Kevin Peraino will discuss the Truman administration’s response to the fall of Nationalist China and the triumph of Mao Zedong’s Communist forces in 1949 – an extraordinary political revolution that continues to shape East Asian politics to this day. Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, as well as recently declassified CIA documents, he tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of key players, including Mao, Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Congressman Walter Judd and Madame Chiang Kai-shek.
In the opening months of 1949, Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe. Through the spring and summer, Mao’s Communist armies fanned out across mainland China, annihilating the rival troops of America’s one-time ally Chiang Kai-shek and taking control of Beijing, Shanghai and other major cities. As Truman and his aides scrambled to formulate a response, they were forced to contend not only with Mao but with unrelenting political enemies at home. Over the course of the year, Mao fashioned a new revolutionary government in Beijing that laid the foundation for the China we know today, while Chiang Kai-shek would flee to the island sanctuary of Taiwan. These events transformed American foreign policy – leading ultimately to decades of friction with Communist China, a long-standing U.S. commitment to Taiwan, and the subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Kevin is a veteran foreign correspondent who has reported from around the world. A senior writer and bureau chief at Newsweek for a decade, he was a finalist for the Livingston Award for foreign reporting and part of a team that won the National Magazine Award in 2004. He is the author of “Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power.” His latest book is titled A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman and the Birth of Modern China, 1949.
Arranged by John Schlachtenhaufen