Cover image for China hands : nine decades of adventure, espionage, and diplomacy in Asia
China hands : nine decades of adventure, espionage, and diplomacy in Asia
Lilley, James R.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : PublicAffairs, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiv, 417 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E840.8.L48 A3 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



One of America's most respected diplomats on a life spent serving in the Far East. 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,

Author Notes

Jeffrey Lilley has worked as a journalist and teacher. His writing has appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, and on the Voice of America. He is currently working on a democracy building project in the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. When he's in the United States, he lives in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is married with two sons

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Note to the Readerp. ix
Prologuep. xi
Part I Growing Up, 1916-1947
1 "Where the Daisies Cover the Country Land"p. 3
2 Only a Memoryp. 24
3 Americanizationp. 35
4 An Anguished Cryp. 47
Part II Intelligence Officer in Action, 1948-1968
5 A Ready Recruitp. 65
6 A Covert Foot Soldierp. 77
7 On the Edge of Conflictp. 97
8 Running the Secret Warp. 106
9 Of Coups, Floods, and Failuresp. 119
Part III China Opens Up, 1969-1981
10 Reading the Tea Leavesp. 135
11 Breaking Down Wallsp. 152
12 Kissinger's Man in Chinap. 169
13 Good Fortunep. 196
14 Riding a Wavep. 213
Part IV Diplomat in Action, 1982-1991
15 Righting the Balancep. 227
16 The Golden Yearsp. 249
17 Pushing for Changep. 264
18 "Through the Blur of Our Tears"p. 282
19 Stepping on a Volcanop. 297
20 Small Victoriesp. 335
Epiloguep. 373
Acknowledgmentsp. 383
Notesp. 385
Bibliographyp. 402
Indexp. 406