A Force So Swift

Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949

by Kevin Peraino

New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice 

A gripping narrative of the Truman Administration's response to the fall of Nationalist China and the triumph of Mao Zedong's Communist forces in 1949--an extraordinary political revolution that continues to shape East Asian politics to this day.

 
In the opening months of 1949, U.S. President Harry S. Truman found himself faced with a looming diplomatic catastrophe--"perhaps the greatest that this country has ever suffered," as the journalist Walter Lippmann put it. Throughout the spring and summer, Mao Zedong's Communist armies fanned out across mainland China, annihilating the rival troops of America's one-time ally Chiang Kai-shek and taking control of Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities. As Truman and his aides--including his shrewd, ruthless secretary of state, Dean Acheson--scrambled to formulate a response, they were forced to contend not only with Mao, but also with unrelenting political enemies at home. Over the course of this tumultuous year, Mao would fashion a new revolutionary government in Beijing, laying the foundation for the creation of modern China, while Chiang Kai-shek would flee to the island sanctuary of Taiwan. These events transformed American foreign policy--leading, ultimately, to decades of friction with Communist China, a long-standing U.S. commitment to Taiwan, and the subsequent wars in Korea and Vietnam.
 
Drawing on Chinese and Russian sources, as well as recently declassified CIA documents, Kevin Peraino tells the story of this remarkable year through the eyes of the key players, including Mao Zedong, President Truman, Secretary of State Acheson, Minnesota congressman Walter Judd, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the influential first lady of the Republic of China. 

Today, the legacy of 1949 is more relevant than ever to the relationships between China, the United States, and the rest of the world, as Beijing asserts its claims in the South China Sea and tensions endure between Taiwan and the mainland.


Recent Reviews

“A Force So Swift”

Diana Iozzia

4 Stars

”A Force So Swift” is a great book about communist China run by the emporer / dictator. It’s a very good historical recount of the accounts and explanatations of events that occurred during that time period. I enjoyed the content and would…

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A Force So Swift

TJ Cochran

3.5 Stars

In A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949, Kevin Peraino explores the Truman administration and the rise of communist China. An interesting account that analyzes world shaping…

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A Force So Swift

Theresa F

4.5 Stars

A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 by Kevin Peraino is a fascinating look at a most pivotal year in the birth of modern China. The events that took place that year were so important that future wars…

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Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift

Haley Mills

2 Stars

The entire time I was reading this, I was thinking "Man, good thing I pulled this book on Chinese history so I could learn all about the Truman Administration." I felt like I was back in high school history, reading World History: …

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Informative

Amanda Goston

4.5 Stars

Overall, I felt that this was a well researched and informative read.  The events of 1949 would forever resonate throughout history. The inability of Truman Administration to make a decision on how to handle Mao and communism led to…

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