In the opening months of 1949, 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.
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. Today, as Beijing asserts its claims in the South China Sea and tensions endure between Taiwan and the mainland, the legacy of 1949 is more relevant than ever to the relationships between China, the United States, and the rest of the world.
Join Young China Watchers New York for an in-depth discussion with former Newsweek writer and bureau chief Kevin Peraino about his new book A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949.
We invite Kevin Peraino, former writer and bureau chief of Newsweek and author of A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China to discuss.
Kevin Peraino is a veteran foreign correspondent who has reported from
around the world. A writer and bureau chief at Newsweek for a decade, he was a finalist for the Livingston Award for foreign reporting and was part of a team that won a National Magazine Award in 2004. He has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, and other publications.