Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.

Chapter Two The IPR Years

Chapter Two
The IPR Years

One organization likely to have a job for someone with Lattimore's background was the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), headquartered in New York. The IPR was a prestigious study and discussion group founded in Hawaii in 1925 by prominent Americans affiliated with the YMCA. The founders' motivating idea was that YMCA-tested procedures for bringing members of different races together, encouraging frank discussion to meliorate conflicts, should be applied to all the peoples of the Pacific basin.

The IPR was therefore organized to "study the conditions of the Pacific peoples with a view to the improvement of their mutual relations." The idea caught on, various national councils were created, and a Pacific IPR secretariat (the Pacific Council) was established to coordinate conferences and publications. By the summer of 1933 the American Council of the IPR was a well-funded operation, the Pacific Council was publishing a prestigious journal, and the fifth conference of the organization was about to be held at Banff. Lattimore applied to attend the Banff conference and was accepted.

The major IPR journal, Pacific Affairs , happened to need an editor that summer. H. G. W. Woodhead, under whom Lattimore had worked a decade earlier on the Peking and Tientsin Times , was at the Banff conference and recommended Lattimore for the job. The IPR approved, and Lattimore accepted. The position fit his ambitions perfectly. He could do his editing from whatever base he chose and have time to carry out his own travel, research, and writing.

Lattimore spent the remaining months of 1933 and the first part of 1934 in New York, talking to IPR personnel and learning about editing. He had met many of the IPR staff at Banff; in New York he got to know


them better. Most prominent was Edward C. Carter, secretary general of the Pacific Council, hence Lattimore's boss. Carter was innovative, brash, dynamic, and fully supportive of the fledging editor. Carter's main assistant, Frederick V. Field, had been editor of the Harvard Crimson and had studied imperialism at the London School of Economics. When he went to work for the IPR, he was a Socialist; shortly after Lattimore met him, though, Field moved further left, supporting the Communist party, but he kept his politics out of IPR activities. Lattimore was friendly with Field and respected him.

One IPR staff member who became Lattimore's lifelong friend was Joseph Barnes. Barnes was with the IPR from 1931 to 1934, after which he joined the New York Herald-Tribune , serving as Moscow correspondent, then in Berlin, and from 1939 to 1948, as foreign editor.[1] During World War II Barnes and Lattimore both worked for the Office of War Information. Until his death in 1970 Barnes was foremost among those whose opinion on world events Lattimore valued.

After his apprenticeship with IPR headquarters Lattimore and his wife went back to Peking via Hawaii, where he lectured to the IPR chapter. From Honolulu to Yokohama he and Eleanor shared passage on the SS President Coolidge with Agnes Smedley, perhaps the most volatile and adventurous radical American woman of the times. (The Chinese Communist party rejected her application for membership because of this volatility.) Lattimore, who had never met anyone like Smedley, was fascinated. Five pages of the eight-page letter he wrote to Barnes while aboard the President Coolidge were devoted to Smedley:

She's very intense, and extraordinarily naive, and owing I suppose to her life in India and Shanghai has a spy-phobia, detecting detectives behind every pillar and peepers at every porthole. She sees the world in what I can only describe as folklore terms—capitalist consuls, police and other officials are all agents of the Devil; Soviet generals, instead of being militarists, are servants of the Kingdom of God. Her face glowed rapturously as she told of travelling across Siberia, too sick to get out of her berth, in a compartment she shared with a Red Army general. You could tell by the insignia on his collar that he was a general, she said, her eyes widening, and shining with remembered bliss. This angelic being, when he found that she was too sick to share his black bread and herrings, bought her milk at the stations.[2]

From this sarcasm it is clear that Lattimore had no maudlin sentiments about the Russians.

When the Lattimores arrived back in Peking, China was still in turmoil,


but the unrest did not stop his forays into the countryside to study trade patterns, agriculture, peasant life, and the effects of Japanese encroachment on the Mongols. In 1935 the Dilowa, who was then a high-ranking official with the national minorities office of the Chiang Kai-shek government, arranged with Inner Mongolian authorities for Lattimore to visit the annual ritual honoring the relics of Genghis Khan at Ejen Horo, deep in the Ordos Desert. This pilgrimage, similar to that of devout Muslims to Mecca, was restricted by the Mongols to those deeply sympathetic to Mongol nationalism and required a hair-raising trip of four weeks. Lattimore later wrote an account of part of the trip for Atlantic Monthly .[3] He was impressed and affected by the ceremony but did not credit most of the relics in the shrine as genuine.

The years from 1934 to 1938 were the most productive of Lattimore's life. The combination of field trips and study in Peking was everything he anticipated. The foreign community with which he interacted constituted a stellar group; it included, among others, Joseph Stilwell, I. A. Richards, John Stewart Service, John King Fairbank, Edgar Snow, Anna Louise Strong, H. G. Creel, O. Edmund Clubb, Nelson T. Johnson, and Harold Isaacs. These were both social and intellectual friends.

The scholar from whom Lattimore learned the most was the archaeologist Carl Whiting Bishop, later one of the curators of the Smithsonian Institution. Lattimore's affinity with Bishop was based not only on the latter's mastery of Chinese language and history but also on his scholarly methods. Bishop was a field archaeologist rather than a theoretician working from other people's findings. Lattimore remarked, "He worked in the way in which I myself was trying to work: observe the facts, and see if from these facts you can derive a generalization. I showed Bishop the typescript of my first draft of Inner Asian Frontiers of China , and where I would enter into speculation, trying to identify this or that primitive tribe in the earliest Chinese references, Bishop would send my draft back, saying: 'This is complete nonsense, and must be thoroughly rewritten.' "

Karl Wittfogel, also then in Peking, was another to whom Lattimore showed his first drafts. A refugee from Hitler's Germany, Wittfogel was trying to establish himself as a scholar among American and British sinologues. At Wittfogel's request Lattimore added footnotes to Inner Asian Frontiers citing Wittfogel's work. Lattimore said later, "It was over Wittfogel that I had my only real quarrel with my wife. Eleanor was always a much better judge of people than I was. She said, 'Be careful. This man is flattering you in order to get started in the United States. He is the kind who is always either licking your boots or jumping on you with his own


boots. He could turn against you at any time.' But I refused to listen to her."

In addition to intellectuals and diplomats Lattimore had contact with two future politicians of great influence. In the summer of 1934 the Lattimores vacationed at a mountain resort in Shansi Province, where their son David came down with tonsillitis. In the nearest medical facility, a remote mud-brick hospital, Dr. Walter Judd took out David's tonsils. John Foster Dulles, touring Asia on behalf of American Protestant missions, visited Peking during the early 1930s. Lattimore met him at lunch in the U.S. embassy: "He was quite firm in his opinion that it was ridiculous for the Chinese to resist Japanese invasion until they had settled the Communist question in China. Only then could they turn to other business." Lattimore did not agree but held his peace.

There was one big difference between Lattimore's 1934-38 tour of duty in Peking and his earlier stays: as editor of Pacific Affairs he was sitting atop an active volcano. The YMCA idea of decreasing intergroup hostilities by getting people together in the same room may have worked reasonably well, but publishing a journal that had to carry highly partisan authors with irreconcilable national animosities did not produce harmony.

By the time of Lattimore's editorship, active national IPR councils included the British, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, French, Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese. Each national council was autonomous, and Lattimore, as editor, worked for them all. Several times he requested the IPR Pacific Council for guidance on what topics Pacific Affairs was to cover, and how. But such guidance was not forthcoming, and Lattimore found that any editorial decision would offend someone. "As the editor of the magazine that served as the international forum of the Institute, I was right in the middle, and no matter who was throwing a brickbat at whom I was likely to get clipped."[4] Colonialism and imperialism were the topics that occasioned the most anguish. Should discussions about Asian independence movements be included in Pacific Affairs ? Surely this was a topic important to the "conditions of the Pacific peoples," but when Lattimore published scholarly analyses predicting the end of colonialism in Asia, the British, Dutch, and French all raised hell.

Lattimore was immediately caught up in the bitter Sino-Japanese quarrel. Pacific Affairs carried articles exposing, and damning, the most glaring imperial operation of the day—that of the Japanese in China. Muted though they were, these articles not only put him in the middle of Sino-Japanese rivalry but also caught him between pro- and anti-Japanese of-


ficials of the U.S. State Department. Press correspondents covering Asia, American businessmen, and even university people were similarly divided.

Few Americans remember that before Pearl Harbor a substantial group of Japanophiles in this country thought that the Japanese program for developing Asian resources—the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere—was reasonable and should be encouraged. Many of them also believed that the stories about Japanese atrocities in China were false or exaggerated and that the Chinese, disorderly and politically incompetent, would benefit by Japanese discipline. The pro-Japanese group had much in common with the pro-Hitler people. Both factions were attracted to the order and efficiency of the Fascist countries, which they regarded as the last bulwark against the horrifying spread of bolshevism, and both thought Fascist leaders could be reasoned with, appeased, and kept under control.

Lattimore rejected the Japanophile position entirely. He had seen the atrocities, did not think the Chinese politically incompetent, and did not trust the Japanese militarists in Manchuria.[5] As to obstructing bolshevism, he did not believe fascism was an effective defense against whatever designs the Russians might have, and he insisted that the main task of students of Asia was to alert the world to the dangers of Japanese imperialism. He later acknowledged that he "failed to perceive that Communism was opening a new chapter in the history of Chinese politics."[6] But geopolitics was still for him primary, and ideology secondary.

The only Pacific power that refused to participate in IPR activities was the Soviet Union. In 1927 IPR Secretary General Merle Davis went to Moscow to encourage Soviet participation, but was unsuccessful. John N. Thomas, author of a perceptive study of the IPR, notes that "in retrospect it seems likely that the Soviets were somewhat suspicious about the benefits of joining a 'bourgeois' institution funded by 'monopoly capitalists' such as the Rockefeller Foundation."[7] The American Communist party had a similar attitude. Bella Dodd, a prominent former Communist, told the FBI in 1952 that "people in the Communist Party did not think too highly of the Institute of Pacific Relations." She quoted Alexander Trachtenberg, head of International Publishers and chief Party theoretician, as saying that the IPR was "an instrument designed to further the commercial interests of the member countries."[8]

Like his predecessor, Edward C. Carter found Soviet noncooperation in the IPR galling. As Lattimore put it, "Carter set out to infiltrate the Soviet Union." Carter's crusade to get the Russians involved in the IPR was one of the major themes at the Banff conference; the proceedings of that


conference lament the Russian absence, attributing it largely to U.S. refusal to recognize the Soviet Union diplomatically. American recognition in 1933 improved the situation, and Carter went to Moscow in 1934 to see if the Russians would now join. Minutes of a meeting Carter held with A. Arosev, president of the Soviet society for foreign cultural relations, show Carter trying to convince Arosev that the IPR did not intend to "use the Soviet Union for political purposes." The IPR simply recognized the importance of Soviet studies of the Pacific area. Arosev, unconvinced, responded, "It would be hard to convince anyone in the Soviet Union that the Institute was not political. Any organization in which England, Japan, China and the United States are working, because of the delicate relations between these countries, is of necessity political."[9]

However reluctantly, the Soviets did then designate their Pacific Ocean Institute, a branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, as the Russian unit affiliated with the IPR. This was a government bureau, not an independent private organization as were the other IPR national councils, but for Carter it was welcome progress anyway.

In 1935, for the first and only time, a Soviet author submitted an article to Pacific Affairs . In one sense Lattimore was delighted to receive it. Under the czars, Russian scholarship on the Mongols and other Central Asian peoples had been extensive; the Soviets appeared to be equally interested in their frontier areas, and Lattimore hoped for many high-quality contributions by Soviet authors. Unfortunately, the 1935 contribution killed that expectation. It concerned the sale by Russia of its share in the Chinese Eastern Railway, and it contained some rough language. Lattimore considered it "rank propaganda" and "an uncomfortable wallop in the midriff" to his hopes for serious Soviet contributions.[10] But despite his misgivings he felt obliged to print it, including its derogatory references to "Chinese reactionaries" and "Japanese adventurers." The Japanese IPR protested bitterly; by contrast, the Chinese, noted Lattimore, "took the attitude that the Soviet Council was a member, that the origin of the article was quite clear, and that the Soviet Council was entitled to have its say."[11]

The quality of possible Soviet contributions to IPR journals was less important to Secretary General Carter than was the gain in prestige if the Soviets became active in IPR affairs. In early 1936, as the IPR conference to be held that summer at Yosemite approached, Carter decided to make a maximum push to obtain Soviet participation. He went to Moscow to confer with Soviet Pacific Ocean Institute officials, taking with .him Harriet Moore, a scholar specializing in Russian affairs at IPR headquarters


in New York. Carter also wrote to Lattimore in Peking, instructing him to travel to the Yosemite Conference via Moscow and meet Carter and Moore there.

Lattimore was ambivalent about this mission. The Soviets had been rough on him in their own publications, saying that "his scholasticism is similar to Hamlet's madness," vilifying him for publishing an article by then-Trotskyite Harold Isaacs, and accusing him (contrary to facts they should have known) of justifying the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Lattimore told the FBI in 1950 that "the Russians seemed to reserve their roughest and most uncomplimentary remarks for me."[12] The Carter summons to Moscow also involved some personal inconvenience for the Lattimores. Two weeks on the Trans-Siberian railroad with a five-year-old was a journey decidedly inferior to simply boarding a Pacific liner at Shanghai. But Carter's wishes, plus the fact that Lattimore had never been in the Soviet Union, governed his decision. This time the Soviets gave him a visa.

The Lattimores arrived in Moscow toward the end of March 1936, staying for several days at the home of U.S. Consul Angus Ward. Eleanor and David then went on to England while Owen stayed for two weeks with Demaree Bess, then Christian Science Monitor correspondent in Moscow.

Much of Lattimore's time was spent in meetings with Soviet officials, including V. E. Motylev, who complained about Lattimore's editing of Pacific Affairs . Lattimore did not back down, especially on Motylev's charge that Lattimore was pandering to Japanese aggression. Motylev demanded that the IPR and its journal support the line that Japanese aggression should be dealt with through collective security arrangements involving all the great powers. Lattimore responded that Pacific Affairs served all the national councils, even the Japanese, and had to avoid outright partisanship.[13]

Lattimore hoped that he would be able to make contacts in Moscow that would allow him to visit the Mongolian People's Republic, access to which was controlled by the Russians. Motylev would have none of it. Japan was threatening in the area, he said, and "Mongolia now is constantly ready for war and conditions are very unstable." Lattimore did not believe these excuses, suspecting instead that the Russians simply did not trust him.[14]

All things considered, Carter achieved little on his mission to Moscow. The Soviets did send two representatives to Yosemite, but they never again attended an IPR conference, never submitted another article to Pa-


ciflc Affairs , continued carping about Lattimore's editing, and reneged on most of the literature exchanges and other commitments they made in the Moscow meetings. As World War II drew closer, the Soviets did not even answer mail from IPR headquarters. But Carter got some publicity from the Soviet promise to attend Yosemite.

Despite rebuffs, Lattimore did benefit from the Moscow trip. He talked at length with Academician B. Pankratov, a Mongolist whom he had met in Peking, and with other Asian specialists to whom he was introduced by Demaree Bess. Lattimore was also invited to address the Soviet Academy of Sciences about his views on Asia, but he was not then fluent in Russian and did not know how well his lecture was translated.[15] He noticed, however, that a man in the back of the room got up and moved several rows forward during his speech, repeating this maneuver until he was right in front of the podium. At the end of the lecture the man disappeared in the crowd. Lattimore turned to his hosts and asked who the person so intent on hearing every word was. His hosts were amazed: "Why that was Borodin. Didn't you recognize him?" Lattimore knew well that Mikhail Borodin was the famous Soviet agent who had advised Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek from 1923 to 1927, enabling them to establish the Kuomintang as a powerful force. But Lattimore had been in North China while Borodin was in Canton, and they had never met.[16]

Carter thought that Lattimore, while in Moscow, should see U.S. Ambassador William Bullitt to give him the latest information about developments in China. Impressed with Lattimore's critique of events in Inner Mongolia, Bullitt took Lattimore to see a Soviet vice-commissar of foreign affairs. The vice-commissar listened impassively; Lattimore felt it was a waste of time.[17]

Perhaps the most significant event of Lattimore's stay in Moscow was his exposure to Freda Utley, who was at a discussion of Chinese problems held by a Soviet research institute.[18] Utley, a British Communist, had married a Russian working in London and then moved to Moscow with her husband. While there she worked for the Soviets in various capacities, bore a son, and saw her husband disappear in Stalin's purges. She thought her husband had been sent to a labor camp. In later years her path crossed Lattimore's in ways that neither could have foreseen.

After Moscow Lattimore went to Holland, then joined his family in England, where he lectured to IPR groups before going on to Yosemite. The Yosemite Conference of August 16-19, 1936, was the largest and most publicized IPR gathering to date.[19] There were 113 accredited delegates representing eleven national councils, with press and other observ-


ers in addition. The preface to the printed conference proceedings contains a paean to Soviet attendance, and the presence of Motylev, delegation head, and Vladimir Romm, Izvestia correspondent, no doubt contributed something to discussions. Other notables were also present, among them Newton D. Baker, U.S. Secretary of War during World War I, and Hu Shih, the eminent Chinese philosopher. Lattimore kept a low profile, though he did deliver himself of his pro-Mongol sentiments, which, as usual, irritated Russians, Chinese, and Japanese alike.

Motylev predictably pushed the major Soviet foreign policy "line": peace was indivisible, collective security was the only way to avoid another war, and the League of Nations had to be rejuvenated. But it was the Japanese "line" that got the most attention. The edited conference proceedings reveal the naïveté of the editors, who, a mere five years before Pearl Harbor and with eyewitness accounts of Japanese atrocities in Manchuria circulating widely among the delegates, incorporated in the document Japanese propaganda so childish as to defy common sense. Japanese naval expansion, claimed one Japanese delegate, was "largely to replace obsolete ships. We are not interested in entering a naval race."[20] A "formal evening address by a Japanese member" declared "we may not all own Ford cars, but we still are happy with raising morning glories in our less expensive flower pots."[21] War, said all the Japanese, was unthinkable.

Not all the utopian rhetoric about Japan's intentions came from the Japanese. Elizabeth Boody, an American economist and journalist who later married the Harvard economist Joseph Schumpeter, contributed her share to the glorification of Japan's forward-looking policies. But while IPR editors and conference leaders downplayed their opposition to Japanese aggression in China, Lattimore and most of the conferees regarded that as the most important issue.

Yosemite was the high-water mark of Soviet activity in the IPR. Soviet officials continued to complain about Lattimore and Pacific Affairs ; none of the efforts of Carter or Lattimore to mollify their sensitivities brought them back into the fold.

After Yosemite, Lattimore spent twelve weeks in London studying Russian with a tutor. Dealing with the prickly Soviets through an interpreter annoyed him, and he had little faith in available translations of the extensive czarist sources of Inner Asia. Freda Utley was also then in London, having left Moscow in despair of ever seeing her husband again. Relations between Utley and Lattimore were cordial; she had admired his talking back to Motylev and his crew in Moscow. Carter, she thought,


had been much too sycophantic. Lattimore hoped to improve his newly acquired Russian language capability by spending some time in Moscow before returning to China, but he was again denied a visa. In spring 1937 he and his family went back to China via the Suez Canal.

During Lattimore's absence from China the famous Sian kidnapping of Chiang Kai-shek occurred. Chang Hsueh-liang, former warlord of Manchuria, was stationed in Sian as commander of Nationalist troops arrayed against the Communists; Chang felt that Chiang Kai-shek was wasting resources fighting the Chinese Communists, whom he wanted to see included in a United Front opposed to the Japanese. In December 1936 Generalissimo Chiang was on a visit to Sian; Chang Hsueh-liang's forces arrested him and threatened his life if he did not make peace with the Communists and promise vigorous action against Japan. Chou En-lai was instrumental in getting Chiang released and in working out terms of the United Front.[22]

When Lattimore arrived in China soon after the Sian Incident, he was impressed by the outpouring of popular support for Chiang as a result of the United Front agreement. Later Lattimore came to believe that he had been misled by this surge of popularity into an exaggerated belief in Chiang's leadership skills.

The Chinese Communists were then quartered in Shensi Province, first at Paoan, then Yenan, establishing a separate jurisdiction in northwest China and developing their own armies, mostly guerrillas, to harass the Japanese. These Communist activities were unknown to the outside world until 1936, when journalist Edgar Snow visited Shensi and wrote glowing reports of Communist efficiency, morale, and popular support. After Snow's revelations in newspaper articles and his book Red Star over China , a trip to Yenan became the top priority of every Western journalist covering China.

Getting to Yenan was not easy. The Nationalist government was outraged at Snow's favorable accounts of Mao and followers. From early 1937 on, the Nationalists tried to block attempts by Westerners to reach Yenan. The Communists, on the other hand, broadcast invitations to any and all to come inspect their operations. Sian was the gateway to Yenan; many Western journalists tried to get there, but most were apprehended and turned back by Nationalist authorities.

One of the would-be travelers to Yenan was Thomas A. Bisson, a sinologue and fellow of the Foreign Policy Association who was studying Chinese politics from Peking. Bisson knew Lattimore and was aware of Lattimore's celebrated ability to get to remote places (except in the Soviet


Union). Shortly after Lattimore got back to Peking from London, Bisson approached him about visiting Yenan. Lattimore had never been there and had in fact no contacts with Chinese Communists, but he was intrigued by Edgar Snow's accounts and immediately agreed. As Lattimore described events in an article he wrote for the London Times , "Not knowing of any underground tunnels that would lead me to north Shensi, I set about planning the journey in trustful innocence. I sent a letter to the Red capital, by ordinary mail, with my address candidly printed on the back of the envelope—and got in answer a cordial invitation."[23]

By the time Lattimore got his invitation from Yenan, Philip Jaffe and his wife had asked to join the party. Lattimore had not previously met Jaffe but knew he was launching a new magazine about the Far East to be called Amerasia ; Lattimore had agreed to serve on its editorial board.

If any Caucasian could bring off a trip through the turbulent Chinese countryside, Lattimore was that person. And in Sian he met a kindred soul who was not only wise in the ways of the countryside but also ran a motor repair shop: Effie Hill. Lattimore described Effie in his foreword to Bisson's Yenan in June 1937 :

Effie was a prime example of that picaresque genus, "the parson's profligate son," of whom there were quite a lot in old China. His parents were Swedish Lutheran missionaries. He had grown up on a sector of the Inner Mongolian frontier long ago settled by Chinese colonists where the local Chinese dialect (which was in fact his native language) was considered by other Chinese to be especially uncouth and comic. He had a rare gift of clowning in this language, to attract laughter and sympathy. With an incomplete education he had drifted about Northwest China for a good many years, although still a young man. He had driven cars for Chinese merchants, Chinese warlords, and the Sven Hedin. Sino-Swedish Expedition in Inner Mongolia and Sinkiang. He had an incredible knowledge of the seamy side of frontier life—brothel slang, drinking slang, folklore, bandit lore.[24]

Lattimore and Effie hit it off immediately, spending several long nights singing over beer, with selections in Mongol performed by both of them.[25] Effie was amenable to transporting the party to Yenan. He had a battered old Dodge and access to gasoline, and he was known around Sian for taking foreigners on touristy trips to local shrines. The party left June 18, traveling three days and spending four days in Yenan.[26] Mao, Chou, Chu Teh, and the rest of the Communist functionaries spoke with them freely. The visitors found the Communist operation fascinating, as had Edgar Snow, and all but Mrs. Jaffe published accounts of their trip. Lattimore,


though, was somewhat frustrated with his opportunities to investigate Communist operations. His major interest being Communist relations with Mongols and other minorities, he requested permission to visit the school maintained outside Yenan for non-Han peoples. As he told it later, "I was not allowed to, and the best I could manage was to meet a group of them who were brought into town for the purpose. The interview was not successful. The Communists had an interpreter present, and were obviously upset when I started talking to a couple of Mongols in their own language, which the interpreter did not understand; and as I did not want to make trouble for anybody, I gave up the attempt."[27]

When the Lattimore party was ready to leave, Mao tried to persuade Effie Hill to stay behind and take charge of the maintenance and repair of what passed for a motor pool in Yenan. Lattimore thought this effort

most revealing of Chairman Mao's mind. . . . Effie, in spite of his fantastically complete understanding (in certain ways) of his special Chinese milieu, had also a kind of racist contempt for it. His attitude was, "this is a world of skulduggery and crooked dealing. I know the way these Chinese think but with my extra margin of being a white man, I can always out-doublecross them." Socially, I think he would have to be called a lumpen-bourgeois. He knew little of politics except on the level of "who gets away with the boodle," but he had a destestation of communism. He must have had a deep instinct that it would ruin his raffish way of life.

It is interesting that Chairman Mao, while he was polite, considerate, and patient with us Americans, really tried as hard as he knew how to retain this declassé Swede in Yenan. And why not? American intellectuals come a dime a dozen. There is a new crop every generation. But a European motor mechanic, with an earthy command of a genuinely peasant dialect, able to show what you do with machinery and explain how you do it—that would be a treasure. I am glad to be able to record also the opinion of Effie Hill, the gut-reaction anti-Communist. On the way back from Yenan I asked him, "Well, now that that's over, what do you think of Mao Tse-tung?" His answer was, "I've been with all kinds—merchants, warlords, intellectuals, Kuomintang political big-shots. But this is the only Chinese I have seen who could unite China."[28]

Lattimore wrote two stories for the London Times when he returned to Peking, sending copies of them to IPR headquarters in New York and to the American embassy in Nanking. The embassy promptly forwarded them to the secretary of state with a cover letter summarizing Lattimore's conclusions. From a later vantage, two of Lattimore's judgments stand out.


The first is that if Japan continued to encroach on China, "a large part of both the Chinese army and Chinese people will go over to the Communists." The second judgment, less prescient but more probative as to Lattimore's candor about Communist aims, is worth citing in full:

The Communists had appealed for a United Front long before the capture of Chiang Kai-shek at Sian last December. That was only the incident which gave them a chance to intervene, to demonstrate that they really wanted a United Front more than they wanted the Generalissimo's head and that they were prepared to make concessions even when, temporarily, they held the kind of advantage that terrorists would have used ruthlessly.

Does this mean the abandonment of the Revolution? It seems to me as foolish to think so as to suppose that the Soviet Union is on its way back to capitalism. Primarily, the Communists must have felt that the United Front as a rallying cry against Japan would have a wider popular appeal than the demand for revolution; while secondarily, a democratic phase in China would mean a filtering down of political education among the common people, making it possible to renew Communist demands in the future.[29]

One will find nowhere a more accurate assessment of Chinese Communist strategy or a more vigorous assertion that Mao and followers were committed Communists, not "mere agrarian reformers" or "so-called Communists" as some journalists were then saying.[30]

On July 7, 1937, after Lattimore was back in Peking, the Japanese used an incident between Japanese and Chinese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge as an excuse to capture Peking and extend their invasion of China. This incident brought on large-scale fighting, but the Lattimores missed most of it. Their son David was ill with dysentery, and the Lattimores went to a seaside resort for the summer. When they came back to Peking in September, the Japanese occupation had become stifling. The mails were being monitored, and Lattimore knew that publishing a journal from Peking would be impossible under the circumstances. Nor would he be free to travel as before in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. He decided to return to the United States.

Before he left, one incident impressed on him the fallacy of the Japanese claim to have Mongol support. Lattimore and a journalist friend visited the Japanese Office for Mongol Affairs in Peking and spoke with a young Mongol in Japanese uniform. At first they spoke Chinese, which yielded nothing but official Japanese propaganda. Then Lattimore started speaking in Mongol, and the whole atmosphere changed. The young Mongol


"asked me where and how I had learned. I told him. 'You must be Lattimore,' he said. I told him I was. 'In that case,' he said, 'I will talk with you, but not with your friend. Don't pay any attention to this Japanese uniform. All of us here are the same. We are working for the Japanese because we have to. But we are not really working for the Japanese. We are Mongol nationalists, and we work for Mongol nationalism if, as, and when we can.'"[31]

In December 1937 the Lattimores boarded ship to return to the United States. Until then Lattimore had been almost totally absorbed by events in Asia. This absorption led to a distinct "Asia first" orientation toward the global struggle developing between the Axis powers and the West. From Lattimore's viewpoint, aggression had started in Asia, and Japan's success had set the precedents for Italian and German activities in Ethiopia, Spain, and Czechoslovakia. As he explains in his 1953 autobiographical sketch for Senator Joseph O'Mahoney,

I left China hotly anti-Japanese, and ready to argue with anybody, in print or on the platform, that the whole trouble in the Far East was the fault of the Japanese and not the Chinese. I was particularly bitter about the Japanese propaganda—the most successful propaganda they had—that Japan was "saving" China from the Russians and the Chinese Communists. I put it the other way round, and argued that if the Japanese cracked up the regular armies and regular government of China the Chinese would go on fighting, but the leadership would pass to the Communists; that it was the Japanese by their aggression, and not the Chinese by their patriotic resistance to a foreign invader, who were promoting the danger of Communism.[32]

Lattimore left China with more than burning convictions about Japanese aggression. He had used his time to publish several important books. A new edition of Manchuria, Cradle of Conflict , came out in 1935, incorporating an updated account of Japanese activities, and The Mongols of Manchuria was published in 1934. Both became standard works. In addition he produced a dozen or so articles, one of which, "On the Wickedness of Being Nomads," is a ringing defense of the nomadic life and a biting commentary on those, especially Marxists, who stigmatize nomads as backward. In this article Lattimore condemns not just Chinese and Japanese for chauvinism but also the Soviet Union for "ruthlessly subjugating" Mongol practices to the "alien ideas" stemming from Moscow. He notes that "Soviet influence in Outer Mongolia is, apparently, much more indirectly and circumspectly exercized than Japanese control in Manchu-


ria."[33] But the clear message of the article was hostile to all three Asian powers.

Lattimore spent the first six months of 1938 in California, editing Pacific Affairs and writing Inner Asian Frontiers of China , a book that solidly established his scholarly reputation and continues as a classic to this day.

Pacific Affairs remained troublesome. Lattimore went far to include articles and letters representing all points of view, even those he personally rejected. One significant instance involved Edgar Snow. W. E. Wheeler II of San Francisco wrote a letter to the editor that Lattimore printed in the March 1938 issue. Wheeler was incensed at a favorable account of the Chinese Communists by Snow carried in a previous issue.

Snow found, as had Lattimore, that the Chinese Communists' temporary suspension of revolution in favor of land reform and rent control might win over many Chinese peasants to their cause. Wheeler could not believe this scenario. His own studies of Chinese history had led him to believe that the importance of the family, the power of the scholar-aristocracy, and the disreputability of the "vagabond" class from which the Communists came all combined to make it inconceivable that Mao and colleagues could ever come to power: "As an aim and a principle, Communism in China is doomed." Wheeler's contempt for Snow, and for the editor who accepted Snow's article, permeates his two-page diatribe.[34]

Lattimore could not reach Snow for a rebuttal, so he made a few comments on Wheeler's letter himself. He was the soul of moderation. He observed that the consensus of those who had actually visited the Communist areas was that these were neither marauders nor vagabonds, nor were they insincere, and that the hold of the scholar-aristocracy was passing. Further, the Communist insistence on fighting Japan, which accounted for the moderation of their ideology, was a highly successful tactic. It capitalized on "the most passionately held ideal of the whole Chinese people—its claim to survival among the free nations."[35] In the face of Wheeler's armchair theorizing, one might have expected a more vigorous response from an empiricist like Lattimore.

Lattimore still hoped to get manuscripts for Pacific Affairs from the Soviets, but an incident in 1938 scotched that possibility for good. Lattimore sent an article he wanted to publish by the British economist L. E. Hubbard to Motylev for Soviet comment, as was the usual practice. Hubbard had written that economic conditions in Russia were deteriorating, and Motylev was furious. Nevertheless, there was no official Soviet response to Hubbard, so Lattimore published the article in the June 1938


issue, giving editorial footnotes and also carrying a companion piece with a more favorable view of the Soviet economy.[36] Motylev was not mollified. There were no further Soviet contacts with the IPR, and in 1939 the Soviets even stopped paying their former two or three thousand dollar contribution to IPR. They had paid a total of $12,000 during their brief membership, a fraction of IPR's annual budget of more than $100,000.[37]


Chapter Two The IPR Years

Preferred Citation: Newman, Robert P. Owen Lattimore and the "Loss" of China. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1992 1992.