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The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  393 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
From the bestselling author of Flags of our Fathers, Flyboys, and The Imperial Cruise, a spellbinding history of turbulent U.S.-China relations from the 19th century to World War II and Mao's ascent.

In each of his books, James Bradley has exposed the hidden truths behind America's engagement in Asia. Now comes his most engrossing work yet. Beginning in the 1850s, Bradley i
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published April 21st 2015 by Little, Brown and Company (first published October 21st 2014)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Pamela
May 14, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it
The China Mirage: an enlightening and thought-provoking book, going behind the chimera curtain of Asian/American relations in search of truth. This is the sort of historical/political expose that every American citizen should take time to read and comparatively ponder, thinking not to repeat war-inducing, blind sighted mistakes of the past that could (and did) leave crippling/rippling national, regional, and global effects.

“A Lie gets around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pa
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Stefan Fergus
May 14, 2015 Stefan Fergus rated it really liked it
An aggravating, if valuable book. Bradley has improved since Imperial Cruise, but his continuing grudge against the Roosevelt family colours and weakens the narrative he is presenting. This is not to excuse the narrow minded, arrogant and feckless policies the two administrations could produce (on China, they were legion). A laudable focus in later chapters on the expelled China Hands, especially Service and Stilwell. A trove of further reading suggestions, and some very good, valuable content. ...more
Ralphz
Oct 24, 2016 Ralphz rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, first-reads
Coming in, I wanted to really like this book. I was unsuccessful.

The China Mirage (get used to that term, Bradley uses it a lot) is pretty close to a screed. Bradley documents U.S. fascination with China, and implies that if not for that, World War II with Japan would not have been fought. Never mind that the Japanese had drawn up plans to fight the U.S., which they found necessary, back in the 30s.

This book is about the opening of China, and how it was a ruse and disastrous and that nothing goo
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Alan
Apr 29, 2015 Alan rated it it was ok
Shelves: china-and-japan
The glowing reviews aside, this is a somewhat shallow book. Worthy of note, though is the importance and relative inaccessibility for readers of Opium Wars and Russo Japanese and First Sion Japanese War. The Boxer Rebellion is more published.

Yes, Delano family got its money from opium trade. Liquor, guns, slaves, tobacco, shady land deals, and luxury egret feathers, whalebone, and fur are behind a bunch of "aristocratic" American families. If you are shocked, you need to read a little outside t
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Craig Fiebig
Nov 05, 2015 Craig Fiebig rated it it was ok
I was fascinated by the author's observation that every US failure of policy in China, the Pacific or Asia was rooted in the Harvard-educated advisor sitting at the presidents elbow. That's quite a track record. Still, this book is replete with so many historical errors that I have to question either veracity of the author's research or his intellectual integrity. He completely misunderstands the sources of the Korean War, mischaracterizing it as a small, local, civil war. The record of ...more
Chris
Jul 01, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hist-misc
A book that will change your fundamental assumptions about the world we live in. It's a revelation in some respects. Bradley makes the case that Vietnam and Korea wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been hoodwinked by Japanese and Chinese propagandists and our own racial biases towards Asia. It all started with the Roosevelts. Teddy Roosevelt created the monster that was Japan and FDR refused to listen to reality about Chiang Kai-Shek. At the center of it all is Harvard University with all the ...more
Holly
Jun 16, 2015 Holly rated it liked it
This book was interesting. It was the kind of book that doesn't call to you to read it, but when you get into the content is good and you find yourself surprised you weren't excited to pick it up again at first.

Bradely pretty much vilifies everyone. Everyone was out to cause the mirage. I wonder what he would have done given the perspective of the time. He seems to be pretty confident he would do much better by Asia. I am not sure that I buy it. I think he has some very deep seated opinions and
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Rick Cote
Oct 18, 2016 Rick Cote rated it it was amazing
This book opened my eyes to how one influential Chinese family lobbying roughly 10 or so purportedly highly intelligent Ivy Leaguers allowed them to make a colossal miscalculation. The 19th century history lesson on China & the US leading up to the mistake is eye opening as well as fascinating. Millions perished needlessly in the Pacific, mainland China, Korea and finally Vietnam as a result of manipulated decision making by our "best & brightest."
Not having a great knowledge of Chinese
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victor harris
Oct 02, 2015 victor harris rated it really liked it
After a somewhat disjointed beginning where you sort out the cast of characters, it picks up momentum and shows how American misperceptions about China and Chiang steered America on a collision course with Japan. (A Mirage, if you will.) Now it certainly could be argued that Japan's expansionist tastes were insatiable and a clash was inevitable, but for the context of this review, the author's view will be addressed.
According to this narrative, the "China Lobby" represented by Luce at "Time"
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Marshall
Jul 26, 2015 Marshall rated it it was amazing
There should be a warning placed on all government buildings urging US policy makers to stop trying to export the American way of life elsewhere. This practice, responsible for some of worst policy failures in this and previous century inevitably leads to failure. Iraq, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and now in this book, China.

James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers, lays out who lost China and like the culprit in Murder on the Orient Express, it is everyone. First there are the great fortu
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Joel
Jun 01, 2015 Joel rated it liked it
(Note: I received a free copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.)

There's a lot of interesting history in this book, which analyzes the ways in which American misunderstandings and lack of knowledge about China and Japan led the country into arguably unnecessary wars. The largest focus is on American support, beginning in the 1920s, for Chiang Kai-shek and his family, who were able to present themselves to America as modern, enlightened rulers who wished to Westernize China; the American
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R J Mckay
Jun 14, 2015 R J Mckay rated it really liked it
I received this book from Goodreads in exchange for a review.

Beginning with the Opium trade in the early 1800’s, followed closely by the missionaries who went to Asia to ‘save’ the pagans, the China that the Americans saw was very different from the one that really existed.

James Bradley’s book ‘The China Mirage’ revealed the true history between China and the United States. It exposed how many of the wealthy in America really gained their wealth. It also explained the skewed view many of these i
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Mary
Sep 01, 2015 Mary rated it liked it
I loathed this book until about half-way through because it was more like a long, opinionated op-ed by a writer whose main literary tool is snark. Which surprised the heck out of me; Bradley has rec'd good reviews.

Still, I was glad I read it: there was a lot of information about WWII in the Pacific theater that I'd never heard of - the bombing of Tokyo, for example, which (suggested by Bradley) had a death toll exceeding Nagasaki and Hiroshima combined (not confirmed by a quick Google search).
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Craig MacIntosh
Jul 28, 2015 Craig MacIntosh rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: military history buffs, historians and those fond of America's foreign policy
Recommended to Craig by: A gift from my wife
Having read previous two books of Bradley's: Flyboys and Flags of Our Fathers, I was expecting something more from him about the infamous "China Lobby" in American politics. He had interesting takes on Chiang, the Soong sisters, Henry Luce and Claire Chennault. Bradley swings a broad ax when going after the manipulations of the generalissimo and his American dupes...including FDR. It's apparent Bradley doesn't think much of American missionaries or the Soong dynasty. Fair enough. But readers be ...more
Yang Chu
Mar 17, 2016 Yang Chu rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, china
I've long placed Chiang Kai Shek--along with Mao and Cixi--as the incompetent triumvirate that made China the mess it is today; I've also long been confounded by Taiwanese and Americans who fail to recognize Chiang for the damn fool he was. After reading this book, that disconnect finally makes sense. This book also helps me realize I'm not simply a grump for thinking most US China Watchers are charlatans and most DC politicians making China decisions are clueless, in fact that has been the sad ...more
Brent
Jul 06, 2016 Brent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fine, readable summary of the relationship between the United States and China is an important summary, in that our nation has been very wrong in our understanding of China for a very long time.
If you ever read David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest, you get how this affected the Asian wars in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam. The story is well told here, with historical perspective from several generations, including both Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, the China lobby, and the old China hands
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Connie
Jun 14, 2015 Connie rated it really liked it
Full review to follow shortly - but wow, great book! Had no idea about this chapter in American History, though reminds me of "mirages" still being sold today via media and politicians. Quite scary how easy it is to pull the wool over people's eyes even in the face of reality. Thank you to Goodreads and the publisher for the complimentary copy via the "First Reads" program. A more thoughtful review to come.
JW
Aug 10, 2015 JW rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction, gave-up
Bradley has some kind of bug up his you-know-what and if I had the patience I might finish this screed to find out what it is.

Unfortunately he's more interested in repeating certain viewpoints he's decided are facts in the hopes of burning them into his readers' brains.

I'm all for alternative interpretations of history if they're presented fairly. Bradley doesn't do that. He draws a conclusion and repeats it over and over and over. Enough.
Candice
Apr 20, 2015 Candice rated it really liked it
This book just wasnt for me. It was so slow moving. It took foreverrrr for me to get through. Its well written. Its interesting. But meh seriously just meh. It is defeintly the kind of thing that people who watch the History channel would like. I am just not the intended audience here. I won this book in a goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review.
Riley
Dec 20, 2015 Riley rated it really liked it
A good lesson on how our assumptions about other societies are so often based more on fiction than reality. American foreign policy is replete with those misunderstandings, but our approach to China in the Mao-era is a prime example of it.
Pam Read
Jul 08, 2015 Pam Read rated it really liked it
Shocking but defensible premise - that the ill-informed attitudes of the presidents Roosevelt were in significant part responsible for - catalysts for - a sequence of events including our war with Japan and subsequent, related conflicts in Korea and Vietnam.
Deborah
Jun 01, 2015 Deborah rated it it was amazing
Excellent book, well researched and organized. Gave me a completely new perspective on our history with the nations of the Far East. Will be doing some follow-up reading on Stimson and Acheson.
Laszlo
Feb 02, 2015 Laszlo rated it it was amazing
We need this kind of history, to understand our future!
Thanks! !!
Amy S.
Nov 17, 2016 Amy S. rated it it was amazing
Another great resource book for my novel Under the Red Moon — A Chinese Family in Diaspora.

It seems like Western Democracies have almost pushed China into the Soviet embrace.
Diocletian
The China Mirage sets out to be an analysis of Sino-American relations from the mid-19th century through the Cold War. However, being less than 400 pages total, Bradley has to prioritize some periods over others. The vast majority of the book focuses on America's interactions with China leading up to and during WWII. It demonstrates that America's infatuation with China, and America's attempts to modernize China, stem from a delusion that has long poisoned the American mind; that China and the ...more
Rj
Jul 24, 2015 Rj rated it really liked it
Bradley's book is an exploration of how America under Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt perceived Japan and China. Using a wide range of secondary sources he explains how this "China Mirage" guided American foreign policy and how this created international politics. He also presents an entirely new way of thinking about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

"British prime minister Winston Churchill called the New China dream the "Great American illusion." 8

"In 1784, with the ink barely
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Al Johnson
Sep 29, 2015 Al Johnson rated it really liked it
This is a continuation of James Bradley's journey into the origins of both WWII in the Pacific and US historical interactions in Asia in particular. Picking up almost where The Imperial Cruise left off, Bradley begins with both a look at how US leadership has foundations in the early Opium Wars in China, and how it affected for over a century Americans perceptions of China at the governmental decision making level.

He then contrasts the opinions of Teddy with Franklin Roosevelt during their tenur
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Lynda
Sep 02, 2016 Lynda rated it it was amazing
The China Mirage is a deeply insightful book. The eye-catching picture on the hardcover dust jacket has a sampan and a navy frigate on choppy waters with a mountain in the backdrop, illustrating the juxtaposition of an old China next to a modern and menacing force. With the subtitle ‘The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia’, it is a powerful image.
An 1860 photograph of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s maternal grandfather, Warren Delano, who made his fortune as an opium merchant in China, app
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George J. Edwards
Challenges many beliefs

Cordell Hull is shown to be very careful but he missed a meeting of the minds with his Japanese counterpart. The Japanese showed bad judgement In posting an ambassador to the United States who was not fluent in English. All of this is happening at a time when neither the US nor Japan could risk a misinterpretation of the other's message. On the other hand, China's Nationalist were marketing wizards. They were educated in the best US Universities and knew how to use the Chr
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Linda Munro
May 29, 2015 Linda Munro rated it it was amazing
I received this book from goodreads; I have read it and now I am writing a review, a deserving review!

I like history, I like reading things that deal with history in both fiction and non-fiction; but, often I find that people either take things out of context or lack on their research; I found neither in this book! This is one of the most well researched books I have seen in a long time. It has nothing to do with the writers opinion, nor is it politically based; it is simply fact. One other piec
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

James Bradley is an American author of historical non-fiction. His subject is the Pacific theatre of World War II.
More about James D. Bradley...

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