John Paton

Wu Ningkun




INT: So as far as America was concerned, it was an internal Chinese matter - if Chiang Kai-shek lost it, so be it?

JPD: Yes.

INT: So what impact did the Korean War have, then, or how important was the Korean War in souring relations between the United States and China further?

JPD: Oh, I think it soured it a great deal. The losses were pretty heavy and the humiliation of the retreat from the Yalu River, were intensely felt, as witnessed in the reactions of General MacArthur, who had initiated this drive to the Yalu. So relations with China were impossible... with communist China, with China which had become communist.

INT: Were you as surprised as everyone else that the Chinese got involved in the Korean War?

JPD: No, because Manchuria was vital to the Chinese; Manchuria has been the battleground between the Russians and the Chinese, the Chinese and the Japanese, and the Russians and the Japanese. It's been fought over time and again, and it's strategically very important for the Chinese. And as MacArthur brashly drove north towards the Manchurian border, the Chinese were bound to react, as would have the Russians had we advanced toward the part of Manchuria to the northeast of the Yalu.

INT: Do you recall at the time whether you put that view forward? Because there certainly was a general view in the United States... there was a surprise, wasn't there?

JPD: It was a surprise. But I had put it in a general caveat in one of my papers, if I remember correctly, that the Russians were very dangerous if we were to advance towards their area of interest in Manchuria, and the Russians and Chinese, which I lumped together. So it turned out to be the Chinese and not the Russians. The Russians were much too cagey; they let the Chinese take (Laughs)... take the bite.

INT: Just going back to the time when the communists took over in China - what was the mood in the United States at that point, when it became clear that the communists had won and were going to be making alliances with the Soviet Union?

JPD: Oh, I think we were sort of broken-hearted about the Chinese defection from us, and that it only served to spur on those who were for all-out support for Chiang Kai-shek. As for the others, well, it was taken as inevitable that it should have happened.

INT: How important was someone like McCarthy in shaping the American public attitudes, and also policy towards China?

JPD: I think really only in a rather negative sense. That is to say, he raised doubts in everyone's minds: Was there really treason in the State Department? Unfortunately, there had been the Alger Hiss case prior to that, and Alger Hiss had been in the State Department so the State Department was tarred. And then there were the China service officers, some of whom were suggesting that Chiang could not win and that we had better make conditional relations with the communists, and therefore the...... He fed the Republican ambitions to bring down Truman through charges that he lost China, that his administration lost China, which is a rather fanciful thought.

INT: But China did become an issue that the Republicans were able to exploit over the Democrats, was it?

JPD: Oh, it was a very effective issue. The poor old State Department was atremble with noises coming from Capitol Hill, from various Republicans, and it had an intimidating effect upon the production of policy.

INT: Do you recall how much Richard Nixon was involved in all of this?

JPD: I don't think he was outstandingly so. He wasn't... at least that's my recollection. There was no question on which side he was, but I don't think that he was greatly preoccupied with it.

INT: Nixon as Vice-President, of course, did go to Taiwan and I think used that... was noticeably a supporter of Chiang Kai-shek, wasn't he?

JPD: Yeah, oh yes.

INT: But I mean...

JPD: That was true of all of that group, of all shades. (Hesitates) There never was a distinct bloc, bloc, bloc: "this is anti, this is very anti, this is..." They were in graduated stages.

INT: Did you ever feel that although things had gone wrong in 1949, at least as far as the American Government was concerned, did you ever feel that there was a possibility that there could be a change of heart, change of policy, that there could be a rapprochement with China? And when did that feeling, if you did have that feeling, go?

JPD: Well during the Acheson Secretary of Stateship, the Department developed a theory that China could follow in the footsteps of Tito, and that the thing to do was to encourage "Titoism" in China. That seemed to me to be the only plausible means of changing the equation. But to find a technique for creating Titoism, that was extremely difficult, and not much hope could have been put in that.

INT: When did that hope actually go, then - I mean, did it go as soon as the communists had come to power?

JPD: Well, the difficulties of creating a rift - a split, as the communists put it - between Peking and Moscow - how do you go about it? It was baffling.

INT: You were saying about the atmosphere that McCarthy helped to create, where the State Department came in for a lot of criticism because of Alger Hiss and so on. Was there a sort of atmosphere that if you'd had any contact with communists, the Chinese communists, that made you therefore a sympathizer, and therefore you were not to be trusted?

JPD: I think that was true.

INT: Did you feel... I mean, did that happen to you personally?

JPD: Oh... yes, because... but I was attacked very vigorously on this. That was inevitable. We had visited the communist area and had conversed with Mao and Zhou Enlai and the other leaders there, and that therefore made us suspect to the simple-minded - and there were a great many (Laughs) simple-minded.