At the height of the McCarthyite hysteria of the 1950s, John
Paton Davies, Jr., was summoned to the State Department one morning
and fired. His offense? The career diplomat had counseled the U.S.
government during World War II that the Communist forces in China
were poised to take over the country-which they did, in 1949.
Davies joined the thousands of others who became the victims of a
political maelstrom that engulfed the country and deprived the
United States of the wisdom and guidance of an entire generation of
East Asian diplomats and scholars.
The son of American missionaries, Davies was born in China at the
turn of the twentieth century. Educated in the United States, he
joined the ranks of the newly formed Foreign Service in the 1930s
and returned to China, where he would remain until nearly the end
of World War II. During that time he became one of the first
Americans to meet and talk with the young revolutionary known as
Mao Zedong. He documented the personal excesses and political
foibles of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. As a
political aide to General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, the
wartime commander of the Allied forces in East and South Asia, he
traveled widely in the region, meeting with colonial India's Nehru
and Gandhi to gauge whether their animosity to British rule would
translate into support for Japan. Davies ended the war serving in
Moscow with George F. Kennan, the architect of America's policy
toward the Soviet Union. Kennan found in Davies a lifelong friend
and colleague. Neither, however, was immune to the virulent
anticommunism of the immediate postwar years.
China Hand is the story of a man who captured with wry and
judicious insight the times in which he lived, both as observer and
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