry Luce, whose editorials helped turn the tide of American public opinion. On the Chinese side, Bernstein reveals the ascendant Mao and his intractable counterpart, Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek; and the indispensable Zhou Enlai.
A tour de force of narrative history, China 1945 examines the first episode in which American power and good intentions came face-to-face with a powerful Asian revolutionary movement, and challenges familiar assumptions about the origins of modern Sino-American relations.
under surveillance and, in an illegal operation, broke into the magazine’s offices in an effort to discover the presumably traitorous sources of the leak. CHAPTER ELEVEN Mao the God, Service the Spy While Hurley purged the Chungking embassy of its best China hands, Mao Zedong was enjoying the fruits of his own purge and Rectification Campaign of the previous two years, having himself crowned the demigod of the Chinese revolution. From then on, he was to be much more than a first among equals,
mines near Tangshan to the ports by train—Wedemeyer called guarding them a “military necessity”—or there would be no power to fuel the power plants and factories of places like Shanghai during the coming winter, and if the economy collapsed, Wedemeyer warned, there would be massive starvation. American marines arriving in Tianjin, September 1945, among the 50,000 American troops who landed in North China after the end of the war. (illustration credit 12) The Communists, already engaged with the
Japanese forces in the area, which meant that any landing by the marines would not represent the liberation of a Japanese-held city but “an interference in the internal affairs of China” and that would be “bitterly resented by the Communists.” At Barbey’s urging, the American high command decided to forgo the Chefoo landing. The Communists had won a victory whose significance was not lost on at least one of the American reporters on the scene. The United States, Tillman Durdin wrote in The New
control of their own armed forces. In fact, the evidence is strong that they never intended to do these things. On February 12, while the Marshall talks were heading into the home stretch, Mao told a meeting of the Politburo that “the United States and Chiang Kai-shek intend to eliminate us by way of nationwide military unification,” a comment indicating that Mao still saw military unification as surrender. “We want unification, but we do not want to be eliminated,” he continued. “In principle,
government, which, in exchange, took in a few non-Communist members. Soviet domination of Poland became an accepted fact for the foreseeable future. Given the Soviet Union’s ambitious goals and its actions in Eastern Europe, one might expect there to have been some concern that Stalin would want to do something similar in China. In fact, there was very little thought at the top echelons of the American government about the possibility that Soviet aims in Europe and Soviet aims in Asia might be