John Paton Wu Ningkun
INT: You met Mao and Zhou Enlai. Can you give your recollections of them? What did you think of Mao?
JPD: Well, I found him a rather contradictory character. He had the outward impression of being very soft, somehow or other and of course he didn't wear his heart on his sleeve; he had his private thoughts, I'm sure. But he was amiable and was very eager to have recognition from the United States, because as he told Jack, that they could not exist without support from the United States. He wanted it. Because, you see, the Russians played the Chinese communists rather dirty: they did not supply the Chinese communists during the early phases of the Second World War: they supplied the Guomindang, the enemies of the Chinese communists. That was very sensible, because the Chinese communists were not powerful enough to meet the Japanese head on; therefore they fought guerrilla warfare. The only formal resistance that the Russians could hope for from China was the Guodmindang formal armies, Chiang Kai-shek's so-called armies; and therefore they provided supplies to the central government and ignored the Chinese communists' request for supplies, military aid. So that was Russian realism.
INT: You said that your experience was that Mao actually wanted recognition from the United States, he needed international recognition and he wanted recognition from the United States. ... Did any of you recommend that to theGovernment?
JPD: I recommended that we establish contact with them. We had established contact through a military mission there but that we did not... we should not withdraw recognition from Chiang Kai-shek at thatime, but we should recognize the inevitability of the loss, Chiang's loss to Mao, and that therefore we should, establish relations of the type that I described that we had with warlords, with the communists, and that we have, say, a consulate there, so that there was a political contact in addition to the military. That, of course, did not go down.
INT: Was that because of the Cold War climate, because Truman's hands were tied, there was just no chance that domestic United States politics would accept it?
JPD: Yes, that's certainly true. But I thought we should be ready for it, because ... (Laughs) What I said at that time was that our aim was to prevent China from becoming an adjunct of Soviet power through the a Russian take-over. I said that we had... until Russia entered the war, the Soviet Union entered the war, we had the opportunity to try to reduce the communist reliance upon the Soviet Union in the future, that we should establish relations with them so that we could become a source of guidance and supply to the Chinese communists rather than the Russians; because I said, if we didn't, the Russians then would move in and establish China as a Soviet satellite. I used the word "satellite" then. Now this was overly simplistic, obviously, but there was the germ of an idea there.
INT: But who were the people who most violently opposed that?
JPD: Oh, practically (Laughs) everybody.
INT: Right. Even your own colleagues in the...?
JPD: Oh, yes, they were sort of daydreaming.
INT: Yes, I see, right. What would you say was the main difference between Truman's policy towards China and Eisenhower's attitude?
JPD: Well, Eisenhower came in as a Republican who could not have a wrong approach to China, and Truman was on the spot as being the guy who lost China, (Laughs) or his Administration had done him in by losing China.
INT: ... I know we've covered this already, but as far as the difference in policies between Truman and Eisenhower went, where would China rate as an important issue that got Truman out?
JPD: Ph, well, for Truman China was very important, because it was politically important in addition to being a matter of foreign policy importance. Eisenhower was securely in position domestically, and China wasn't that important to him. (Pause) This is my judgment - I was not in the government with ... well, I was barely in the government for a short period, but...
INT: Yes, can you just remind me what was it that meant you left the China position, the China office, and went to... it was Peru, wasn't it, I think?
JPD: (Laughs) It was not a voluntary trip on my part: I was fired by Dulles then, for, oh, lack of judgment and over... one of the charges was overestimating the strength of the Chinese communists, who, when...
INT: When was that?
JPD: This was '54. This was when the Chinese communists had knocked the daylights out of the nationalist troops and defeated the nationalists, shoved them off on to the island - that I had overestimated the Chinese communist power to do that.
INT: So you and Dulles didn't see eye to eye.
JPD: Not exactly.
INT: Finally, could you just tell me what were the sort of high points of your career, or your expectations with regard to China, and what were the low points?
JPD: Oh, I suppose the high points were when General Marshall, at the President's insistence decided that my recommendation for a(n) observers' mission in Yen'an be pursued and be effectuated. So I thought this was the beginning of a contact, official contact with these people who I assumed were going to rule China.
INT: And what was the worst point?
JPD: Oh, the worst point, I suppose, is the humiliation of having been discharged.
INT: Right. But that was some way after... that was quite a lot later, wasn't it?
JPD: Oh, yes, that was '54.
INT: ... What about earlier? You must have felt disappointed when your suggestions that the United States form relations with the Chinese communists weren't taken up?
JPD: Well, I really didn't expect a great deal ... there was mostly disinterest ... lack of interest, because it was felt that what I was suggesting could not be achieved and it wasn't really practical. And it was a very far out idea. But so there was no alternative but to what we had come to. I think that we have handled China so badly, because China is the natural balance against Russia in Asia and Vietnam (Laughs) is the natural balance against China in East Asia. We fought with both.
INT: Thanks very much.
(Continues next tape)
INT: Why did America feel that China was America's to lose?
JPD: I would say that it was very largely due to the missionary influence. I can speak to that with some feeling, because I myself am the product of missionary efforts in China. The missionaries were converting the Chinese, bringing them education, bringing them hospitals. The Americans were doing good works, and had done so from the 19th century. So there developed a feeling of intimacy with the Chinese, which is very strange because the Chinese psyche and point of view, mentality, is really quite different from that of the United States. Um, and it's largely a mystery to me why, why the American people took such a tremendous possessive, embracing approach to China.
INT: But that was the reason, that there was such a disappointment then?
JPD: Oh, we felt that they had betrayed all of our high hopes and our expectations of them. We had become emotionally involved with them, and then they had done this to us, they'd gone off and become communists. After... and this is quite a startling contrast... we had, as I said, been in China for over a century doing all these good works and failed really to win the Chinese to Christianity and the Western way of viewing the world. Whereas the Russians had come in, and in a matter of a couple of decades had created an indigenous movement in China that was threatening to take over the country. And this was an appalling commentary on the effectiveness that we so treasured.
INT: Good, excellent. ... Thank you.