U.S. Intelligence Efforts in China From 1930 Through 1949 Research Paper

Pages: 14 (4682 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: American History

U.S. Intelligence in China

The "loss" of China to communism in 1949 dealt a serious blow to the United States' foreign policy, this was not an inevitable outcome of the Chinese Civil War. In fact, the so-called China Hands had been on relatively good terms with Mao Zedong and the communist leadership, and the Communist success in the war could actually have been a boon for the United States' position on the world stage, specifically by offering the United States something of a bulwark against Soviet expansion in the form of a "friendly" communist superpower. However, this would never come to pass, because intelligence failures on the part of the Office of Strategic Services, the China Hands (and their British counterparts) inaccuracy in predicting the speed of Mao Zedong's success, and an intense domestic fear of communism on the part of officials and the public alike made it so the China Hands' otherwise accurate reports were greeted with distrust, suspicion, and eventually outright hostility. This domestic reaction to communism's rise in China meant that what might have previously been an intelligence blunder became a full-blown disaster, because by missing its initial chance to establish a healthy relationship with communist China, the United States ensured that there would be little to no contact between the two countries for over two decades.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on U.S. Intelligence Efforts in China From 1930 Through 1949 Assignment

Before examining the experience of the China Hands and the intelligence failures and public reactions that led to their firing, it will be necessary to provide some historical context, not only regarding the Chinese Civil War, but also the state of international diplomacy in the first half of the twentieth century, because the China Hands were first and foremost diplomats, even if their jobs required many of the same skills as straightforward intelligence agents. Of course, diplomacy and intelligence operations have likely been linked ever since the practices first began, but the experience of the China Hands during the Chinese Civil War is especially interesting, because the United States' intelligence apparatus was undergoing an important change, as the country's World War II intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), had not yet transformed into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the OSS' experience in China had largely been one of frustration and impotence.

Thus, somewhat paradoxically, the first step to understanding the experience of the China Hands is an examination of the OSS' activities in China, because this will serve to contrast the methods and goals of military and diplomatic intelligence officers, and how this contrast lead to the intelligence failures of the post-war years. Following World War II, the China Hands essentially became responsible for all intelligence regarding China, even as their position as diplomatic officers made military and congressional leaders resistant to their recommendations. This is because the OSS' efforts at intelligence operations in the country were, in some respects, a spectacular failure, such that the United States' only useful agents in the country came in the form of diplomats and Foreign Service Officers.

First created in 1942, the OSS' actions in China revolved almost entirely around military considerations, and they naturally focused on the Japanese occupation, as this had the most bearing on the United States' role in World War II.

The OSS' operations in China demonstrated a high degree of infighting and incoherence amongst American military and intelligence leadership, because even at the dawn of the organization's formation it was clear that whoever controlled the OSS would likely control the United States' entire intelligence apparatus going forward.

As a result, OSS intelligence operations in China during World War II were not necessarily conducted with an eye towards the specific culture and objective, but instead represented a kind of trial run, with the leadership effectively using occupied China as a testing ground for their new organization. As such, the OSS took a cue from British intelligence efforts in China, and opted to use Korean nationals as surrogates in the country, under the belief that:

The distribution of the Koreans in important centers opens the way for their employment in intelligence and sabotage work against the Japanese. This is not the case with other nationals, particularly whites and Chinese, who are readily identified in the Japanese domain.

Unfortunately, as this method was "a direct, dogmatic, and most awkward adaptation of the British method," it immediately created Chinese opposition at the highest levels, such that the United States' nominal allies against the Japanese had little interest in cooperating with an agency that "gave off a strong odor of British colonialism."

Furthermore, Major General Tai Li of the Chinese Army, who headed up the secret police and guerrilla forces, had already backed a faction of Korean nationals who were in direct opposition to those favored by the OSS as surrogates, all but ensuring that the OSS' intelligence operations would meet with failure.

Finally, it should be noted that the OSS concerned itself primarily with the National Government of China, and had little interaction with Mao Zedong or his forces, such that the OSS mission is a case of backing the wrong horse twice; first, the OSS essentially supported the wrong group of Korean nationals, and more broadly, backed the National government at the expense of developing more fruitful ties with the Communists. Though the Communist faction and the National Government were nominally aligned following the Japanese occupation of China, the two groups operated relatively independently, and the "cooling" of their civil war during World War II did not represent an end, but rather an intermission. This fact seems to have been lost by the leadership of the OSS, if only because their focus seemed entirely on China's potential use as an avenue of attack against Japan, rather than the site of a critical political and military conflict of its own.

In contrast to the OSS' naive entry into occupied China, the diplomatic wing of the United States, in the form of the China Hands, had been operating in the country since at least the 1920s as Foreign Service Officers of the Department of State. Furthermore, even beyond these official representatives of the United States, U.S. nationals had long been in contact with Mao Zedong, to the point that Agnes Smedley, a writer and journalist, had actually "spent seven months in Yenan, Mao Tse-tung's Red Army headquarters, where she taught Mao and Chou En-lai to dance."

Smedley was one of a handful of American journalists living in China throughout the 1920s and 30s, and the relative ease with which they were able to access important Chinese leaders helps demonstrate just how myopic the OSS' entry into the country really was; the OSS' intelligence efforts in China, like many intelligence and military blunders throughout history, was the result of a small group of self-confident individuals believing they could simply apply preexisting techniques to a novel situation, all without bothering to consult those people who might have been able to offer relevant cultural, historical, and political insights.

Recognizing the presence of American journalists in China, and particularly in Yenan, Mao Zedong's headquarters, is crucial to understanding the efforts of the China Hands following World War II, because it allows one to better contextualize the so-called Dixie Mission, "the American observer/liaison group with the Chinese Communists based in Yenan from July 1944 to March 1947."

The Dixie Mission was made up of members of the State Department and the United States Army, and they were sent to China in order to study and liaise with the communists because following the general failure of the OSS' efforts, the American military (rightly) believed that the Communist faction was better led and organized than their National counterparts. In a way, then, one may view the work of the China Hands as an extension of the same military interest that motivated the OSS' efforts, but with an important distinction; namely, the fact that the Dixie Mission was staffed by individuals with prior experience in China, experience that allowed them to view their efforts in a larger context than even their superiors imagined.

This is an important distinction to make, because although the Dixie Mission began as part of the United States' efforts in World War II, after a year the war with Japan was over, and thus the goal of the mission transitioned rapidly.

Following the end of World War II, the Chinese Civil War picked back up almost immediately, although there was a brief period of nominal ceasefire. Following the conclusion of the war and the expulsion of the Japanese from China, special envoy from the United States George Marshall organized a ceasefire between the Nationalists and the Communists in 1946, but this did not last long. After World War II, the Communists' power was centered in the northeast of the country, an area secured by Soviet forces, and Stalin's attempts to secure the Soviet Union's interests ultimately doomed the fragile ceasefire set up by Marshall.

Stalin withdrew his troops from northeast China, but did so in a way so as to ensure that they left… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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