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The China Mirage: The Hidden History of…

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

by James Bradley

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A mirage is something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so. This is main premise of this book as in reviews and analyzes our interaction and interventions in China. The western powers primarily Britain, and America, tried to force open China's markets and chose their leaders. Evangelicals saw China as a ripe mission field. They believed with a little effort the Chinese would become card carrying Christians complete with western values. The fact that a few Chinese converted was the mirage. The reality was that outside those few, China was never open to Christianity nor western valuesBuying the mirage over the reality cost American in particular and west in general dearly. Bradley contends that the end of WWII would have been different if me had chosen Mao Zedong to lead the fight against the Japanese. Chiang Kai-shek our chosen leader in WWII fit the mirage. He was ineffective on the battlefield as well as politically, but he fit the mirage. Mao Zedong in contrast was effective on the battlefield as well as politically. He would ultimately lead mainland China. Mao Zedong a buddhist nationalist didn't fit the mirage. The US China lobby convinced the State Department to ignore Mao's out reaches to America. The subsequent fight over who lost China cleared the State Department of diplomats who could have steered American foreign policy in a different direction. America might have realized that the nationalist tendencies of Mao in China and Hồ Chí Minh in Vietnam did not have to end in their becoming Communist. This is book's primary argument. It explores the issue of what could have been. The book is useful to anyone interested in going to China. Missionaries interested in China will have their perspectives challenged. I certainly did. ( )
  Cataloger623 | Sep 22, 2017 |
The author’s premise in this non-fiction work is that cultural ignorance on the part of American leadership in the early 20th century led to repeated conflicts in southeast Asia (World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War), which were entirely avoidable.

Starting with Theodore Roosevelt and extending through his cousin Franklin Roosevelt, the author lays out a historical narrative that reflects very poorly not only on the Presidents, but also on most of his advisors. The author repeatedly brings up the fact that the Roosevelt family fortune (along with many others in eastern American high society) was rooted in the 19th century opium trade with China. This created something of an affinity for the country, without any actual knowledge or experience, leading to a complete misunderstanding of the cultural and political landscape.

While I was somewhat familiar with the issues leading up to the Pacific theater of World War II, the more detailed and extensive backstory was unknown to me. The same goes for my knowledge of the Chinese Civil War. These parts of the book were very helpful and educational. I can’t say, however, that I fully support the author’s underlying conclusions.

Certainly, the outbreak of the Pacific hostilities could have been delayed for a period, but to suggest that war with Japan could have been entirely avoided is at best naïve. And to promote the idea that the United States should have allied with Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh is pretty blatant historical revisionism and not realistic given the tenor of the times. I think we can all agree that many historical events could and should have been avoided, however doing so in hindsight, especially employing vastly different social, cultural and political mores, is an exercise in futility. ( )
  santhony | Sep 28, 2016 |
To have written this book in this day and age, and maintain the thesis that the book presents, the author, James Bradley, had to be: either a sloppy researcher, terribly naive, or blinded by ideology. His book, The China Mirage: the Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, demostrates, in my opinion, that Mr. Bradly suffered from all three shortcomings. The essence of the book's thesis is quite simple: had the United States recognized Mao's vision of China's future instead of backing Chiang Kai-shek, the Second Coming would be just around the corner. Oops! That is a Christian religious term and the author is furiously anti-Christian. Of course, Mr. Bradley barely makes reference to the millions who subsequently died under the Mao regime - but leaves the impression that all that would not have happened had the United States Government embraced Mao over Chiang. Is Fidel Castro still among us? The United States has been there and done that!

But had the author researched as he should have done, considering the revelations that have come about since the Venona project, the opening of KGB files following the collapse of the Soviet Empire, and the declassification of mountains of documents from during, before and after World War II, he would have understood there was indeed a China Lobby, that it was very active and very effective, and that it was making every effort to put its thumb on the scale in favor of Mao and the Communists and against Chiang. And yes, this China Lobby was a conspiracy manipulating equally naive political activists and fellow travelers of the age.

Take John Service, for example. Mr. Bradley defends him to the utmost, he being one of the "enlightened ones" (my term contra Bradley's too oft repeated sarcastic term "The Wise Men" and "The First Wise Man") who saw Mao as the bright future of Chna and Chiang as not so much. But research the Amerasia Magazine debacle and the backgroiund of Service's room mates in China - Solomon Adler and Chi Chao-ting: they were both Soviet agents and defected to Red China after the war. Service and Adler wrote a 70 plus page white paper and put it in the hands of the Roosevelt adminstration that was highly critical of Chiang and praised Mao for his care of the people, his democratic impulses (!), his willingness to fight the Japanese and so forth, while denegrating Chiang at every turn. This was the true China Lobby that Bradley chooses not to expose in his book.

And Philip Jaffe, a wealthy greeting card magnate at the time and the financial backer of the Amerasia Magazine who years later wrote a book called "Odyssey of a Fellow Traveler" in which he acknowledged that his magazine was an organ of the communist efforts to destroy Chiang and elevate Mao. He also admitted to getting government documents from Service and many other fellow travelers in the State Department.. And Jaffe's cousin-in-law was Chi Chao-ting. Yet Mr. Bradley deals with Jaffe and the Amerasia affair almost not at all.

Here is the foot note on page 400 that should cause any reader of this book to question the whole basis of its thesis: "John Service and Thomas Cocoran crossed paths in what is called 'the Amerasia affair,' which is well documented in a number of studies. There is still today tremendous China Lobby [Bradley's version of the China Lobby] smoke around Service's actions, but no fire occurred." Such a cavalier dimissal of the whole affair shows ingorance of the facts and/or ignoring of the facts on the part of Mr. Bradley.

Read this book with both eyes open and do your own research. Who lost China (as the catch phrase went during the late 1940s and early 1950s)? Mr. Bradley's book will not help you answer this question. ( )
  BlaueBlume | Jul 27, 2016 |
Awesome book, excellent narratorr. Great view of the history of China - US relations , ( )
  marshapetry | Mar 11, 2016 |
Coming in, I wanted to really like this book. I was unsuccessful.

The China Mirage (get used to that term, Bradley uses it a lot) is pretty close to a screed. Bradley documents U.S. fascination with China, and implies that if not for that, World War II with Japan would not have been fought. Never mind that the Japanese had drawn up plans to fight the U.S., which they found necessary, back in the 30s.

This book is about the opening of China, and how it was a ruse and disastrous and that nothing good came of it. The U.S. was deluded, Bradley says, but its intent to "Christianize and Americanize" China (get used to those terms, too, he comes back to them again and again) was misguided. In fact, Bradley paints everybody from Teddy Roosevelt on up as naive and unaware of what China really was - but how could they, since they were restricted to small portions of the nation by the emperors? The West carved out "New Chinas" (another term of his all over this book but nowhere else that I can find) to begin trading, and destroyed China as a consequence.

Bradley takes delight in pointing out that many of the monied families in the U.S. got their riches (either directly or tangentially - extremely tangentially) from selling opium to the Chinese. In fact, according to Bradley, there is nary a person or institution or bank in the U.S. that doesn't have drug money on its hands. He reveals this like a bolt out of the blue - but any student of history has been reading the story for years now.

A big villain in this story is Christianity. If it weren't for those dang missionaries ... I got tired of this line of argument, the constant use of "foreign devils" to describe Westerners - that's Bradley talking, not the Chinese. Also, "sea barbarians." "New Chinas." "Christianize and Americanize." "China Mirage." If I had a dollar for each time he uses one of those terms, I'd have been a very rich man by the middle of the book.

By the way, I received this book from Goodreads as a First Read.

Anyway, if you read it, fine. If you don't, fine. ( )
  ralphz | Oct 23, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316196673, Hardcover)

From the bestselling author of Flags of our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent.

In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind America's engagement in Asia. Now comes his most engrossing work yet. Beginning in the 1850s, Bradley introduces us to the prominent Americans who made their fortunes in the China opium trade. As they---good Christians all---profitably addicted millions, American missionaries arrived, promising salvation for those who adopted Western ways.

And that was just the beginning.

From drug dealer Warren Delano to his grandson Franklin Delano Roosevelt, from the port of Hong Kong to the towers of Princeton University, from the era of Appomattox to the age of the A-Bomb, THE CHINA MIRAGE explores a difficult century that defines U.S.-Chinese relations to this day.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:34 -0400)

A history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent.

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