INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SERVICE
JOHN SERVICE: (Starts mid-sentence) I got into a violent disagreement over policy in 1945 and my views, which were critical of the, the existing government, Chiang Kai-shek and the national government, became public, so that made me persona non grata in China. And I had spent some time in Japan, after surrender, and in New Zealand, but at the time we're speaking of, I was being sent to India, where I was going to be a head of the Political Section in the embassy in New Delhi.
INTERVIEWER: Right, now can we go straight on to the loss of China. Can you tell me why, why the, the loss, as it was called, of China was such a blow to America in 1949?
JS: You have to look at it in several different levels perhaps. The United States had worked itself up into a sort of war psychosis. Cold War really meant war. I mean, the people took it seriously and I don't think I need to go into all the reasons why, but the American people had not had so much experience of foreign affairs, they had ended the war with a feeling of omnipotence and all being very powerful and then rather to the surprise of the general public, Russia emerged as a great enemy and people didn't quite know how to handle it. A lot of them over-reacted, shall we say. At any rate, this war psychosis made it very important when China, after all Eastern European countries, went Communist. It was a great loss to our side they'd gone over to the other side. In fact, in those days, it was very hard for a country to be, to try to be neutral or in-between. We insisted you had to be for us or against us, but in this case, China left no doubt, she was against us, 'cos she joined this great Communist conspiracy, attempt to take world power and so on. The other important level, is that Americans have always had, most Americans, a special feeling, a special attachment, special interest in China. Probably the primary reason was that almost every Protestant church asked its members to contribute to missions in China. We had several thousand missionaries in China at the peak in the 1920s and there was a great deal of hope in America about China and we felt a special sympathy toward China, because we convinced ourselves, quiteroneously, that we had been a protector of China in the form of 'open door' policy. Actually, the 'open door' policy was just to make sure the other powers, like the Japanese and Russians, didn't have commercial rights that we didn't have. But nonetheless, we convinced ourselves that we were a special protector and a special friend of China. So, it seemed incredible to most Americans, uninformed Americans, that this country which we had lavished so much care and affection on and we thought was so friendly, so many of their people had studied in America and so on, should turn Communist, turn towards the other side, atheistic Communist is terribly important to missionaries, that the Communists opposed all religions and so on.
INT: So do you think that to some extent you were made into scapegoats when China was lost?
JS: Well, yes, I think scapegoat is probably reasonably accurate word. When China turned over, I obviously don't put it when China stood up, when she strust [sic] aside her old relationships, the unequal treaties and so on and became Communist, it was so surprising that people, many people felt that there had to be some explanation, there had to be some sort of a conspiracy, some sort of a plot, this couldn't have happened just by itself. And so people like McCarthy were able to capitalise on the idea that the State Department had been... or many people in the State Department had been more friendly to Communists than they were to the nationalist government and that their actions sort of constituted a conspiracy to change China over, to lose China. So that the great crime, political crime against the Democrats, against the Republicans, but also those conservative Democrats was who lost China and we were really the only people around that could possibly have lost China, although, of course, China was not America's to lose.
INT: So when you said... You mentioned Senator McCarthy, I mean, what was the particular role that Senator McCarthy played in that campaign to find scapegoats for the loss of China?
JS: Well, Senator McCarthy was a fairly new man in Washington, but he was obviously looking for something to get a hold of and with which to make a name for himself and the Cold War was on and the State Department had been attacked because of the...
INT: (interrupts) Sorry, I'm going to have to stop you there, because something happened.
(Talk amongst recording crew)
INT: Jack, what part did Senator McCarthy play in that campaign?
JS: Well, Senator McCarthy was a new man in Washington and he was looking about obviously for some way to distinguish himself, to grab newspaper time and attention and so on. And there had already been... the Cold War was on, the Cold War was very hot as a matter of fact, and there had already been considerable attention to Communist activity in the American government, there had been a small amount starting in the thirties and so on, when Russia looked attractive, and there'd been the Hess case and, of course, the Rosenberg case and there was criticism of the State Department over China and so he thought that... I think he was advised by a Catholic clergyman that was at one of the universities of the possibilities of using this and he got a hold of a whole list of people who'd been in some of the War Departments, like OSS and OWI, who might possibly be amalgamating the state. During the war time, if you were left waiting, it wasn't necessarily a disqualifier, so there were people on his list. But this list was a dummy. He used the list in a dramatic speech in Wheeling, West Virginia in February 1950, I have in my hand a list of two hundred and nine people who [unintelligible]. It caught fire. It was a tremendously news-catching event, because he was so dramatic and seemed to be so definite and concrete - I have in my hand a list, and so on. And so he is on to something which was far bigger than he realised and he was a man of great resources and no dummy by any means and completely unscrupulous, so he's had something, a ball he could run with and he did very effectively. But he soon ran into a problem, because most of the names of the list were no good, they were not part of the government, they were not anything that anybody could get excited about. A few cases he started out with, turned out to be rather unexciting and then the China lobby came into the act and the China lobby had a grudge against those of us who had been accused already of selling out China. They had a hit list of people that they disliked because we criticised China and China government and talked about corruption in China and so on and so they came to McCarthy's aid and they said, here's a fine list of people to work on and so his whole focus changed. The original two hundred and some people were mostly people engaged in European affairs or this or that, but then he shifted almost entirely, Latimore and Vincent and Davis and Sirs and myself, it all became Far East and material fed to him by the China lobby. His original speech on me in the Congress, in the Senate, could almost be read side by side of an article in a magazine called 'Plain Talkers', published by Anan Coburg, who was one of the sort of moving spirits behind the China lobby.
INT: So you think there was a direct link up between...
JS: (interrupts) Oh...
INT: ...the China lobby and McCarthy was the instrument of the China lobby?
JS: He became the instrument of the China lobby, yes, because he was desperate and then they had the only information he thought he could use. But there's also another thing between McCarthy and the China lobby, but between McCarthy and the Cold War. I mean, this is part of the Cold War. McCarthy would not have had any success, people would not have listened to him, he would not have gotten the sort of attention he got if it weren't for a public that was conditioned by the Cold War andreceptive to ideas like conspiracy theories behind the fall of China.