by Larry Peery


It’s rare, but it does occasionally happen, that I run into a subject for a piece of dip&DIP Peeriblah that is too big for even me to tackle. One such case came up not long ago. Here’s the partial story.

I was thinking about China, as I frequently do these days, and particularly a news item I had just read mentioning that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had met face-to-face with PRC Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi three times in the last month. Even though the world seems exceptionally screwed up at the moment, that fact amazed me. I remember in the good old days when U.S. secretaries of state stayed home and tended to the country's foreign affairs from behind a big oak desk in Foggy Bottom. Today’s secretaries of state in a four year term routinely expect to travel close to a million air miles visiting   a hundred countries aboard their customized Air Force 757. “Customized” you ask? Tired of traveling on whatever Air Force KC-135 that was available, one secretary of state, who shall remain nameless, demanded a better means of international transport. In due course the Air Force came up with an on-demand Boeing 757 cargo jet that could be outfitted to internally carry a specially adapted single-wide mobile home unit equipped with an office, secure communications facilities, a small kitchenette, a sleeping area and, most important a real bathroom with a real shower that had real hot and cold running water!

But back to China. From Kerry and Wang (A bit of trivia: Most Dippers would know that John Kerry got his big political boost in politics when he married Maria Teresa Thierstein Simoes-Ferreira, the mega-rich widow of a former US senator who was looking for a husband that might get her an office in the east wing of the White House, who in turn was a heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune. Today she’s known as Teresa Heinz Kerry. However, did you know that Wang Yi’s wife is the daughter of Qian Jiadong, the Foreign Affairs Secretary of Zhou Enlai?) my thoughts wandered back to the days of Henry Kissinger and his first visit to China in 1971 as President Richard Nixon’s national security advisor. But before that, I wondered, what American secretaries of state, if any, had visited China? Then the questions just tumbled out: What high-level diplomatic contacts had there been between the USA and the PRC, or even the Republic of China? What about high-level Diplomatic contacts between the two countries. When I started wondering if someday the Diplomacy hobby would look back at Fang Zheng’s trip to Italy and Edi Birsan’s trip to China as Diplomacy’s equivalent to the Kissinger/Nixon trip to China; I knew I was on to something. But exactly what?

A good piece of Peeriblah always begins with a bit of vintage history , the more obscure the better. But where to begin in a study of USA-Chinese dip&Dip relations? As has become a habit I turned to Wiki, Goggle and You Tube to begin my research. Here are a few highlights or historical milestones on our journey:

1784: First Representatives of the United States Went to China

A ship called the Empress of China became the first vessel to sail from the United States to China, arriving in Guangzhou (Canton) in August. The vessel’s supercargo, Samuel Shaw, had been appointed as an unofficial consul by the U.S. Congress, but he did not make contact with Chinese officials or gain diplomatic recognition for the United States. Since the 1760s all trade with Western nations had been conducted at Guangzhou through a set group of Chinese merchants with official licenses to trade. Some residents of the American colonies had engaged in the China trade before this time, but this journey marked the new nation’s entrance into the lucrative China trade in tea, porcelain, and silk.

1785: First Chinese Arrived in the United States

Three Chinese sailors named Ping, Pang and Pong arrived in Baltimore, where they were stranded on shore by the trading ship that brought them there from Guangzhou. There is no record of what happened to them after that. Perhaps because of their efforts today the Baltimore Museum of Art has one of the finest Chinese and Asian art collections in the United States and the United States has over 45,000 Chinese restaurants, three times as many as the country has McDonald’s.

1844: Signing of the Treaty of Wangxia (Wang-hsia/Wang-hiya)

Macao, a peninsula in southern China near Hong Kong, was settled by Portugal in the 1500s. For centuries, China restricted Western commerce to this area. U.S. Commissioner Caleb Cushing arrived in Macao in February 1844 to negotiate for American trade rights. The artist George R. West accompanied Cushing and painted many scenes of China. Among the 75 or so paintings and drawings West did that are now preserved in the National Archives in Suitland, MD are:

See The First Treaty with China exhibit. Check the image captions.

West’s paintings were not all that accurate and some of them included multi-subjects from different locations that were combined into a single panorama picture, much as Canaletto did.

For seven generations the Peerys have been opening new vistas on China to Americans beginning with William Peery who as West’s assistant did the same thing as West but had the bad luck to get sick while visiting Guangzhou/Canton where he died and was buried on Dutchmans’ Island in the Pearl River. Peery’s grave gradually fell into ruin and remained unknown until the early 2000s when it was “rediscovered” by friends of the author on a mission to uncover and repair the old cemetery.

1898: Henry Luce, son of American missionaries, was born in China.

Luce, who remained editor-in-chief of all his publications (Time, Life, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, etc.) until 1964, maintained a position as an influential member of the Republican Party. An instrumental figure behind the so-called "China Lobby", he played a large role in steering American foreign policy and popular sentiment in favor of Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek and his wife, Soong Mei-ling, in their war against the Japanese. (The Chiangs appeared in the cover of Time eleven times between 1927 and 1955.)

Once ambitious to become Secretary of State in a Republican administration and an ardent anti-Soviet, Luce once demanded that John Kennedy invade Cuba, later to remark to his editors that if he did not, his corporation would act like Hearst during the Spanish American War. The publisher would advance his concepts of U.S. dominance of the " American Century" through his periodicals with the ideals shared and guided by members of his social circle, John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State and his brother, director of the CIA, Allen Dulles. To highlight the cozy extent of their alliance, rumors swirled that the publisher shared the wartime mistress of the spymaster with Clare Booth Luce.

1900: Boxer Rebellion

(“55 Days at Peking”) John Twiggs Myers (January 29, 1871 – April 17, 1952) was a United States Marine Corps general who was most famous for his service as the American Legation Guard in Peking during the Boxer Rebellion. There is a brief biography of him on Wiki and you can find various articles and such about him online. An easier way to do it is take a look at the movie “55 Days at Peking,” starring Charlton Heston as Myers.

1935 – 1944: Stilwell in China

Major Stilwell’s eight-year career in China took him from his first assignment as the U.S.A military attaché in Peking to his last as Chiang Kai-shek’s chief of staff in the war against the Japanese. It was a complex and fascinating story but one worth exploring. During his time there he fought many battles with Chiang, the Japanese and other American generals. Eventually he was shipped home and died in 1946 while still on active duty as a four-star general. Ironically his last battle was leading two Marine platoons assigned to put down a riot in what became known as the Battle of Alcatraz. You can learn more about this fascinating American general who made the transition from “Vinegar Joe” to “Uncle Joe” in the hearts of his soldiers in Wiki or one of the major biographies written about him.

1971: Kissinger/Nixon visit to China opens the door.

Many articles and books have been written about the Kissinger/Nixon visit to China and while John Twiggs Myers may have gotten a movie made about his exploits, Kissinger and Nixon got an opera written about theirs. John Adams 1987 opera, “Nixon in China” may be the best American opera since “Porgy and Bess.” It’s available on You Tube if you’ve never seen it. Kissinger has told and written his story about their trip many, many times. Nixon also told his version of events in his memoirs. Unfortunately neither Zhou nor Mao ever got to write their stories, although Chinese historians are beginning to penetrate the Chinese archives and recreate their version of what happened in 1971.

What next? Thinking about Luce and his key role in promoting U.S.-China relations gave me an idea.


Zhou En-lai, translator, Mao Tse-tung, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger

The Timely Story as Told by Time

What if I looked at the covers of past issues of Time magazine (Those raised during the internet news era probably don’t realize how important the Luce publications were from the 1930s to the 1980s as a primary news source and shaper of American public opinion and fashion.) for subjects having to do with USA-China relations? Realizing I was potentially looking at some 4,836 covers gave me pause. Still, relying on Wiki I started in with the first issues of Time in 1923. I quickly realized it was impossible task to achieve in a short time for two reasons: 1) How would I decide which cover subjects should be included? And 2) How would I identify all the cover subjects and what, if any, connection they had with China?

I looked for a way to narrow down my search field and it occurred to me that if I limited myself to the cover subjects of the year I would have a more manageable group. Time’s first “Man of the Year” was Charles Lindbergh in 1923, but I couldn’t think of any link between him and China. Owen D. Young, in 1929, chaired a committee which authored 1929’s Young Plan, a program for settlement of German reparations after World War I. No link to China, but at least he was a diplomat.

I hit pay dirt with the 1932 “Man of the Year,” President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Although he never visited China, Roosevelt did meet with Chiang Kai-shek (and Winston Churchill) at the Cairo Conference in 1943. On Thanksgiving Day, 1943, Roosevelt hosted Chiang for tea and then Churchill for a traditional American Thanksgiving Day dinner that featured two turkeys he had brought from home. Bingo!

In 1937 Chiang Kai-shek, the Premier of the Republic of China at the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, and his wife, Soong Mei-ling shared Time’s “Man of the Year’ cover. Soong, one of the famous Three Soong Sisters (Another bit of trivia: If you don’t know the story of the Three Soong Sisters look it up on Wiki. It’s a fascinating story.) , was married to Chiang until he died in 1975.

During the World War II years, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Marshall Eisenhower, and Truman were recognized as Time’s “Man of the Year,” and each, to some degree was involved in China’s affairs. Then in 1946, James F. Byrnes , U.S. Secretary of State, was selected as “Man of the Year” during the Iran crisis of 1946, taking an increasingly hardline position in opposition to Stalin. His speech “Restatement of Policy on Germany”, set the tone for future U.S. policy, repudiating the Morgenthau Plan economic policies and giving Germans hope for the future. Note that there was no mention made of China or the on-going civil war raging between Chiang and Mao’s communists.

In 1950, Time’s “Man of the Year” was The American fighting-man, representing U.S. troops involved in the Korean War (1950-1953).

In 1954, John Foster Dulles, as United States Secretary of State, and architect of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, was Time’s choice. No mention was made of his brother, Allan, who was head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) at the time. The two of them pretty much ran American foreign policy during the Eisenhower years. Lyndon B. Johnson, U.S. President, was twice, in 1964 and 1967, recognized by Time and certainly he was deeply involved with Chinese affairs during the Vietnam War.

On March 10, 1967 Time marked the passing of its co-founder and put Henry Luce on its cover .

((Time Luce cover))

In 1972 President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, a post that, unlike Secretary of State, did NOT require Senate confirmation, traveled to China and shared the cover of Time’s “Man of the Year” issue.

Then, in 1978, Deng Xiaoping, overthrew Hua Guofeng to assume defacto control over China in 1978, as Paramount Leader (a title currently being revived to describe Xi Jinping and his new role as China’s ruler-in-chief), and led the way down the path of economic development in China, although many Americans probably remember him as the short Chinese guy who wore an American cowboy hat on his visit to Texas. Deng lived 93 years and even after he retired he still exercised considerable power in China. Time took note of Deng’s “sweeping economic reforms that challenged Marxist orthodoxies” in 1985, giving him a rare second appearance as “Man of the Year.” And then in March 1997, Deng made his third appearance on a cover of Time.

I should also mention David Ho, a name not well-known in America, a Taiwanese-American, who was Time’s “Man of the Year” in 1996 for his scientific research on AIDS. Ho was one of the first non-politicians to bridge the gap between the USA and China diaspora.

Others who made the cover of Time representing the evolving USA-China relationship included:

  • 5/17/1999: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright;
  • 9/20/2001: Secretary of State Colin Powell;
  • 2/9/2004: Although John Kerry has not made the cover of Time since his appointment as Secretary of State he has previously made the cover four times beginning with this “What kind of President would John Kerry be? We will probably never know the answer to that question but we now have a pretty idea of what kind of secretary of state he is;
  • 7/19/2004: John Edwards and John Kerry;
  • 8/2/2004: John Kerry;
  • 10/18/2004: George W. Bush and John Kerry;
  • 6/27/2005: China’s New Revolution;
  • 11/14/2005 Yao Ming;
  • 1/22/2007: China: New Dawn of a Dynasty;
  • 4/19/2010: Barack Obama, Obama’s China Challenge;
  • 10/18/2010: Wen Jinbao, Wen’s World;
  • 10/10/2011: Dali Lama, Tibet’s Next Incarnation;
  • 2/27/2012: Jeremy Lin: Linsomania;
  • 5/14/2012: Bo Xilai, the Peoples’ Republic of Scandal;
  • 10/22/2012: Xi Jinping as the Next Leader of the Unfree World;
  • 11/17/2014: Xi Jinping (overseas edition); and
  • 2/15/2015: Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, has made the cover of Time no less than 30 times.

From a Diplomacy geo-political peerispective we might recall that the first three Chinese arrived in Baltimore a year after the first American arrived in Canton in 1784. In 1844 an unequal Treaty was signed by the U.S. and China in Macau giving the U.S. the same basic trading rights as other western countries. In 1848 the Chinese arrived in San Francisco and established the first “Chinatown” in America, although it was the arrival of a Chinese prostitute named Ah Toy in 1849 that guaranteed the success of China’s first colony in the Americas. Well, unless you believe Gavin Menzies theories put forth in his book “1421.” In the years that followed the Americans, first seeking trading partners and then religious converts, in China spread out from their Canton/Macau/Hong Kong base to Peking, where in 1900 they began to dabble in Chinese internal politics, and took part in the Boxer Rebellion episode made famous in the movie “Fifty-five days in Peking.” Kissinger and then Nixon returned to the renamed Beijing in 1971. At that point there were less than a dozen well-qualified “China-watchers” in the U.S.. Within a generation the number would be over a thousand.

In the meantime, on the other side of the Pacific the Chinese in America established “Chinatowns” across the United States and Canada with an outpost (aka a Chinese restaurant) in every community of a thousand or more people. As the second and third waves of ABC and Chinese immigrants arrived they expanded from their restaurants and laundries and began to take-over various American colleges and universities ranging from Harvard to North Dakota State. Keep in mind that for every one American studying in China there are now a hundred Chinese studying in the United States. It was just a matter of time before American-Chinese diplomacy met-up with American-Chinese Diplomacy.

The DIP Years

Edi Birsan was the first American Dipper to visit China in 1985 but his visit was work-related and had no Diplomacy-related connections. In 2003 the author visited Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei — Diplomacy board, pieces and rules in hand --- and introduced some of my Chinese friends in those places to Diplomacy. Among my fading memories (after all it’s been thirteen years) of those first Diplomacy adventures in China were: 1) Four much younger friends and I gathered in a Kennedy Town flat and lacking enough players for a full board we recruited three “grannies” to join us. I’m sure they were all in their 80s. By Spring 1903 we had switched to playing Mah Jongg, much to the delight of the grannies. We had better luck with a game played at a MacD’s in Happy Valley. In Macau a gifted bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet paved the way to a short game and a lot of wine tasting at their Wine Museum (the only one in Asia at the time). In Taipei we had a short demonstration game in the sub-sub-basement of The Grand Hotel. ‘Nuff said about that. As I’ve written about elsewhere a few of my Korean friends and I even smuggled a Diplomacy board into the DMZ center at Panmunjom for what may have been the shortest Diplomacy game ever. We hadn’t even finished setting up the pieces on the board when the North Korean security guards were chasing us out of the meeting room.

Then, in 2015, Edi Birsan , after meeting Fang Zheng and other Chinese Dippers in Milan, Italy at an EDC event, attended the first Chinese DipCon in Shanghai which, I suppose, marked the first official USA-China Diplomacy encounter. More, including a complete event write-up and pictures on that, can be found in recent issues of Diplomacy World and The Diplomatic Pouch.


It would have been interesting to me, if no one else, to delve more deeply into the ties between American-Chinese dip&Dip but, given the scope of the task and the limited time available I decided to tell the story as I know it and leave it to future American and Chinese Dippers to continue the story. In the meantime, I freely admit that Henry Luce and his Time defeated me and my Peeriblah.

Larry Peery

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