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Owen Lattimore And The "loss" Of China

by Robert P. Newman

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From Library Journal
Newman has undertaken a thorough look at the life of the late Lattimore, a distinguished professor of Chinese studies at Johns Hopkins University who had served with the Chinese Nationalist and U.S. governments during World War II. In March 1950 Lattimore was accused by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of being a top communist agent. Lattimore became McCarthy's scapegoat to be blamed for the "loss" of China to communism sponsored by the Soviets and their U.S. sympathizers. Newman proves conclusively that there was no case against Lattimore. He bases his research on superb primary sources: the 38,900-page FBI Lattimore file, and the latter's private papers. The blizzard of nearly five decades of material presented requires careful reading of this well-written biography. At times Newman is somewhat melodramatic: "This book is not just a biography; it is a study in American political demonology." This valuable book is recommended for general collections and academic libraries holding U.S. diplomatic/Cold War history collections. (Photos not seen.)-- Thomas G. Anton, Evanston Hosp . Corp. Lib., Ill.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Washington Post Book World
"[A] chilling chapter in the United States' descent into demonology. . . . A landmark work on the American politics of the closing years of WWII and those that immediately followed."

From Kirkus Reviews
Well-done study of a distinguished victim of the McCarthy era, by Newman (The Cold War Romance of Lillian Hellman and John Melby, 1989; Rhetoric/Univ. of Pittsburgh). The idea that China was ever ours to lose was always questionable, but was fiercely defended by what became known as the ``China lobby'' after WW II, and anyone associated with this ``loss''--like China-expert Owen Lattimore--was in serious trouble. Condemned with impunity by Roy Cohn and Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, Lattimore, who was twice indicted but never convicted, was seen as another Alger Hiss by much of Congress and the media. Newman traces the life and thought of this ``expert's expert,'' as FDR called him, from his childhood in China and his Swiss secondary education through the development of his independent, hardheaded international point of view that proved incomprehensible to most Americans of the time. Travelling in rarified circles, chosen by FDR as WW II liaison with Chiang Kai-shek, Lattimore, as Newman shows through ample documentation including many quotes from his writings about China and Communism, was basically a conservative thinker, distrusted by the Russians. He stood by Chiang Kai-shek until the hopeless corruption of the Chinese leader's Kuomintang became clear; but Lattimore's innocence about domestic US politics, obvious from his casual, undisguised association with liberals and occasional leftists, proved his undoing. He came to believe that financing the Kuomintang was like pouring money down a rat hole, whereas the Marshall Plan could (and did) revitalize Europe; for these heresies, his life was destroyed. That it was put back together says everything, Newman shows, for Lattimore and his friends, and nothing for the American political institutions that failed him. A thought-provoking intellectual cliffhanger about a man whose thinking was ahead of his time--and who paid for it. (Fourteen photographs, two maps--not seen.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Book Description
In March 1950 Senator Joseph R. McCarthy accused Owen Lattimore, a distinguished China scholar at The Johns Hopkins University, of being "the top Soviet espionage agent in the U.S." The Senate Foreign Relations Committee exonerated Lattimore four months later, but for the next two years Pat McCarran and his Senate Internal Security Committee investigated him, forcing the Justice Department to indict him for perjury. The case was eventually dismissed, but only after extraordinary efforts by the FBI failed to unearth a single reliable witness who could testify against Lattimore.
Lattimore was a victim of the virulent witch hunts that took place in the U.S. in the 1950s after China, our friend and ally in World War II, went over to that reviled enemy, communism. Americans could not believe that China made this choice freely; its adherence to the World Communist Conspiracy must have been coerced by Soviet manipulation and domestic subversion by Americans. Some Communist mastermind in the American government had to be blamed for our "loss" of China. Lattimore, who had never been in the State Department but who had warned that China was not a stooge of Stalinist Russia and that Mao Zedong had come to power on his own, became the scapegoat.
In this magisterial biography, Robert Newman follows the career of Owen Lattimore, scholar-adventurer, through his service in both the Chinese Nationalist and American governments in World War II, the tribulations of being Joe McCarthy's flagship heretic, his brilliant academic career in England, and finally his return to Central Asia as the foremost advocate of Mongolian nationalism and independence.
Newman proves definitively that there was never any case against Lattimore. His book is based on a unique source, the Lattimore file from the FBI--38,900 pages--arguably the most complete and candid file on a major prosecution ever released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is on the FBI's testimony--albeit testimony of the most reluctant sort--that Lattimore is finally exonerated.

From the Inside Flap
"This exhaustively well-researched, lucidly written, and fascinating book on Owen Lattimore and the anti-Communist witchhunts in the late forties and early fifties chronicles a double American tragedy. Not only does it recount how careers of good and brilliant men were blindly destroyed, but how America was deprived of its most thoughtful and clear-headed China specialists. By writing Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China, Robert P. Newman has made a giant step toward setting right this sorry chapter of U.S. history."--Orville Schell

About the Author
Robert P. Newman is a graduate of Oxford University and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. His recent book The Cold War Romance of Lillian Hellman and John Melby (North Carolina, 1989) was designated an Important Book in Human Rights by the Gustavus Myers Foundation.



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