Exclusive: A prototype of the modern foreign lobby in Washington was the China Lobby, bribing and bending U.S. politicians to serve the will of the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan and helped fuel McCarthyism, reports Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall (This is the second in a series on foreign lobbies.)
One of the first big foreign lobbies to blossom after passage of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act was the infamous China Lobby, defined by William Safire in his political dictionary as an “attack phrase used against those urging support of Chiang Kai-shek against Mao Zedong, and later pressing for aid to Chiang on Taiwan.”
Testifying to the China Lobby’s seminal importance – actually what would more accurately be called the Taiwan Lobby – Safire credited it with inspiring the term “Israel lobby” to describe the equally formidable support network for another equally tiny country.
The China Lobby demanded — and won — billions of dollars in military and economic aid for Chiang’s dictatorship, first on mainland China and then on Taiwan. Exploiting the wave of anti-Communism during the McCarthy era, it also ruthlessly suppressed any criticism of Nationalist China’s shortcomings or any moves toward diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.
Some of its American operatives were opportunistic lawyer-lobbyists like Thomas Corcoran, a former New Dealer who turned his talents to money-making intrigues. Some were anti-communist militants like Gen. Claire Chennault of Flying Tigers fame, who founded a CIA-controlled airline (Civil Air Transport) with Corcoran’s help to support Chiang’s armies and run covert operations in the Far East.
Many were partisan Republicans who rejected criticism of Chiang’s corrupt regime and attacked the Truman administration for not sending enough financial and military aid to prevent the “fall of China.”
In 1949, two members of Congress called for an investigation of the lobby’s “brazen power.” Rep. Mike Mansfield, a Montana Democrat who would later become Senate majority leader, accused Nationalist Chinese officials — who had fled the mainland for Taiwan that year in the wake of the communist revolution — of diverting U.S. aid to fund political propaganda in the United States.
Ironically, a timely dispensation of $800,000 from Nationalist Chinese officials in Taiwan to their New York office financed a successful campaign to squelch that proposed investigation.
A few intrepid reporters worked hard to fill the information gap. In April 1952, Reporter magazine ran two successive issues devoted to exposing the China Lobby.
“While what is left of Chiang’s army is rusting in Formosa [another name for Taiwan], the Lobby’s operators are employing all their mental and financial resources in the United States,” observed editor Max Ascoli. “In the last couple of years, they have had remarkable success. Once more the big lie has proved to be unanswerable and undebatable.”
Commenting on the China Lobby’s ruthless methods, including McCarthyite demagoguery and the purge of liberal China experts from government, the magazine called it “the nearest thing to an effective Communist Party our country has ever had. There is no other outfit to which the China Lobby can be compared, with its hard core of fanatical, full-time operators, its underground, its legion of naïve, misled fellow travelers, its front organizations, and its foreign officials, in Washington with diplomatic immunity, who dutifully report to central headquarters.”
The Reporter series likely had the support of officials in the Truman administration, and was substantially reported by a veteran U.S. intelligence officer who went to work for Time magazine after serving as the CIA’s first station chief in Paris.
His co-author gave an advance briefing to the assistant to the director of the CIA in March 1952, offering up one explosive detail kept out of the published version: “the Nationalist government pumped more than $2,000,000 into the Republican campaign in 1948.”
The success of Republicans in the 1952 elections, however, forced the CIA more into line with the China Lobby. Pro-Taiwan organizations like the Committee to Defend America by Aiding Anti-Communist China and the Committee on National Affairs included among their officers or directors notable front-men for CIA propaganda operations, such as William Donovan, former head of the Office of Strategic Services, Jay Lovestone, a CIA-funded labor organizer, and Cord Meyer, who took charge of the Agency’s International Organizations Division in 1954.
The CIA also covertly funded anti-communist organizations such as the Free Asia Committee and Aid Refugee Chinese Intellectuals (ARCI), which reinforced the China Lobby’s messages.
The executive chairman of ARCI, Christopher Emmet, lauded its role in “making Americans more aware of the Chinese anti-Communist cause. . . . The reason is that the humanitarian appeal for relief incidentally permits giving all the political facts about persecution, etc. . . It does not invite argument and attack as in the case of direct political propaganda.”
The first academic study of this pressure campaign finally appeared — ever so briefly — in 1960. In the introduction to his The China Lobby in American Politics, political scientist Ross Koen made the blockbuster allegation that “There is . . . considerable evidence that a number of [Nationalist] Chinese officials engaged in the illegal smuggling of narcotics into the United States with the full knowledge and connivance of the Nationalist Chinese Government. The evidence indicates that several prominent Americans have participated in and profited from these transactions. It indicates further that the narcotics business has been an important factor in the activities and permutations of the China Lobby.”
An energetic publicist for the China Lobby got hold of advance proofs of the book and shared them with allies in the Eisenhower administration. Together they brought heavy legal and political pressure to bear on the publisher, Macmillan, to withdraw the book. The book was not reissued until 1974, by Harper & Row.
Richard Nixon and the China Lobby
Through its hard-hitting propaganda campaigns, the China Lobby prevented U.S. diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China — the most populous country on Earth — for more than two decades. Its stranglehold on U.S. foreign policy was not broken until 1972, when President Nixon finally opened talks with Beijing to help end the Vietnam War.
Ironically, Nixon had long been one of the China Lobby’s most ardent supporters. He won election to the Senate from California in 1950 in part by exploiting popular dissatisfaction with the Truman administration’s “loss” of China and the subsequent bloody war in Korea.
Washington columnist Drew Pearson later published the fact that Nixon took a large cash payoff from one of Chiang’s nephews to help fund his successful 1950 campaign against the liberal Democratic incumbent, Helen Gahagan Douglas. Pearson also learned — but did not publish — the fact that a Nationalist Chinese agent supplied $500,000 in cash to fund the campaign expenses of other Republican senators nationwide.
Years later, during the 1968 presidential election campaign, Nixon used the services of China Lobby notable Anna Chennault — widow of the late American general Claire Chennault and a prodigious Republican fundraiser in her own right — as his private emissary to the president of South Vietnam.
Through her, Nixon secretly blocked President Johnson’s proposal for peace talks between North and South Vietnam, in order to slow momentum for Hubert Humphrey’s campaign. Johnson, learning of the Nixon/Chennault intervention through top-secret intelligence sources, said nothing publicly but complained bitterly to Senate Republican Leader Everett Dirksen, “This is treason.”
The China Lobby’s legacy
That same year, the China Lobby inspired a parallel lobby supporting the military dictatorship of South Korea, a close anti-communist ally of Taiwan. In 1968, Richard Hanna, a Taiwan supporter and Democratic congressman from Orange County — Nixon’s home ground — “instructed” South Korea’s prime minister “on how to lobby the U.S. Congress effectively by emulating the successful models set by Israel and Taiwan.”
Following his advice, a South Korean businessman, working with the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, began recycling commissions from U.S. rice sales to Korea to pay for lavish entertainment and outright bribes to “congressmen, cabinet members, and other influential persons” in Washington, including Defense Secretary Melvin Laird, during the Nixon years.
In late 1970, a CIA “bug” in the office of South Korea’s president implicated him in a scheme to spend upward of a million dollars a year to pay off dozens of U.S. officials, but the Nixon administration took no action.
In 1973, one member of Congress who later escaped prosecution for bribery because of the statute of limitations, wrote South Korea’s president a letter of appreciation, commenting, “you have an extremely competent team working on your behalf and making things come out right for your country. Nothing, as you know, happens without a great deal of work and support.”
The South Korean businessman who disbursed the bribes eventually testified before Congress in 1978, a decade after the “Koreagate” conspiracy began, under a grant of full immunity. Although he implicated some 30 members of Congress, only about 10 resigned or faced criminal charges.
Taiwan, meanwhile, continued to maintain a formidable lobby in Washington during the 1970s, despite President Nixon’s betrayal in recognizing mainland China. The lobby continued to win the hearts and minds of conservative Republicans, including Ronald Reagan. Among other vehicles, it used the services of the public relations firm Deaver and Hannaford, which also represented the military dictatorships of Argentina and Guatemala.
Partner Michael Deaver, a former aide to Governor Reagan, became President Reagan’s Deputy Chief of Staff in 1981. Much to Beijing’s displeasure, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan proceeded to soar, from $312 million in 1981 to a high of $709 million in 1985. An appreciative Taiwan, along with South Korea, provided covert support for the anti-Communist “Contras” fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua during these years.
In 1987, Deaver was convicted of perjuring himself before Congress and a federal grand jury regarding his use of the White House for lobbying activities.
The China Lobby lives on, with diminished clout, in today’s Republican Party. Its 2016 platform called for increased arms sales to Taiwan, reinstating it in international organizations, and a committing to its defense in case of a military showdown with China.
During the presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump named several strong supporters of the island to his transition team. In December 2016, President-elect Trump held his notorious call with Taiwan’s leader to celebrate their respective elections and laud the “close economic, political, and security ties” between the United States and Taiwan.
Since then, of course, President Trump has reversed himself on this as on so many other policies, burning bridges with Taiwan to cultivate President Xi Jinping of China. But don’t count Taiwan out. If Xi fails to deliver on North Korea, or if U.S.-China military confrontations rise anew in the South China Sea, the small island that once commanded an army of U.S. supporters may roar yet again in Washington.
Next: The Israel Lobby
Jonathan Marshall is a regular contributor to Consortiumnews.com.
I would add the Saudi lobby to the list of overly influential and certainly most destructive influences in world affairs, not merely the middle east.
The China Lobby and the pre-McCarthy and McCarthy witch hunts resulted in the firing, or transfer elsewhere of our China Hands – truly some of our best and brightest- and in the evisceration of the Foreign Service’s expertise in matters related to China, which also led to our later misadventures in Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere in East and South East Asia. In some ways it is not unlike what later happened to the State Department’s Middle East Foreign Service with the replacement or marginalization of its Arabist specialists, leading to the catastrophes that we’ve seen in the Middle East and North Africa.
As for the American missionaries, that community was split. On the one hand were two of our finest China Hands, John Paton Davies and John Service, both children of missionaries and raised in China, and on the other, Henry Luce, Jr. (founder of Time magazine and exponent of ‘American Exceptionalism’ and ‘the American Century’) whose father was a missionary in China, and Congressman Walter Judd, one of the leaders of the China Lobby, who had served as a doctor and missionary in China. As for Claire Boothe Luce, I suspect that, while, like her husband, she was a staunch ‘anti-Communist’, she was not bigoted per se against the China Hands, and I infer it from her treatment of Fulton Freeman, a former China Hand and who had become a member of her Embassy staff when she was Ambassador to Italy- though there may have also been other civilizing reasons, including their shared interest in the arts- Freeman was an accomplished musician, and Luce a successful writer and playwright.
Great comments, and I agree with the last one by M. Meslin, that economic punishment of the US by other countries is overdue, and it may be coming through the BRICS nations, although Brazil seems foiled in its participation since Rousseff was ousted by a soft coup set up by the Obama administration. But never mind, Russia and China are forging ahead with their plans. It’s interesting that Bush I set up the “Most Favored Nation” status with China, which set them on the road to becoming a world power that now exceeds US in wealth. The US is already reaping its bad karma. Nothing less than an entire change of philosophy by humans as planetary citizens is needed, and that is unlikely to happen except by either force of nature or economic consequences. I like the pun of humans evolving from Sumer, cradle of civilization, to “Consumer”. We’ve been conned by ourselves.
We all know than America (Its decisions’ makers) create trouble all over the planet Earth and nobody has the guts to suggest a total embargo on that fucked ridicule country…
This is an excellent insight into the influences that led the US to irrational warmongering policies in Korea and Vietnam, and the complete corruption of the Rep party, since joined by the Dems.
A little bribery to Senators fed back from our foreign aid budget buys a thousand times its cost in the slaughter of millions and the hoodwinking of nearly every citizen. We don’t need secrecy in government: if nearly all US secrets were revealed, we would be a far stronger nation. If accepting such campaign “contributions” was a felony with mandatory public execution, and all officials and their relatives and associates were monitored, we would be on the way to restoration of democracy.
So true Sam but it won’t happen. These ideals may happen one day. Hundreds of years ahead of our time. We are locked in a way of seeing the world around us which stops us for what we may call a second renaissance. Our present generation is lumbered with the shit around us which in essence is our past. For what is the difference where sword, gunpowder and now nuclear weapons are the currency?
Indeed there is little difference in principle between the problems of democracy today and the days of sword and gunpowder, but I’ll argue that a “second renaissance” is quite possible if we recognize where we went wrong and what has changed.
We now face concentrations of economic power that did not exist when the Constitution was written, beyond plantations and small ships. The Constitution did not protect the institutions of democracy, elections and mass media, from such influence, and now they are completely owned by oligarchy. In addition, we have information power controlled by oligarchy, by mass media, search engines, and secret agencies. These can in principle be regulated to restore democracy, but the tools of democracy owned by oligarchy are needed to effect the change by familiar means, so we see only decay and bewilderment.
Many have speculated on what is to be done. Some suggest social and political education, certainly part of the solution, and that requires courageous whistleblowers, investigative journalists, and organizers. But that path is very long: little has been learned by the majority despite the spread of US wrongs, tyranny, and corruption since WWII. Peaceful restoration of democracy by citizen education is blocked by the control of all media, suppression of dissent, and intrusive surveillance of the present oligarchy. This is vastly worse in the US today than in Russia before its 1917 revolution, and completely unlike our 1776 revolution, and we have none of their advantages.
America’s only enemy is the internal corruption of the Tyrant, who as Aristotle warned must create foreign enemies to pose falsely as protector and accuse his moral superiors of disloyalty. We see that every day in the news. Jefferson warned that “the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants” in every generation, for this is the only language of the tyrant. This is long overdue, and will not be pretty.
Some suggest external pressure, seeing the demise of the US like that of Rome, which surrounded itself with enemies and declined militarily until at last overthrown. The US secret wars of aggression for political bribes have led to a world that distrusts, resents, or in some cases hates the US with good cause, and this could at last unify BRICS and the EU to reject US currency and embargo the US. If that resulted in a severe depression, the oligarchy might be disrupted somewhat, but I am skeptical that external reaction alone would lead to a restoration of democracy. It is more profitable for them to secure their own interests with external pressure, and leave the US to fester in its corruption, and many of them have or may acquire the same problems.
Only nationwide riots in the streets intimidated the oligarchy enough to grant the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to African Americans, and only they were anywhere near outright rebellion due to poverty. It would take large militias in rebellion to restore democracy, and even severe depressions seldom result in demonstrations for more than food.
So if there is a path, it certainly involves a combination of social and political education of citizens against oligarchy control of the tools of democracy, constant battle to regain control of elections and mass media, and against corruption in politics and political parties, and a broad sense of outrage at the corruption of democracy and mass media. It will probably be accompanied by BRICS isolation of the aggressor US, plus another financial bubble collapse causing a profound economic depression.
A generation worthy of the approval of Jefferson and Aristotle would see geriatric suicide bombers taking out mass media facilities, militias raiding gated communities, and regiments refusing to suppress riots. That requires more education and more suffering.
Another path to restoration of democracy is executive overreach, investigating Congress and the judiciary, tossing out the bribed and influenced, appointing new judges and holding new elections, demanding the constitutional amendments and throwing out Congress militarily until they are passed. Clearly the MSM and DemReps and their oligarchy sponsors are not part of that, so the chance of such an election is remote. A dark horse president like Trump could do that by surprise, but we might as well wait for the saviour of your favorite religion.
It would certainly be worth studying all means of using functioning parts of the corrupted government together against the other parts.
Secessions of states would also have the effect of rallying the truly patriotic in other states. That might require several concurrent secessions (CA, NH-VT-ME, MI-WI-IL-IN-OH-PA, others) to split and intimidate the opposition.
Great comments! You are a true patriot whom I admire and like to support. It takes courage to bare all secrets and to admit wrong doings. It is never to late to come clean on ourselves first before we made demands on others.
It’s all so easy Sam lynch those politicians that take money for favours. All this secret shit about National security what a bunch of horse shit! It is time to take hold. YAHANPD
Last week at a library book sale one of the items I bought was a Time/Life picture book about the B-29 bombers in WW2. Because the Pacific Island bases hadn’t yet been captured, the first raids were necessarily staged from China. The book tells how the Chinese workers building the runways got about 9 cents per day ($1.25/2017) for their back-breaking work, and also how Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek demanded and got 210 million 1944 dollars for the land they were built on. That’s 2.9 billion dollars in 2017 money.
By comparison, the same book tells about how helpful Mao’s Communists were with assistance to the air war. A scholarly essay I read last year says that if Mao had retired (or died?) before he went bonkers he’d have been regarded as the greatest man in Chinese history. The Great Leap Forward – where he effectively murdered 50 million people – pretty much knocks him out of that honor.
Speaking of over-rated loons, Douglas MacArthur was constantly demanding that the armies of the Nationalists be “unleashed” against China during the Korean war. The old fool had by that time pretty much lost it – he really didn’t understand the Nationalists were on Taiwan because they’d had the butts kicked on the mainland.
It is true that the China Lobby had an outsize role. However, I am not so sure of cause and effect going all one way. They were as much used as using.
Leaders among the allies of the China Lobby had their own agenda. An example is Claire Boothe Luce and her role in publishing and politics. She was a big part of the China Lobby, but with her the Lobby served her at least as much as she served it. There were many others like that.
Missionaries to China, and their home churches, are another example of a China Lobby that was serving domestic American purposes, in their case of religious institutional influence in politics. They used the China issue.
The actual Chinese were themselves very much a lesser issue than the utility of their Lobby to those using it.
We should cast a skeptical eye on other important lobbies, such as the Israel Lobby, for their using their subject to advance themselves and their own private advantage. It happens. In fact, it is a politician, the very definition of one.
Are you trying to excuse bribery on the grounds that bribes are put to good use?
1. To say that bribery has value to the recipient is not an argument that the bribers were “as much used as using.” There is no legitimate purpose to any lobby, so they were not being “used” by the US.
2. Missionaries to China are not a “China Lobby” and were not “serving domestic American purposes.”
3. Claire Boothe Luce may have been “part of the China Lobby” but it is meaningless to say that “the Lobby served her at least as much as she served it.”
It would be Repub madness to say that bribery is merely providing services for a fee.
Would you object to these traitors being shot for betraying the people of the United States?
Perhaps you wish to say that those bribed already shared the views of some of those who bribed them. That may be so, but does not excuse either of them for using economic force to affect policymaking, essentially an act of war against the US.
Secret machinations of the rich and powerful. Is it not ever the same? As long as these major differences in wealth and power exist we will have corruption and widespread suffering. The solution is obvious: level the playing field, share the wealth.
“As 2015 unfolds, we sit in a crumbing America at the seat of global inequality, fastened to violence and cruel and punishing wars. While the Dow Jones average rockets higher and higher, stagnation and out-and-out recession continues to feed off much of the world landscape, leaving in its wake the decimation of billions of lives and increasingly savage and merciless conflicts between corporate and financial ogres for resources, markets and profits. ” (https://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Blood-on-the-Blade-Gl-by-Danny-Weil-Billionaires_Blood-Money_Capitalism_Capitalism-150103-80.html).
So we see that greed for more than your fair share is the root of poverty and war and the decline of true morality. The willingness to be content with your fair share of society’s goods is the foundation of lasting peace. Laws and customs to ensure this can easily be devised. People have been addicted to strive for more. This has become a mental illness leading to absurd and tragic consequences, like war and poverty and starvation in a world of plenty.
Morality is socially constructed. So, under monopoly capitalism greed, selfishness, arrogance, a passion for ignorance, lack of intellectual courage and civility, to name a few moral values, arise. Morality is a decision we come to, a conclusion we arrive at as to how to treat others. In a system that turns people into disposable tools, what type of morality do you think we would have?
The corruption of money power enters into all relationships. It is not necessary to abolish money to correct this problem. In an ideal society everyone receives the same amount of money based on the overall productivity of society. This stipend is your dividend share in society. The root of competition designed to have more than your equal share is thus cut.
Why would this not work. Think about it. Those who are greedy for more than their fellows would seek to subvert it. Soon the process of vast inequalities of wealth would take over. But there is no physical law making this so – it all depends on what is in people’s minds and hearts.
Equal distribution of rewards prevents productivity incentives beyond the honorary, which limits productivity and creativity.
While a base stipend or other emergency share is necessary, few would work at boring jobs without incentives.
While self-interest is inherent, it need not result in extreme wrong, with a combination of social education and law.
So distribution must be fair while preserving incentives, and law must limit the wrongdoings of money.
That requires constitutional amendments to restrict funding of mass media and elections to limited individual contributions, or similar measures, and to monitor public officials and their relatives and associates for improper influence, and severely penalize bribery.
Of course it also requires many other legal measures against wrongdoing with economic and information power, which have arisen since the original Constitutional Convention.
I think that should be obvious. I certainly would be in favor of decreasing inequality. But if everyone received the same amount of money independently from how much they contribute, it is inevitable that productivity and the standard of living would decrease (the models don’t have to assume people to be particularly greedy and selfish for this to be the case, it is enough if they are not absolutely perfect altruists), and then probably different groups of people would start blaming each other for declining living standards.
The situation should not be viewed as an alternative between either the massive enrichment of a small minority or a system in which everyone receives the same amount of money and people have no chance of improving their economic situation with work. For the vast majority of people, the consequences of both of these systems are very bad. There are much better options, on one hand providing people with a good welfare state financed by taxes and some redistribution in order to diminish inequality, while still leaving a significant part of the incentives for work and enterpreneurial activities. The Scandinavian countries are hardly perfect, but I think they come quite close.
Yes, there are many suitable blends of market economics vs. economic rights, all of which imply regulation of market processes while ensuring productivity incentives. It is the greedy who pretend that any recognition of economic rights leads to disaster, and forever seek to limit rights so as to enrich themselves. It is the extremes that don’t work well.
In many ways this duality of economic power regulation parallels that of regulation of direct force. Our Constitution provides for individual rights at the same time as it ensures a strong central government, simply because individuals achieve some of their goals via government, but cannot give up other essential goals for that purpose.
Similar compromises of central power benefits and individual rights will likely be found necessary in the emerging area of information power, another fundamental form of power not foreseen by the Philadelphia Convention because it existed then only in simpler forms.
Capitalism is a criminal enterprise and you cannot regulate a criminal enterprise. FDR tried and it failed.
Quoting from you submission: “restrict funding of mass media and elections to limited individual contributions, or similar measures, and to monitor public officials and their relatives and associates for improper influence”. I do believe that money is indeed the root of most evil within our democratic political systems. Cutting off the “influential” money would go far in eliminating many problems of governance and undue influence.
I believe Communism and Capitalism are partners. The evidence is available for all to see. I wrote this article a number of years ago. See link below:
“Are Communism and Capitalism Partners?”
“The authoritarian elites on both sides operate an ‘over world’ of organized conspiracy which mirrors the underworld of organized crime.” Charles Levinson in his book “Vodka Cola.”
yes, and karl marx was an early member of the mafia.
Why? What makes Marx a member of a mafia?
If by communism you mean a specific country, that is one thing. Capitalism is a system that puts profit before people. communism is one that puts people before profit. On the ground, there has not been a communist or socialist system, just hybrids. So any connection between the two would have to be done with the caveat that there has never been a socialist or communist system in the world.