A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949

A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949

Kevin Peraino / Jul 20, 2019

A Force So Swift Mao Truman and the Birth of Modern China A gripping narrative of the Truman Administration s response to the fall of Nationalist China and the triumph of Mao Zedong s Communist forces in an extraordinary political revolution that contin

  • Title: A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949
  • Author: Kevin Peraino
  • ISBN: 9780307887238
  • Page: 497
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A gripping narrative of 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.In the opening months of 1949, U.S President Harry S Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe perhapsA gripping narrative of 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.In the opening months of 1949, U.S President Harry S Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe perhaps the greatest that this country has ever suffered, as the journalist Walter Lippmann put it Throughout the spring and summer, Mao Zedong 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 including his shrewd, ruthless secretary of state, Dean Acheson scrambled to formulate a response, they were forced to contend not only with Mao, but also with unrelenting political enemies at home, in Congress and even within the administration Over the course of this tumultuous year, Mao fashioned a new revolutionary government in Beijing, laying the foundation for the creation of modern China, while Chiang Kai shek fled 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 Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, as well as recently declassified CIA documents, Kevin Peraino tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of the key players, including Mao Zedong, President Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, and Madame Chiang Kai shek, the influential first lady of the Republic of China Truman and his administration struggled to navigate a disorienting new political landscape that was being reshaped daily by the emerging technology of television, the rising tensions of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and growing fears of spying, infiltration, and Russia s acquisition of the atomic bomb Today, the legacy of 1949 is relevant than ever to the relationships between China, the United States, and the rest of the world, as Beijing asserts its claims in the South China Sea and tensions endure between Taiwan and the mainland Yet at the heart of the book is a story for any season a thoughtful and moving examination of the fierce determination of the human will.

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    976 Comments

    1. This is an outstanding book on the time period under examination. We come to understand the complexities of the U.S. and a new, emerging China in 1949.The profiles of the personalities participating with the pulls and pushes on them are well depicted by the author. We get close-up views of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (the wife of Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek and prime manipulator number one), Harry Truman, and Dean Acheson. Madame Chiang Kai-shek espoused the nationalist cause endlessly [...]


    2. A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 by Kevin Peraino is the account of the fall of Nationalist China and the actions of the Truman administration. Peraino 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 Maki [...]


    3. In 1949 Mao's People Liberation Army was taking over mainland China while Madame Chaing Ka-shek endeavored to gain more funding for her husband's Nationalist army. America considered China a minor power. Europe after WWII garnered most of American attention. President Truman was assailed with conflicting views on how to deal with China. There was the domino theory and its fear of Communist take-over of Southeast Asia. For all the help that Chaing Ka-shek had received, the Nationalists were losin [...]


    4. Back in the 1960's, I watched TV shows recounting the fall of Nationalist China. The bold voice of Walter Cronkite told how Peiping, Nanking, Shanghai and Canton (1950's spellings) surrendered to the Communists in succession in 1949, until the refugee government retreated to Formosa (now called Taiwan). I never understood how an American ally could collapse so quickly; nor did I understand the power of the China lobby and its successful efforts to protect Taiwan and prevent United States recogni [...]


    5. Post World War Two feels like it should be familiar to most people however the sequence of political issues often isn’t. Peraino describe the events that lead to the China we know today or at least its roots. So many people were sick of conflict and the GI’s and their families wanted to get on with rebuilding their interrupted lives. Truman and his cabinet and the then current Congress didn’t have this luxury.Peraino concentrates on China and Chang Kai-Shek’s nationalist party versus mao [...]


    6. Most history books paint the past in broad strokes, covering dozens or hundreds of years. Yet some of the most engaging works drill down into the events of a particular time or place. Kevin Peraino has brilliantly used that approach in A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949. By focusing on the events of a single year, and concentrating on just ten key individual players in the drama, Peraino has brought back to life the complex circumstances surrounding one of the s [...]


    7. I struggled a bit with rating this book, mainly because this book turned out to be very different from what I expected. I’m quite selective when it comes to non-fiction books, since I know it generally takes more effort on my part to concentrate and focus on what I’m reading due to life’s many distractions. When I see a non-fiction book on a subject that piques my interest, I pick it up hoping that the information will be presented in a way that is engaging and insightful. I’m a bit of a [...]


    8. I knew absolutely nothing aboutTruman administration VS. Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China.This book was enlightening!I was very impressed with Dean Achensonwho he played a central role in defining American foreign policy.Tip: read H.W. Brands The General and The President after youread this book. H.W.Brands' book starts.where Kevin Peraino's finishes!#MustRead for all non-fiction/history buffs!


    9. (Note - I was able to read an advanced copy of this work courtesy of NetGalley) There are so many figures and such a packed mass of happenings covered in this book, but not once did I ever find myself information-swamped in any way. Far from it, instead I finished “A Force So Swift” to find myself honestly amazed by just how clear a view I was given of the incredible array of complexities that the Truman administration had to manage and maneuver against in the face of the establishment of th [...]


    10. In 1949, Chen Yong was an idealistic boy in his teens, his military uniform too large for him, cheering in Beijing as Mao Zedong declared that the People’s Republic of China was born. Now, he is an old man who fondly remembers those early days, even as his memory of the specifics fades. It was a tumultuous year, not only for China itself, but for its neighbors and the far off United States of America. The response of America’s government, as led by president Harry Truman, would have a long-l [...]


    11. 1949 was a crucial year in the history of Modern China and the Sino-American relationship. “A Force So Swift” is the story of the triangle of relationships between the Communists under Mao Zedong who were taking over the country, the Nationalists under Chiang who were in flight and the Truman Administration that was trying to balance national interests with domestic political pressures.During 1949 the situation in China was in flux and American policy in the Far East was a work in process. A [...]


    12. We’ve all watched with fascination those arrangements where hundreds or thousands of dominoes tumble one after the other to form an elaborate illustration. And who hasn't somewhat envied the person who got to tip the first domino?Such concepts aren’t limited to fun or entertainment. Images of dominoes falling were crucial to U.S. foreign policy following World War II. In fact, tipping dominoes became a political question, phrased as “Who lost China?” The fears that a communist China mean [...]


    13. China is viewed today as a political and financial threat to the United States. How that came to be, after China had been an ally of the United States, is documented in this book. Peraino takes readers through the aftermath of World War II with the conflict between Mao and Chiang and the American attitude towards it.Even though Madam Chiang had come to Washington D.C. to press the case for her husband, she could not convince Truman to support the Nationalist government in China. Mao rose in powe [...]


    14. In "A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China," veteran foreign correspondent Kevin Peraino, drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, including recently declassified C.I.A. material, retraces the momentous events of 1949 when Mao Zedong's Chinese Communist Party came to power after driving Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime to Taiwan.The Truman administration once supported the Nationalist regime, but withdrew its support for what it perceived as an ineffective, corrupt reg [...]


    15. This is an excellent history of Truman and his administration as they try to forge an American policy for how to deal with China in 1949. American ally Chiang Kai-shek was worn out from WWII, and his troops were being destroyed by Mao Zedong's Communist armies all across China. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, the realist, recognized early on that Mao was going to win, and wanted to focus on building a relationship with his new Republic of China government. Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, tot [...]


    16. This is an intriguing account of two nations on the precipice: China and the United States.It’s 1949 and China, ruled by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, is losing ground to Mao Zedong and the Communists. And Truman weighs his options.The United States’ response, or lack of it, goes a long way to establishing the future of the Asian continent, China’s relationship with the Soviet Union, future Communist uprisings in Southeast Asia and the eventual mires of Korea and Vietnam.It’s story [...]


    17. This was an excellent read. For the first time I have a basic understanding of the conflict between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong and how America's decisions during the critical year of 1949 to allow Mao to eject Chiang from the mainland led to the "containment" policies which ultimately drew us into wars on the Korean peninsula as well as Vietnam. This was an excellent look inside the Truman presidency, particularly how Truman's view of America and democracy as a means to liberate the people o [...]


    18. This book looks almost exclusively at 1949 for an explanation of how China was "lost" by the United States. Peraino provides a personal look at many of the people involved in what was probably an inevitable event, the success of Mao Zedong's communist revolution. Dean Acheson, the U.S. Secretary of State, along with his deputy George Kennan, pushed Truman hard for a practical "wait and watch" approach, while other powerful Americans demanded military intervention. Madame Chiang Kai-shek took up [...]


    19. I sincerely enjoyed this book. I will be the first to admit that my understanding of the post-WWII conditions of Asia was really limited. While part of that can be easily blamed on the emphasis in US history of the rebuilding of Europe, that is what makes this book particularly informative. Peraino focused on one particularly significant year, 1949, where Mao ascended to power and overcame the Nationalist government led by Chiang. Alternating between perspectives of Mao, Chiang, and Truman gave [...]


    20. As stated in the epilogue, this very well is the story of the "bastard legacy of 1949." As Chinese (and North Korean) tensions enter the news, A Force So Swift tells the story of how we got to here - and a story that needs to be told, because it has been much forgotten. Mao, Truman, Chiang, Acheson, and Johnson's decisions in this fateful year have shaped the world in which we live today. Peraino writes a well researched story that is as captivating as it is informative. He shows the human sides [...]


    21. As it turns out, the US has a long history with China. From the fall of Nationalism to the rise of Communis, Truman has been involved all the way. This book shows the side of the story from more of a reporters side. While it does take facts and the actual history into great consideration, the majority of the information was from the people. If you are a homeschool parent, this book is great. It has a lot of interesting information. WIll make learning about Chinese history more interesting. I rec [...]


    22. From the book:In a very short time, several hundred million peasants in China's central, southern, and northern provinces will rise like a fierce wind or tempest, a force so swift and violent that no power, however great, will be able to suppress it. Mao ZedongWith Japan in ruins, Truman believed that East Asian security demanded a stable and friendly China. And the United States-the only nation to emerge from the Second World War stronger than it had been at the outset-would have to take the le [...]


    23. An enjoyable, well-paced, and interesting read. Not quite a monograph, but a close look at the *American* perspective and reaction to 1949 China. As such many parts of the backstory and finer details about Chinese politics are missing, but Peraino includes more than enough to capture the mood of 1949. Truman's changing attitudes, Mao's back and forth with Stalin, and the lobbying efforts of Lady Chiang are all of interest.


    24. An interesting if not 'gripping' account of Mao's rise to power, his rivalry with Chiang Kai Shek, Madam Shek's relentless campaigning on behalf of her husband and her people, and finally, President Truman's tortured road to a China policy, the architecture of Secretary of State Dean Acheson. A more interesting record of the birth of modern China is Pantsov and Levine's Mao: The Real Story, published in 2012.


    25. A very well written account of world events that would resonate throughout history. The inability of Truman administration to decide on what to do with Mao and communism eventually resulted in the Korean & Vietnam Wars. The background of 1949 with Mao, Truman and the emerging of modern China is an essential read to understand better the history that flowed from that year.


    26. An insiders look into the toxic year, 1949 , when the Truman administration and Mao Zedong's People's Republic of China were on the world's stage. The China prior to the year 1949 wasn't communist and Kevin Peraino captured the feelings of the world during that year. He made the history and all of the nuances in an easier read.


    27. Focused on US side of China’s 1949 travailsWhile I typically love books centered on a specific moment in history - in this case 1949 in China - I found this book inconsistent, occasionally illuminating but often repetitive as well.


    28. Interesting history of an important world history pivot point. Must of the players had no idea what disruption this change would cause.




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