Synopses & Reviews
James Lilley's life and family have been entwined with China's fate since his father moved to the country to work for Standard Oil in 1916. Lilley spent much of his childhood in China and after a Yale professor took him aside and suggested a career in intelligence, it became clear that he would spend his adult life returning to China again and again. Lilley served for twenty-five years in the CIA in Laos, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taiwan before moving to the State Department in the early 1980s to begin a distinguished career as the U.S.'s top-ranking diplomat in Taiwan, ambassador to South Korea, and finally, ambassador to China, From helping Laotian insurgent forces assist the American efforts in Vietnam to his posting in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square crackdown, he was in a remarkable number of crucial places during challenging times as he spent his life tending to America's interests in Asia. In China Hands, he includes three generations of stories from an American family in the Far East, all of them absorbing, some of them exciting, and one, the loss of Lilley's much loved and admired brother, Frank, unremittingly tragic. China Hands is a fascinating memoir of America in Asia, Asia itself, and one especially capable American's personal history. I wanted to write this book because there was a story to tell about my family's role in the momentous changes in China from 1916 to 2004. My brother Frank is a large part of that story. He left behind letters, diaries, and photos of China, Korea, and Japan in the 1930s and 1940s that chronicle his youthful yet perceptive insights into the Japanese expansion and Chinese degeneration of the era. I was later stationed in all three countries asa CIA officer and diplomat. Writing this memoir has woven together personal tragedy, the tumble of confused events, and the United States' development of a new relationship with the People's Republic of China. I was a witness to and participant in some of the changes that came to China over the past seven decades--from my childhood in China through my CIA activity during the Cold War, and concluding with my posting as U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China during the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. This is the story of my family's roots in China, our long struggle to live with the People's Republic, and my mission to help build a better Asia. I dedicate the memoir to Frank, whose short life of idealism and achievement was highlighted by his love of Asia, and to my son Jeffrey, who helped me write the book.
"This important contribution to the crowded field of histories detailing Sino-U.S. relations in the 20th century is singular in its scope and perspective. James Lilley, who served in various posts all over East Asia, offers firsthand accounts of America's crude 'gunboat, oil can, and Bible' diplomacy in Asia at the turn of the last century through the more nuanced approach at the end of the Cold War. Lilley's unique personal history distinguishes his version of events from similar efforts by journalists. Members of Lilley's family, since his father took work with Standard Oil's China office in 1916, have at different times been helpless witnesses, tortured participants and active U.S. patriots in Asia throughout what has arguably been the region's most tumultuous century since the Mongol invasion. Though written in a blunt, unadorned style befitting its author, a 20-year veteran of the CIA, this book exposes Lilley's ardent love for his family and his country. His devotion to the latter is apparent in his total lack of self-doubt in passages detailing illegal CIA operations in Laos and the war in Vietnam. His vivid and enlightening account of the Tiananmen Square massacre includes details that could be known only by him, as he was U.S. ambassador to China at the time. That chapter, which details the strafing of the American embassy by Chinese soldiers and the clandestine housing of dissident Fang Lizhi, is among several in which the book is aided by Lilley's high perch in government. Written with his son, a journalist, his candid account is a must-read for students of Asia and intelligence work. Agent, Alex Smithline, Harold Ober Assoc. (May 4)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
From his childhood in China through his CIA activity during the Cold War-- Lilley's memoir covers his family's roots in China, their long struggle to live with the People's Republic, and his personal mission to help build a better Asia.
The memoir of a life spent serving America's interests across the Far East by one of America's most respected diplomats - includes nine decades with a remarkable family.