China Hand: An Autobiography

Overview

At the height of the McCarthyite hysteria of the 1950s, John Paton Davies, Jr., was summoned to the State Department one morning and fired. His offense? The career diplomat had counseled the U.S. government during World War II that the Communist forces in China were poised to take over the country—which they did, in 1949. Davies joined the thousands of others who became the victims of a political maelstrom that engulfed the country and deprived the United States of the wisdom and guidance of an entire generation ...

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China Hand: An Autobiography

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Overview

At the height of the McCarthyite hysteria of the 1950s, John Paton Davies, Jr., was summoned to the State Department one morning and fired. His offense? The career diplomat had counseled the U.S. government during World War II that the Communist forces in China were poised to take over the country—which they did, in 1949. Davies joined the thousands of others who became the victims of a political maelstrom that engulfed the country and deprived the United States of the wisdom and guidance of an entire generation of East Asian diplomats and scholars.

The son of American missionaries, Davies was born in China at the turn of the twentieth century. Educated in the United States, he joined the ranks of the newly formed Foreign Service in the 1930s and returned to China, where he would remain until nearly the end of World War II. During that time he became one of the first Americans to meet and talk with the young revolutionary known as Mao Zedong. He documented the personal excesses and political foibles of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. As a political aide to General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, the wartime commander of the Allied forces in East and South Asia, he traveled widely in the region, meeting with colonial India's Nehru and Gandhi to gauge whether their animosity to British rule would translate into support for Japan. Davies ended the war serving in Moscow with George F. Kennan, the architect of America's policy toward the Soviet Union. Kennan found in Davies a lifelong friend and colleague. Neither, however, was immune to the virulent anticommunism of the immediate postwar years.

China Hand is the story of a man who captured with wry and judicious insight the times in which he lived, both as observer and as actor.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A History Book Club selection

China Hand is low-key but forceful, at times quite deliciously witty. . . . No doubt China Hand will be of particular interest to students of Chinese history from the 1930s to the 50s and of American diplomacy during the same period, but its greatest value is as the personal testament of a man who was the wholly innocent victim of political opportunism yet retained his sense of personal worth and, equally important, his undying loyalty to the country that had served him so poorly. His life should be an object lesson to everyone.—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"The book is filled with vivid personalities and brings to life the fluid strategic situation at the end of the war. Its wry style makes for a delightful read, even though the foreordained outcome suffuses the story with regret."—Foreign Affairs

"An often funny, always insightful account of an adventurous and wonderful life. John Paton Davies was an American hero—judicious, discreet, and reliable—who deserves to be remembered by a book as good as this one."—Nicholas Thompson, author of The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War

"From his battles with Senator McCarthy, to his heroic achievements in the Burmese jungle, from his insightful predictions of the Chinese civil war, to his ultimate dismissal from the U.S. Foreign Service, Davies holds nothing back. Loaded in story and analysis, China Hand is a terrific book about a fascinating figure in American history."—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion

"An important book about a pivotal time in America, with relevance for the present and future. As history and biography, China Hand is first rate."—Dan Rather

"Among the State Department's 'China Hands' of the 1930s and 40s, John Paton Davies was one of the most eminent, until our domestic debates destroyed his career. China Hand is a gripping account of that era."—Dr. Henry A. Kissinger

"Davies predicted more accurately than anyone else, prior to the Cold War, what China's course would be during it. We are most fortunate to have his posthumous autobiography available at last, in which he explains, in shrewd and sparkling prose, how he did this. His book is a major new contribution to World War II and early Cold War history."—John Lewis Gaddis, author of George F. Kennan: An American Life

"China Hand is a vital missing link in the terrible story of America savaging itself politically over the Communist conquest of China. This testimony by a leading victim in that maelstrom of hysteria and falsehood makes sobering reading in today's political climate."—Robert MacNeil

""[This] globetrotting memoir is rich in intrigue, candid, credible, and masterfully told."—Andrew Burstein, The Advocate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812244014
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/6/2012
  • Series: Haney Foundation Series
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 801,644
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

John Paton Davies, Jr. (1908-99) was a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Department of State from 1931 to 1954. He was also the author of Foreign and Other Affairs and Dragon by the Tail: American, British, Japanese, and Russian Encounters with China and One Another. Todd S. Purdum is national editor of Vanity Fair. Bruce Cumings is Gustavus F. and Ann M. Swift Distinguished Service Professor in History and the College at the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, most recently Dominion from Sea to Sea: Pacific Ascendancy and American Power.
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Table of Contents

Foreword
—Todd S. Purdum

PART I. LEAVING AND RETURNING
i The Firing ii From China to America iii My Itinerant Education iv Hankow, the Far East Desk, and Pearl Harbor

PART II. ''THIS ASSIGNMENT IS NOT MADE AT YOUR REQUEST NOR FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE''
v To Asia with Stilwell vi A Moment with Mr. Gandhi vii Nehru and ''The Problem''
viii An American in India ix Willkie, Washington, and Vinegar Joe x Among the Naga Headhunters

PART III. PUBLIC AND PERSONAL DIPLOMACY
xi The Politics of War xii Cairo: With Roosevelt, Churchill, and Chiang xiii The Resurrection of Britain's Empire in Asia May Be Said to Lie Outside the Scope of Our Mission xiv Patricia's Passage to India; A Soong Family Fracas

PART IV. THE QUESTION OF CHINA
xv Stilwell's Wars xvi The Generalissimo Versus the General xvii Meeting Mao xviii Communists Versus Nationalists Versus Hurley

PART V. MOSCOW NIGHTS AND DAYS
xix Posted to Moscow xx Hurley's Opening Salvo xxi Postwar Moscow

PART VI. AT WAR AT HOME
xxii Returning to America, and the China Lobby xxiii Assigned to Kennan's Policy Planning Staff xxiv Working with the National Security Council xxv Revisiting Asia in 1948
xxvi ''The Most Nefarious Campaign of Half-Truths and Untruth in the History of the Republic''

Epilogue
—Bruce Cumings
Index
Acknowledgments

Gallery follows page 240

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