A nuanced hindsight assessment that expertly pursues the historical ramification of roads not taken.


CHINA 1945


Journalist Bernstein (The East, the West, and Sex: A History of Erotic Encounters, 2009, etc.), who was the first bureau chief in China for Time, uses his considerable expertise on the Chinese Revolution to create this immensely readable account of how the United States “lost” China to the communists and who was ultimately at fault: the Americans, the Soviets or Mao?

The dilemma of whom America should back as the Chinese civil war gained steam—the U.S. officially supported Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang Nationalist People’s Party yet did not want to alienate Mao Zedong’s surprisingly resourceful Communists—was further exacerbated by the eight-year war with Japan. That war had consolidated the KMT’s resources, giving Mao a respite from Chiang’s attempts to wipe out the Communists and allowing them to gain an equitable status in fighting No. 1 enemy Japan. The State Department’s “China hands,” who would eventually be vilified as communist sympathizers—e.g., John Paton Davies, John Stewart Service and John Carter Vincent—were “naively dazzled by the Communists in 1944 and 1945” and lulled by Mao’s charm campaign to put aside ideological differences with Chiang in the concerted effort to defeat Japan. Yet once Japan was vanquished and the Soviet Union rolled into Manchuria on Aug. 9, 1945, the Americans, led by Ambassador Patrick J. Hurley, continued to be optimistic (at the Yalta Conference, the Americans had agreed to give the Russians “certain privileges in China”), while Chiang, desperate for American support, saw the writing on the wall. Bernstein deftly sifts through the complex machinations of these excruciating few months, when all parties slyly engaged in a similar tactical ploy: “ingratiate yourself with your enemy when you need to keep him at bay, confuse him, or…exploit the ‘contradictions’ between him and other enemies, to prevent them from combining against you.”

A nuanced hindsight assessment that expertly pursues the historical ramification of roads not taken.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0307595881

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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