China Mirage, Tale of Asian Intrigue

Asian Intrigue in Action

A friend loaned me a dab of historic education in the audio version of Asian Intrigue of The China Mirage by James Bradley.

James Bradley, in his best-selling book, The China Mirageattacks American foreign policy in East Asia. He traces the history of Asian relations back through FDR to his grandfather Delano Roosevelt. Bradley (documented) how England and the US fought to sell opium to China. Then he revealed a shocking detail that the Roosevelt wealth emanated from illegal drug sales in China.

Years of Fortune Building up to Asian Intrigue

During the years of American and British fortune building, the Chinese kept the truth about China from the “Barbarians.” The moniker became central in the book to explain what the Chinese thought of outsiders. It seemed that they might describe a mangy mutt that roamed the neighborhood with the same amount of respect. Bradley planted this subtle message to highlight the Asian intrigue surrounding the Republic of China’s promises of Americanizing China.

Bradley contended throughout his book that if Roosevelt and policymakers had understood China, they would have known that the Chinese considered Americans barbarians. As a result, President Roosevelt would not have gullibly trusted T.V. Soong. Bradley imagined the world without the Asian intrigue of the China mirage in which subsequent wars never happened saving many American lives.

Misguided Generations of Asian-American Policies

Two generations after the fortune-building era, Roosevelt’s childhood memories would color his policy decisions more than any consistent evidence to the contrary. It was Bradley’s contention that this  “China mirage” guided the relationships of the United States, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam as well as Russia. Bradley portrayed China’s Nationalists as marketing wizards. Wizards T.V. Soong, aided by Madam Chek, and Pearl S. Buck, convinced Roosevelt and the American people that with enough money Americans would see both the Americanization and Christianization of China. (An attractive proposition at that time in history.)

Bradley’s premise of the China Mirage was that Roosevelt listened to his Harvard classmate T.V. Soong, the China lobby, and collegiate advisors who knew more about Europe than Asia. In contrast, Roosevelt refused to hear Americans who lived among the Chinese, and met with Mao Zedong and observed the positive difference between the troops of the two leaders. According to Bradley, Communist China leader, Mao Zedong reached out to Roosevelt and Truman. Both presidents rebuffed him, cementing the American cause against Communism.

Bradley argues that had Mao not been dismissed so unceremoniously by the American administration, the Asian intrigue might have dissipated.

One reviewer made a valid statement, “To me, the conclusions reached by the author seem a stretch. Mao, an avowed Communist regardless of his postulations, would always have been opposed by American businessmen.”


The rhetorical question is: if the China Lobby had not blinded the American people, the President, and his Eurocentric staff, would the wars in Korea and Vietnam have followed in the aftermath of World War II and would the United States have been involved?

Bradley makes a convincing case, but I think there are too many intricate connections and webs in history. History might have changed, and wars would have been avoided or veered in a different direction. It is impossible to judge history with hindsight information, and create an alternate universe.

All that aside, it made trips in the car speed along as Bradley opened our ears to the intrigues and what-ifs of yesteryear.

I recommend reading or listening to this book.

Additional James Bradley Books

The Imperial Cruise: a Secret History of Empire and War

Flags of Our Fathers

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What books have you HEARD recently? How do you like the audio book experience? Do not forget to share this with your history-loving friends. How accurate do you think Bradley’s position is?

4 responses to “China Mirage, Tale of Asian Intrigue”

  1. Toonsarah Avatar

    That sounds an interesting perspective on that period of history. I do find it fascinating that one person’s biases / prejudices / perceptions can have such an impact on the course of events if they are in a position of power or influence. Everyone has preconceived ideas, we can’t help it, but if they colour our judgement when making significant decisions it can lead us down a precarious path. That’s true of us ‘ordinary’ folk and of national leaders, as well as everyone in between!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Yes, in a foreign country, we can be neutral if we are there of our own volition.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist Avatar

    It sounds fascinating and I’m not surprised. In fact I think the same is happening now to a large degree. I know I believe that my country has behaved in a way that I knew would lead to the reactions of the Chinese yet our govt professes not to understand why. The USA is also taking a stance designed to rile. The same has happened in the Middle East and from what Bradley’s book purports it did earlier in Asia as well. I’ve put it on my list to read. Thanks for such a comprehensive review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Marsha Avatar

      Thanks, Irene. You won’t be disappointed. Yes, our country is doing its best to upset people within and without the US.

      Liked by 1 person

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