Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia

Overview

In this absorbing work, a thoughtful career diplomat provides a perceptive, sometimes controversial overview of the intense U.S. connection with East Asia in the twentieth century. Part memoir, part diplomatic history, Born a Foreigner traces Ambassador Cross’s personal odyssey as a boy born in Beijing to missionary parents, a teenager under the Japanese occupation of North China, a Japanese-speaking marine corps officer in WWII, and as a diplomat posted to sensitive areas around the world. Always, Cross’s ...
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Overview

In this absorbing work, a thoughtful career diplomat provides a perceptive, sometimes controversial overview of the intense U.S. connection with East Asia in the twentieth century. Part memoir, part diplomatic history, Born a Foreigner traces Ambassador Cross’s personal odyssey as a boy born in Beijing to missionary parents, a teenager under the Japanese occupation of North China, a Japanese-speaking marine corps officer in WWII, and as a diplomat posted to sensitive areas around the world. Always, Cross’s assessments of U.S. policy and policymakers are reflective, fair, and judicious. Cross’s authoritative and invaluable account of his Vietnam experiences as chief of CORDS in I Corps (1967–1969) adds significantly to the literature on the Vietnam War. He provides unique detail on the Tet Offensive, the earlier negotiations on Laos, the Geneva Conference, and Averell Harriman’s diplomatic style. Equally significant is his discussion of the pacification program in I-Corps. He describes the subtle interplay among the U.S. and Vietnamese military, the American civilian authorities and the Vietnamese people, and their varying attitudes toward each other and the war itself. Covering the long sweep of historical events in Asia from revolutionary China in the 1920s and 1930s to the full normalization of Sino-American diplomatic relations in 1979 and the aftermath in Taiwan, where he was the first director of the American Institute, Cross’s memoir will thoroughly interest anyone seeking an insider’s view of U.S. relations with Asia.
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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
Cross approaches his subjects with refreshing candor. The most fascinating part of the author's career began with his retirement in 1979, which paved the way for his appointment as the first director of the American Institute of Taiwan. Here Cross gives deserved attention to the challenge of practicing 'unofficial' diplomacy with a Taiwanese government that sought to reveal his outfit as 'just an embassy by another name.' . . . Cross should qualify as our man in Asia.
Foreign Service Journal
Cross's volume provides a commanding sweep of some of the most turbulent events of the past century in Asia. This account, like the author's Foreign Service career, reflects a keen understanding of history and an approach tempered by sympathy and steeled in wars. . . . As this memoir demonstrates time and time again, without an understanding of the past, it is difficult to shape the future. . . . [An] insightful journey through the turbulence of Asian nationalism and the stresses of political independence and economic development.
Thomas L. Hughes
This is a remarkable and highly personal account of a half century of Chinese-American engagement—a mosaic of affection and insight, friendship and hostility, cross-purposes and adjustment, public posturing and private pain. As he moves from parental pacifism and missionary moralism to Marine Corps patriotism and Foreign Service discipline, the author’s 'internal turmoil' is repeatedly tested over four decades in a half dozen key assignments on the periphery of China itself. Amid life-threatening situations from Iwo Jima to Vietnam, and career-threatening ones from McCarthy to Agnew, Cross gives us memorable glimpses of politicians, diplomats, generals, and bureaucrats in their often fateful mismatches with one another and with history.
Arnold R. Isaacs
(short)
As a missionary's son in China, a soldier in the Pacific War, and a career diplomat, Chuck Cross was an eyewitness to America's fateful encounters in Asia across five decades. His memoir is history at close-up range, full of revealing, well-observed details.
Geoff R. Berridge
The author has an engaging style and his book will rarely fail to hold the interest of anyone interested in in the history of America's post-war relations with Asia. As for students of diplomacy, they will find him particularly instructive on, among other things, the role of the political officer and the desk officer in the State Department, the information-gathering value of a strategically placed consular mission, and the kind of devices to which states resort in order to conduct resident diplomacy with entities which they are unable to to recognize.
Arthur Hummel
This is a most unusual and informative book that combines gripping and intensely personal reminiscences with authoritative diplomatic and foreign policy history. It is must-reading for its close-up views on our China policies; intimate descriptions of a privileged existence in Peking before WW II; candid glimpses of life in the Foreign Service; authoritative diplomatic history about the author's part in policymaking in several areas of the world; and an especially moving and detailed picture of his work in shoring up American and Vietnamese efforts to prevent a communist takeover. No other work I have seen amalgamates the personal and the official in such a satisfying way.
Arthur W. Hummel Jr.
This is a most unusual and informative book that combines gripping and intensely personal reminiscences with authoritative diplomatic and foreign policy history. It is must-reading for its close-up views on our China policies; intimate descriptions of a privileged existence in Peking before WW II; candid glimpses of life in the Foreign Service; authoritative diplomatic history about the author's part in policymaking in several areas of the world; and an especially moving and detailed picture of his work in shoring up American and Vietnamese efforts to prevent a communist takeover. No other work I have seen amalgamates the personal and the official in such a satisfying way.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780847694686
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

During the course of his thirty-two year diplomatic career, Charles T. Cross served in posts throughout the world, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Cyprus, London, Vietnam (1967-1969) where he was chief of the pacification efforts in I Corps. He was also ambassador to Singapore (1969-1972), consul general in Hong Kong (1974-1977), and the first director of the American Institute in Taiwan (1979-1981). Most recently he was a distinguished lecturer in international studies at the University of Washington.
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Born a Foreigner Chapter 2 Growing Up in Beijing Chapter 3 The Horse Marines Chapter 4 After the Marines Chapter 5 One Path to the Foreign Service Chapter 6 Taipei I: 1949–1950 Chapter 7 Jakarta: 1950–1951 Chapter 8 Hong Kong: 1952–1954 Chapter 9 Washington and McCarthyism Chapter 10 Kuala Lumpur: 1955–1957 Chapter 11 Washington Again Chapter 12 London: 1966–1967 Chapter 13 Vietnam Chapter 14 The Tet Offensive Chapter 15 DEPCORDS Chapter 16 Looking Back at Vietnam Chapter 17 Singapore Chapter 18 Hong Kong Again Chapter 19 Return to Taiwan
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