The China Mirage

The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

James Bradley 2015, Garden Home 327.510 BRA

Bradley isn't fond of either President Roosevelt, and makes a case that their gullibility to Japanese and Chinese schemers led to the 1940s Pacific War, the Vietnam war, and a 50 year delay of normalization of relations with the People's Republic of China. I have friends in PRC, and also ROC (Republic of China), so what follows is Bradley's strongly anti-ROC/pro-PRC view, not mine.

Yankee traders from New England got fabulously rich smuggling opium into China, founding dynasties (like the Warren Delano's) in New England. First Opium war 1839-1842, Britain against China. Treaty of Nanking forced the establishments of dozens of treaty ports where foreigners could trade opium for silver. Americans Delano, Russell, Cushing, Perkins, Forbes, Low, and Green built New England's monuments and factories with opium profits.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mother Sara spent two years of her father's Rose Hill mansion in Hong Kong, and she supported Franklin financially throughout his life.

5th cousin Theodore became president in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated. T.R. was friends with fellow Harvard graduate Baron Kaneko, and disliked Russians. In 1882, the US and Korea signed a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship; in 1900 T.R. wrote "I should like to see Japan have Korea. She will be a check on Russia."

On February 8, 1904, Japan attacked Russian ships in Korean ports. T.R. approved, and welcomed Kaneko to Washington on March 26. The Japanese won battles at very high cost. In public, T.R. brokered an end to the war with the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in September 1905; in private, he furthered Japanese interests, and gave Japan control of Korea in that treaty. He told fables to his friends and was given the 1905 Nobel Peace Prize for that.

Churches in the United States sent many missionaries and lots of money to China, hoping to westernize the heathens. The missionaries mostly failed, but they didn't tell the churches. One of their few "successes" was Charlie Soong, an immigrant laborer in the US who skirted the 1882 Alien Exclusion Act by moving to North Carolina, becoming a Southern Methodist, and studying theology at Trinity College (renamed Duke University in 1924), then Vanderbilt in Tennessee, graduating and returning to China in 1886, where he became wealthy printing bibles. In 1894, Soong met Sun Yat-sen, who he lauded on fund-raising missions to the US as the "Chinese George Washington". Soong's 23 year old daughter Chingling married Sun in 1915. Soong died in 1918, daughter Ailing took charge of the family fortune, and daughter Mei-ling married Chiang Kai-shek in 1920.

Bradley writes of decades of U.S. financial aid to Chiang Kai-shek, which Chiang used to bribe warlords to stay in power, and to fight Mao. Bradley's book describes Mao fighting the Japanese, while Chiang fought Mao. Mao was an atypical Marxist; he focused on peasants ousting landlords and warlords in the countryside, while Marx wrote about urban workers ousting capitalists in industrialized countries.

China missionary's son Henry Luce founded Time, Life, and Fortune, and supported Chiang and the myth of the Noble Chinese Peasant hungry for Protestant Christianity. Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth" reinforced this mythos. When Japan invaded and colonized Taiwan and later Manchuria, US opinion was aroused against the Japanese, not because they continued the expansion that began with the Russo-Japanese War, but because they threatened a supposedly christianizing China.

Chiang and the warlords attempted many "Bandit Extermination Campaigns" (Bradley's term, Wikipedia calls them encirclement campaigns) between 1930 and 1945; fleeing KMT draftees became Mao's main source of weapons and new recruits. Mao referred to Chiang as his supply sergeant.







KMT troops






The Long March began in October 1934 when the "Twenty-Eight Bolsheviks" (Stalin sponsored) fled west then north. In January 1935, they relinquished command to Mao, who turned the retreat into "the biggest propaganda tour in history", ending up in Yan'an in Shaanxi Province after the October 1935 "Union of the Three Armies".

Pro-PRC "China Hands": John Service, Theodore White, Edgar Snow and others, with Joseph Stilwell calling for cooperation with PRC.

Pro-Chiang sentiment in the US led to economic punishment of Japan; the US was Japan's main source of oil and steel. In July 1941, Roosevelt froze Japanese assets in the US. In August two Japanese tankers arrived at San Pedro CA to load oil; they went home empty in November. Japan decided to seize Southeast Asian oil and rubber, and cripple the US Pacific Fleet (which they would have, if US carriers had not been away from Pearl Harbor on December 7th). Japan joined the Axis, the Pacific war began.

Claire Chennault's "Flying Tigers" were mercenaries with antique P40s; when they attacked Japan, they were routed and destroyed by the Japanese. This was the beginning of the "White House Secret Air Force", which became Air America.

The US "loaned" millions to Soong-Chiang interests. In July 1944 .... "cashed in her Soong-Chiang chips, which probably cost Chiang 10 percent of his national treasury. In July, Ailing and Mayling left Chungking and flew to Rid de Janeiro with ten attendants. Ailing did some wheeling and dealing ... adding to her already substantial U.S.-funded investments in Brazilian companies and property." (page 313)

And so forth. Bradley's contention is that if the US was clear-headed about Japan and China, the Pacific war would not have happened, Mao would free China and be a staunch US economic ally half a century earlier. No McCarthy, no Korean war, no Vietnam war.

Perhaps no atomic bomb? The US would still end up fighting Nazi Germany, and the Manhattan project was a response to Germany's futile efforts. However, it would have begun at least a year later, and Germany would have collapsed sooner, so the motivation to complete the project might have gone away.

If, if, if. Perhaps history could have been better - or perhaps it could have been far worse. Bradley is strongly critical of U.S. behavior in Asia, with good reason; however, his "what-if" conjectures cannot be proven or disproven. As I write this in 2020, we have our own challenges to solve. As in the 20th century, most of our 21st century problems are rooted in ideological fantasy, and they could still devolve into global war, devastatingly thermonuclear this time around. Let's make the best of what we've got, and what we've got is billions of people who see things differently (and often more clearly) than we do.

TheChinaMirage (last edited 2020-01-18 22:47:37 by KeithLofstrom)