Exclusive: A prototype of the modern foreign lobby in Washington was the China Lobby, bribing and bending U.S. politicians to serve the will of the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan and helped fuel McCarthyism, reports Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall (This is the second in a series on foreign lobbies.)
One of the first big foreign lobbies to blossom after passage of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act was the infamous China Lobby, defined by William Safire in his political dictionary as an “attack phrase used against those urging support of Chiang Kai-shek against Mao Zedong, and later pressing for aid to Chiang on Taiwan.”
Testifying to the China Lobby’s seminal importance – actually what would more accurately be called the Taiwan Lobby – Safire is credited with inspiring the term “Israel lobby” to describe the equally formidable support network for another equally tiny country.
The China Lobby demanded — and won — billions of dollars in military and economic aid for Chiang’s dictatorship, first on mainland China and then on Taiwan. Exploiting the wave of anti-Communism during the McCarthy era, it also ruthlessly suppressed any criticism of Nationalist China’s shortcomings or any moves toward diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China.
Some of its American operatives were opportunistic lawyer-lobbyists like Thomas Corcoran, a former New Dealer who turned his talents to money-making intrigues. Some were anti-communist militants like Gen. Claire Chennault of Flying Tigers fame, who founded a CIA-controlled airline (Civil Air Transport) with Corcoran’s help to support Chiang’s armies and run covert operations in the Far East.
Many were partisan Republicans who rejected criticism of Chiang’s corrupt regime and attacked the Truman administration for not sending enough financial and military aid to prevent the “fall of China.”
In 1949, two members of Congress called for an investigation of the lobby’s “brazen power.” Rep. Mike Mansfield, a Montana Democrat who would…