Responsa: Thunder Out of China

Deep under China World Trade Center
Is it me, or is this town getting…quieter?
1257 hrs.

In my recent post reviewing Thunder Out of China, a work I believe belongs on the history reading list of anyone interested in understanding modern China, I incorrectly implied that Theodore White was the sole author of the work. I failed to point out that Annalee W. Jacoby was the work’s co-author and was (in my opinion) instrumental in setting the balanced tone for the book’s critique of Chiang Kai-shek. This was not only careless on my part, it was dumb: Ms. Jacoby’s life could be the subject of at least a movie, if not a miniseries. (I have since corrected the post.)

I am indebted to Professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom at the University of California, Irvine, not only for pointing out my omission, but for doing it with far more collegiality and professionalism than my elementary mistake deserved. Dr. Wasserstrom contributes to the excellent collaborative blog The China Beat, which we have added to our Heroes of the People list.

One of the reasons this book is important is that it helps balance a bit the effects of America’s wartime and Cold War near-canonization of Chiang. Any objective reading of modern Chinese history will find few true heroes among the leaders on either side, yet while The Great Helmsman has been thoroughly muckraked, The Generalissimo has been denied the scrutiny of a scholarly iconoclast. Until that changes, the more balanced contemporary accounts are all the more important to keep on our collective reading lists.