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The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

3.6 5
by James Bradley

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From the bestselling author of Flags of our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a riveting, revisionist history of US-China relations from the 19th century to the dawn of World War II.

In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind the history of America's engagement in Asia. In Flags of


From the bestselling author of Flags of our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a riveting, revisionist history of US-China relations from the 19th century to the dawn of World War II.

In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind the history of America's engagement in Asia. In Flags of our Fathers he revealed the painful legacy of Iwo Jima; in Flyboys he told the unknown story of a group of lost American pilots in the Pacific; and in The Imperial Cruise he laid bare the hidden origins of the Spanish-American War. THE CHINA MIRAGE is his most ambitious book yet, a vast history of American-Chinese relations from its missionary origins to the eve of WWII. Sure to be controversial in its dark portraits of those whom conventional history has acclaimed, potent in its critique of the missionary instinct, and brilliant in its exploration of the power of myth and mirage to convince men and women and nations that destiny is on their side, this is James Bradley's most intrepid work yet. And at a moment when relations between China and America are Topic #1, the book--the vigorous discussion it will spawn--could not be better timed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 2009’s The Imperial Cruise, Bradley suggested that President Teddy Roosevelt’s inept dealings with Japan in 1905 directly contributed to the decision by the Japanese to go to war with the U.S. in 1941. Here, Bradley extends the faults of the elder Roosevelt to his younger cousin, F.D.R., in regards to U.S. relations with China. The “mirage” of the book’s title was, to quote a 1930s American propaganda pamphlet, that China was “a great nation whose citizens have traditionally regarded Americans as their best friends.” Mostly using secondary sources, Bradley argues that this positive, pre-WWII view of China was false and led the U.S. into several policy errors, including the needless provocation of Japan—a U.S. embargo of Japanese steel and oil as a penalty for war with China—that precipitated Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He also makes the valid point that the mirage prevented China experts at the State and War departments from moving the U.S. to a more realistic policy that recognized the powerful communist movement under Mao. Though Bradley’s work is insightful and entertaining, it greatly oversimplifies U.S. foreign policy towards Asia before WWII and should not be read as an authoritative study. (May)
Library Journal
★ 03/15/2015
Has a fundamental misunderstanding of China led America to make serious foreign policy mistakes in Asia? Bradley (Flags of Our Fathers) traces the history of U.S.-China relations from the early 19th century to the 1970s, with a special focus on the World War II era. He reveals that several prominent Americans, including Franklin Roosevelt's maternal grandfather, made their fortunes selling opium to China in the early 1800s. Those merchants and the missionaries who followed them lived in cloistered areas shut off from the main Chinese population. This gave them a distorted view, which they brought back to America with them. The author contends that these misconceptions influenced Americans at all levels and caused U.S. leaders to make strategic blunders in the region, such as supporting the unpopular Chiang Kai-shek in China's civil war. Bradley argues that a better understanding of China could have helped America to avoid war with Japan in 1941 and subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam. VERDICT A superlative read that is highly recommended to experts and novices alike. Richard Bernstein's China 1945 makes an excellent companion to this work, as it covers similar subjects yet offers different interpretations on key issues. [See Prepub Alert, 4/27/14.]—Joshua Wallace, Ranger Coll., TX
Kirkus Reviews
Best-selling author Bradley (The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, 2009, etc.) uncovers the 19th-century plan to create a "New China" and "Americanize Asia."The author clearly feels duped by American foreign policy since the debacle in Vietnam shamed his World War II father and destroyed his soldier brother. In this relentless critique of wrongheaded thinking by government officials who did not speak the Asian languages and had little hands-on experience, Bradley focuses especially on the foreign policy of the two Roosevelts. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905 for negotiating the peace in the Russo-Japanese War, thereby secretly offering Japan the opportunity to swallow Korea and begin its aggressive stalking into China. Franklin Roosevelt was clearly seduced by the Chiang Kai-sheks (Generalissimo and Madame) and the China Lobby into giving financial support that did nothing to resist the Japanese invaders and could not defeat Mao Zedong, whose peasant army had the wide support of the people. Bradley begins with the imperial aggression by Britain and America in pushing Indian-grown opium on the Chinese populace, a lucrative trade that enriched the well-born families like the Delanos (FDR's maternal side) and caused the two disastrous Opium Wars. While the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese immigration to the United States, prodded by labor strife across the Western states, the Christian missionaries propagated the ideal of a New China, westernized, Christianized and democratized, led by leaders who had studied in the U.S. Ultimately, the China Lobby misled FDR on the true gains of Mao and pressured the U.S. to cut off the oil spigot to Japan, causing it to cast its covetous eyes to the Dutch East Indies. Bradley delivers a strenuous exposé about the initial building of the "rickety bridge of fellowship crossing the Pacific."

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 2.00(d)

Meet the Author

James Bradley is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Imperial Cruise, Flyboys, and Flags of Our Fathers, and a son of one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

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The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 Bradley writes his opinions as fact and almost all of it is done with the advantage of hindsight.  Rarely does he lay out why the decisions were made with the facts at hand.  It is easy to blame someone for a wrong decision when you have 50 years of judgement on that decision.  Plus there are some glaring inaccuracies.  On page 330 for example, Bradley states TWICE that B-52's were used to bomb Japan.  However, it did a good job of exposing the China Lobby and Henry Luce.  By doing that, it earned 2 stars instead of 1.
ryeLee More than 1 year ago
Thank you James Bradley. I only wish that your book was mandatory reading for all Americans. I read it twice. Yes, America is exceptional, yet it does, however, have its evil side. To know America, one needs to know both stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The information in this book is consistent with others that have been written about Asia during the early to mid 20th century including Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest and The Coldest Winter as well as Neil Sheehan's book on Vietnam.  It traces the roots of American foreign policy regarding China and Asia generally back to the misperception of China by both the U.S. public and its leaders (primarily FDR). It documents how the leaders of China and their supporters in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century and after, referred to as the China Lobby, were able to take advantage of our willingness to believe in a largely fictional picture of China painted by its leaders, especially those educated in the U.S. The book seems well researched and documented, but the author does not hesitate to let the viewer know his views as well.  It is also a reminder of how American foreign policy came under the influence of the "domino theory" and the fear of Chinese and Soviet domination of Southeast Asia. It is written in an engaging style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Rudie-_N More than 1 year ago
I was shocked at the misuse of facts in this book plus the author draws his OWN conclusion as to the problems in China.  He does not back up his opinions with actual source documents and real, honest FACTS.  To say that those who made millions from the opium trade were Christians is not factual at all, no one can say what a man is on the inside of his heart and then "state it as fact".  I am really surprised that the author has taken such a liberal and broad view that is clearly his OWN and written the book as though it was and is truth.