The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Not forgetting China

When it comes to American delusions about Asia, if Diem's Vietnam was the moon, Chiang Kai-shek's China was the sun.

For one thing, as I've quoted Mike Mansfield - Asian scholar that he was, neither he nor most anyone else in the US knew much about Indochina back then. But most mid-century Americans not only knew of the existence of China, but had fuzzy feelings about it. After decades of Yellow Peril in the 19th and early 20th centuries, by the time Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, there was a whole slew of folk knowledge Stateside, missionaries had gone out, Pearl Buck's Good Earth was a smash that year, etc, etc.

There is - I stumble over - an etext, China Reporting by Stephen R. MacKinnon and Oris Friesen, in which journalists and others who reported on China back to the US in the 1930s and 1940s talk to historians on what they reported, and how it differed from what actually happened!

I've yet to read it - but it looks promising to give some clues to the wholly irrational passion that made the Truman lost China roorback such a powerful GOP weapon in 1950 and 1952.

In the 50s, one must always bear in mind, the salience of Indochina was pretty damned low (I'd feel happier with a bit of polling to back that up, mind you!) - no combat deaths having a fair deal to do with that [1]. Diem was, I'd surmise, a mania generally limited to the (supposedly) thinking classes, with a wider circulation among Catholics, thanks to the efforts of Spellman and Associates.

  1. If CJCS Radford had had his way over bombing to relieve Dien Bien Phu in April 1954, things would have been rather different. I recall reading somewhere that Radford was at one stage proposing US bombers cross PRC airspace over Hainan Island (at the north of the Gulf of Tonkin) the sooner to reach their targets. No sign of this online, though, that I can see, so...


From the same site, there's another etext, The Stubborn Earth: American Agriculturalists on Chinese Soil, 1898–1937 by Randall Stross, which may suggest further reasons for a delusional trans-Pacific empathy.


Also there is Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China by Robert P Newman. Sounds as if it's on point.

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