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President Kennedy Took Mao Seriously 2024-04-07 16:28:31

(Sunday Book Club)

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My Input:


The world hardly knew that during his lifetime, President John F. Kennedy studied Mao's “On Guerrilla Warfare” * and strongly encouraged his cabinet to do the same.


Also, only a privileged few witnessed that when confronted with the China problem, Kennedy would have the First Lady fix not one but two Bloody Marys for him. (Yes, the young president didn't mind sipping cocktails in his White House meetings.)

Kennedy correctly thought that Mao was determined not to live in the Soviet shadow. Insightfully, he considered Mao "the guerrilla leader of the world," seeing him as a bigger threat to America in the long run.

Incidentally, Kennedy had received intelligence warning him that China would soon become the fifth nuclear power after the United States, Russia, Britain, and France. Indeed, Mao acquired the Bomb on October 16, 1964, less than a year after Kennedy's assassination.


In his inner circle, Kennedy never hesitated to admit that he felt an urge to understand Mao. As a matter of fact, he spent a lot of his presidential time trying to read Mao's mind. He was a serious president.

Until just before his untimely death, Kennedy had been strategizing to counter the Maoist movement in Asia and beyond.

On one hand, Kennedy was ready to single-handedly destroy Mao's nuclear installations. On the other hand, he was willing to offer Mao a “peaceful solution,” even if it came at Chiang Kai-shek's expense.

In the meantime, he was exploring détente with either Russia or China while keeping both in check.

Kennedy had practically outlined a China plan for succeeding administrations. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, in a spectacular manner, took a page out of Kennedy's book. However, neither of them openly acknowledged their debt to Kennedy.


Author: renqiulan


* Translator's Note: "The development of this [guerrilla] warfare has followed the pattern laid out by Mao Tse-tung [Mao Zedong] and his collaborators in the pamphlet Yu Chi Chan (Guerrilla Warfare), which was published in 1937 and has been widely distributed in 'Free China' at 10 cents a copy."



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