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China Hand: An Autobiography

John Paton Davies

The son of American missionaries, Davies was born (1908) in China at the turn of the twentieth century. Educated in the United States, he joined the ranks of the newly formed Foreign Service in the 1930s and returned to China, where he would remain until nearly the end of World War II. During that time he became one of the first Americans to meet and talk with the young revolutionary known as Mao Zedong. He documented the personal excesses and political foibles of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. As a political aide to General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell, the wartime commander of the Allied forces in East and South Asia, he traveled widely in the region, meeting with colonial India’s Nehru and Gandhi to gauge whether their animosity to British rule would translate into support for Japan. Davies ended the war serving in Moscow with George F. Kennan, the architect of America’s policy toward the Soviet Union. Kennan found in Davies a lifelong friend and colleague. Neither, however, was immune to the virulent anticommunism of the immediate postwar years.

Davies was a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Department of State from 1931 to 1954. He was also the author of Foreign and Other Affairs and Dragon by the Tail: American, British, Japanese, and Russian Encounters with China and One Another.

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