The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947

The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947

by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan


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An Economist Best Book of 2018

A spellbinding narrative of the high-stakes mission that changed the course of America, China, and global politics—and a rich portrait of the towering, complex figure who carried it out.

As World War II came to an end, General George Marshall was renowned as the architect of Allied victory. Set to retire, he instead accepted what he thought was a final mission—this time not to win a war, but to stop one. Across the Pacific, conflict between Chinese Nationalists and Communists threatened to suck in the United States and escalate into revolution. His assignment was to broker a peace, build a Chinese democracy, and prevent a Communist takeover, all while staving off World War III.

In his thirteen months in China, Marshall journeyed across battle-scarred landscapes, grappled with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, and plotted and argued with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his brilliant wife, often over card games or cocktails. The results at first seemed miraculous. But as they started to come apart, Marshall was faced with a wrenching choice. Its consequences would define the rest of his career, as the secretary of state who launched the Marshall Plan and set the standard for American leadership, and the shape of the Cold War and the US-China relationship for decades to come. It would also help spark one of the darkest turns in American civic life, as Marshall and the mission became a first prominent target of McCarthyism, and the question of “who lost China” roiled American politics.

The China Mission traces this neglected turning point and forgotten interlude in a heroic career—a story of not just diplomatic wrangling and guerrilla warfare, but also intricate spycraft and charismatic personalities. Drawing on eyewitness accounts both personal and official, it offers a richly detailed, gripping, close-up, and often surprising view of the central figures of the time—from Marshall, Mao, and Chiang to Eisenhower, Truman, and MacArthur—as they stood face-to-face and struggled to make history, with consequences and lessons that echo today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393240955
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 04/10/2018
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 779,285
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Daniel Kurtz-Phelan is the executive editor of Foreign Affairs. He previously served in the US State Department as a member of the secretary of state’s Policy Planning Staff. His reportage and analysis have appeared in publications including the New York Times and The New Yorker.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Oh! General Marshall, We Communists Honor You 1

I Winning the Peace

1 Peace Is Hell 9

2 Horrid Dilemmas 32

3 Marshall Is Too Big 50

4 The Committee of Three 73

5 Unity Out of Chaos 99

6 First Lord of the Warlords 127

II Seek Truth from Facts

7 If the World Wants Peace 149

8 Balance of Mistrusts 164

9 Fighting While Talking 183

10 Umpire on a Battlefield 205

11 Sisyphus in China 224

12 George Marshall Can't Walk on Water 245

III Limits of Power

13 The Rock and the Whirlpool 265

14 At the Point of a Gun 282

15 All of" Chiang's Horses and All of Chiang's Men 302

16 Into the Fire 322

Epilogue: Losing China 335

Postscript: Substitutes for Victory? 358

A Note on Names and Quotations 365

Acknowledgments 367

Notes 369

Sources 447

Index 461

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