Before The Man On Mao’s Right, I just finished Barbara Tuchman’s excellent Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45, based on great recommendation from Prince Roy, first published in 1971. Toward the end of Tuchman’s book, she wrote about the Dixie Mission from US Army to Yan’an between July 1944 to March 1947. If you can, zoom into the scanned image of John Service’s report on the wikipedia page and read it, very poignant observations, in my view. Now how come a clean, efficient, and truly inspiring movement at the time in Yan’an turned into persecutions, personality cult, and mass hysteria up to the middle to late 1970s, I refer you to George Orwell’s most excellent Animal Farm, an allegory that is true in so many countries on so many levels. I have to say, like Prince Roy, I am now an admirer of Vinegar Joe, General Stilwell 史迪威. It is heartening to know that today’s 西南政法大学 / Southwest University of Political Science and Law honors this real friend of China, and a true American hero in every sense of the word, by naming its international school the Stilwell International School (SIS). The translated Chinese version of Tuchman’s book is here. Anyway, the fight between 蒋介石 and 史迪威(Stilwell), the Dixie Mission, the China Lobby by Henry Luce and company, the subsequent McCarthyism, all have had a lasting impact on Sino-US relations. And it made the “lost chance” of a constructive sino-US relationship in mid to late 1940s discussion very interesting.
So it was with that background in mind that I started reading Ji Chaozhu’s (冀朝铸) The Man On Mao’s Right. It could use some better editing, but nonetheless some information I got was interesting. And Ji, in his account, underscored the “lost chance” theory.
Ji mentioned that Zhou Enlai summoned a group of diplomats in the Foreign Ministry to discuss some history of US China relationships, before Kissinger’s secret visit. He said that Zhou told them that in 1945, Zhou and Mao sent a message to US Ambassador Patrick Hurley that they would love to meet Roosevelt at any time and place of his choosing. Hurley didn’t deliver the message. Ji also says that Zhou mentioned that Leighton Stuart was ready to provide some financial support to China in 1949, and asked a mediator to deliver the message to Beijing, but once again the message was not delivered.
Another thing that interests me was the palace power drama in Mao’s Zhongnanhai. I’ve read 章含之’s “走进厚厚的大红门”, and it was interesting to compare notes of what they had to say on different things. The letter in Zhang Hanzhi’s book, a reprint that 章士钊 sent to Mao recommending a reconciliation with 刘少奇 Liu Shaoqi, and Mao’s refusal was particularly illuminating. Personally, I am not a big fan of Zhang Hanzhi. I am not a big fan of Wang Hairong and Nancy Tang either. It looked Ji and Qiao Guanhua/Zhang Haizhi were allies against Wang Hairong (王海容) and Nancy Tang (唐闻生).
And, Ji underscored the theory that after CKS fled to Taiwan, the invasion to the island was forthcoming but interrupted by the Korean War was also interesting. I suppose that was fairly widely accepted theory. Korean War suddenly made Taiwan more important, and the 7th fleet altered the balance.
Ji also mentioned that the chief of Red Cross, Henrik Beer, was in China when Kennedy was assassinated. Henrik was shocked, because, according to Ji’s wife, who was the interpreter at China Red Cross at the time, Henrik met Kennedy before his trip to China, and was to deliver a personal message from JFK to Xi Zhongxun (习仲勋). Ji was trying to suggest that warming up Sino-US relationship might have been on Kennedy’s mind. I am not sure how solid that speculation stands in history books, though.
In addition, overall, I liked his chapter on 1989. He recounted his discussion with Jiang Zemin, who thought Ji was naive on that matter, and Jiang’s seriousness about it. Ji also mentioned Bette Bao Lord’s presence at the square, who was then Ambassador Winston Lord’s wife. I am not too sure what to make of those accounts. By the way, Paul Theroux’s account of Bette Bao Lord in his Riding the Iron Rooster was pretty funny.
Ji obviously is a patriotic Chinese, but he mentioned many times in the book of his gratitude and love towards America and the American people he came to contact with during his stay in Manhattan and Harvard University, including his encounter with Eleanor Roosevelt. That really struck a cord with me and is something I appreciate, as a person who loves both China and the United States.
History is fascinating, isn’t it?