... the core issue involved in what happened to the China Hands relates to the central purpose of the Foreign Service, which is to represent our country abroad effectively and to provide policymakers with the best and most honest judgments of which we are capable. The attention that has been and continues to be devoted to these men recognizes their significance in history and the history of the Foreign Service.
United States Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy
Asst. Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research
April 25, 2000
In the early 1950's, led by United States Senator Joseph McCarthy, the question of "who lost China?" became the rallying cry of the anticommunist movement, which focused its attention on a group of career foreign service officers who became known as the China Hands.
Among those accused of "selling out" the US-backed Chiang Kai-Shek government were diplomats John Paton Davies, Oliver Edmund Clubb, John Carter Vincent and John Stewart Service. Their crime was honesty - compounded by being right. They saw the communists winning in China and predicted as much. As Ambassador Roy goes on to say:
They worked as Foreign Service officers in a China and in an Asia that was in tumult, both before, during and after World War II. They covered events of immense significance that affected not only hundreds of millions of lives but also shaped the post-World War period. They wrestled with the problem of interpreting these events and relating them to U.S. interests under the pressure of fast breaking events. Even in retrospect the issue of whether they were right or wrong is not the issue. None of them claimed to be infallible at the time or later. They saw clearly and accurately the corruption and decay in the Kuomintang government and military leadership. And they pulled no punches in reporting it even when this brought them into conflict with their superiors. They were right in doing so, because this was the factor more than any other that explained the inability of the Kuomintang government after World War II to use its superior man power and resources in the civil war against the communists.
Never numbering more than 30 or 40 Foreign Service officers, most of the China Hands were forced out of their posts. Those that were able to salvage their careers received lesser postings - outside of Asia. All without exception were eventually exonerated of any disloyalty to the United States and were considered to be fine professionals.