China diary: Crisis diplomacy in Dairen Review

China diary: Crisis diplomacy in Dairen
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China diary: Crisis diplomacy in Dairen ReviewThe emotions that Paul Paddock communicated in his fascinating and informative memoir of a year and a half as the American Consul in Dairen (now "Dalian") in China's northeast included astonishment, frustration, anger, sadness, and regret -- sprinkled with a leavening humor. Between 1948 and 1949, Dairen was the only American consulate in the Communist areas of China. Because the city was still occupied by Soviet troops, it was a significant listening post as the Cold War unfolded, except that "listening" simply consisted of reading the local newspapers.
Those who study Chinese history will value the book for its narrative of how the Soviets and then the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) asserted political and economic control in the northeast. At the time the Soviets and the CCP publicly celebrated their solidarity; the reality was the two had different interests, with the Soviets taking every advantage.
There are many first-hand details about the ugly Soviet occupation of Manchuria. As time passes and those who endured its cruelties pass away, the Cold War may seem a distant clash of ideologies. Paddock's narrative reminds the reader how Soviets established their police state, impoverished the people with a command economy, stole as much as they could, and obscured it all with brazen propaganda. The CCP learned many lessons.
Historians of American diplomacy will be fascinated by how the two American FSOs fit into a tangle of wartime and post-war treaties and agreements involving the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Japan. How the Soviets established a Dairen "administration" of puppets and Chinese Communist Party members. How any decision on the consulate's status had to be decided by Stalin. How each event in China's civil war affected the situation of the two Americans in Dairen. How, restricted to a small area inside one city, two FSO's could discern so much about Soviet and Communist Chinese policy. How Soviet administrative restrictions, willful disregard of diplomatic practice, and generous doses of perfidy gradually strangled the Consulate so it could no longer be sustained. And how remote the State Department bureaucracy could be even as its two FSOs coped on their own.
Members of the 21st century Foreign Service will be fascinated to read of all the diplomatic and administrative arrangements necessary to keep the post open in the late 1940s. Paddock was accompanied to Dairen by Vice Consul Culver Gleysteen and two local Chinese employees. Paddock's stories of the hardy perennials of administration -- shipping household goods, cash and vouchering, coding and transmitting cables, identity cards, consuming a cellar full of wine, trading local currency for gold -- will have the modern Foreign Service reader laughing and crying at the same time.
Paddock and Gleysteen had to leave the post in the autumn of 1949, and the State Department in its negotiations with the Soviet Foreign Ministry could not win approval for the two Chinese employees to leave with them. Head Clerk Chao was arrested before the Consulate was closed; the Americans departed knowing that Radio Operator Chao was sure to be imprisoned as a spy. Paddock sailed from Dairen with a load of guilt. This could provide grist for an interesting ethical discussion.
"China Diary" well makes the case for what we now call the "Foreign Service generalist" -- the diplomat with the education, temperament, professional knowledge, and self-confidence to handle any challenge -- and do it in foreign languages in countries that do not wish us well.
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