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George Marshall won the war and rebuilt Europe, but lost China

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The China Mission: George Marshall’s Unfinished War, 1945-1947. By Daniel Kurtz-Phelan.W.W. Norton & Company; 496 pages; $28.95.

GEORGE MARSHALL’S name is immortal, for ever attached to the visionary plan for rebuilding Europe that he oversaw as America’s secretary of state in 1947-49. By then, as chief of staff of the army, he had already been, in Winston Churchill’s estimation, the true “organiser of victory” in the second world war. A new book recounts what he did between winning the war and securing the peace: he spent a year in China, trying to save it.

He failed, leaving behind a bloody civil war followed by communist dictatorship. “The China Mission”, an account of the debacle by Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, a former diplomat, is both a compelling portrait of a remarkable soldier and statesman, and an instructive lesson in the limits of American power, even at its zenith.

As Allied victory curdled into cold…Continue reading

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