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In the opening months of 1949, US 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 onetime 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. Over the course of this tumultuous year, Mao would fashion a new revolutionary government in Beijing, laying the foundation for the creation of modern China, while Chiang Kai-shek would flee to the island sanctuary of Taiwan. These events transformed American foreign policy - leading ultimately to decades of friction with Communist China, a long-standing US commitment to Taiwan, and the subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources as well as recently declassified CIA documents, Kevin Peraino tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of the key players, including Mao Zedong, President Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the influential first lady of the Republic of China.
Today, the legacy of 1949 is more relevant than ever to the relationships between China, the United States, and the rest of the world as Beijing asserts its claims in the South China Sea and tensions endure between Taiwan and the mainland.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Ryan Kloster on 09-29-17
A well told narrative for a critical period in history
Kevin Peraino details the crucial events of 1949 from many angles. By relating the personal stories of key actors across countries and idealogical divides, he weaves a rich tapestry which brings to life a well known, but less understood turning point in history. I highly recommend listening.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
By Jose on 06-19-18
360-Degrees of China, Very Good History Book
The narration is great, big time professional
The history in this book is great and the work is very well organized. The coverage goes from Asia, to Washington, to Moscow, to India. The reader gets full coverage of the period.
The star of the book for me was Madam Chang. What a resilient person, her perspective is worth knowing because she was such a driving force and so influential.
Another great personality in the equation is Walter Judd in his battle with Dean Acheson. Were the Chinese people betrayed as an Allie versus Japan. Was their country given away to Marxists because it more expedient? Listen to this book and make the call yourself.