"OWEN LATTIMORE AND THE ""LOSS"" OF CHINA" by Robert P. Newman

"OWEN LATTIMORE AND THE ""LOSS"" OF CHINA"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

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.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 649pp
Publisher: Univ. of California Press