chapter  4
17 Pages

The Humanities in Contemporary China Studies: An Uncomfortable Tradition

During World War 11 a small group of career Foreign Service officers and scholars-turned-"China hands" had seen what was coming and urged the United States to work with the Communists, but they were first ignored and later accused of having delivered China into Stalin's hands. Many of those same scholars returned to their universities after the war with a new set of priorities. They created the field of modem Chinese studies because they perceived it to be, in John King Fairbank's words, "a national necessity to help the American public accept the facts of life in [post-1949] China.") Fairbank and Benjamin Schwartz tried to put a human face on the Chinese revolution, arguing that Mao Zedong was at heart a Chinese nationalist and not at all a Soviet puppet.2 But scholars who tried to maintain an air of academic detachment were frequently overwhelmed by the passions of McCarthyist charges and countercharges. The debate was emotional and often reflected America's sense of trauma more than it revealed Chinese realities now largely locked away from Americans' view.