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Posted June 29, 2014
After finding out Dr Stuart's ashes have been buried in China (2008). I became interested in learning about the last US Ambassador to China before the normalization. This is a must to read book by those interested in early part of 20 century about the life of American missionaries. He was a missionary and an educator. As founding president of Yenching University(now Peiking University) a number of famous alumni led China contributed to the modernization of China. Twenty years after Leighton's death, 8 representatives from Yenching showed up at its first meeting at the UN for PRC.
The book is very easy to read. I find almost no discrepancy or flaws in this 1954 book. Sixty years have passed I find what was described are very accurate and credible.
It took a little while to figure out why General George Marshall nominated him as an US Ambassador to China. He was the perfect man who understand ins and outs of Chinese mass. He knows all the influential statesmen, military leaders, Zhou Enlai, and even met Mao. "Chiang had acted for what he believed to be the best interests of China". Leighton has also met and dealt with many leaders of China during the last 50 years. He thought Chiang was an exceptional statesman and a good Methodist christian.
The book seems to be incomplete near the end. The last chapter on The last few chapters (pp 302-313) seem to be written by perhaps Philip Fugh or someone else, such as "What Policy Now?" There has been some speculation it was rushed for print since it was aimed at Korean War.
In a parallel effort, I also ready a letter by Mao Zedong in 1949 " Farewell, Leighton Stuart". It was full of flaws and in accurate discrepancies. The basis was based on hate and somewhat distorted information. After all, Mao is not a well educated person represents peasants. What he wrote then became a must study lesson in Chinese high schools. One does not challenge Mao's works, for this reason Stuart's ashes were not allowed to be buried with his relatives in Beijing. It took much work by his family friend by US General John Fugh(ret.)to find a resting place as his second choice in Hangzhou. I suspect commercial tourism was one of the considerations.
A lot of things have changed, this is a very useful historical account of a missionary account of old China. Nationalist government, a government modeled after American democracy ideas and it was attacked and pressured by the Japanese. After eight years of defensive struggle against the Japanese, it was subjected to an all-out assault with substantial materialistic aid by the Soviet Union with Mao's government quickly overrun in two years. While the reason of failure of KMT on mainland has been debated and analyzed by many. The US flip-flop foreign policies served as a wake-up call to other nations under communist threat (pp 274-275).
All in all, I find this book is one of the best authoritative books on China up to 1954. Leighton Stuart is a honest man and a Christian
Missionary. As such some critics felt he was too inexperienced to deal with difficult politics and diplomacy.
Sam Shueh, California