In This Review

China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia
China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia
By James Lilley with Jeffrey Lilley
PublicAffairs, 2004, 464 pp

Ambassador James Lilley's memoir begins with his childhood in China, where his father served with Standard Oil. Lilley left China to attend Exeter and Yale, but upon graduation, he was recruited -- along with nearly 100 Yale classmates -- into the newly formed CIA for what would turn out to be a career spent mostly back in Asia. After clandestine service in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Laos, Lilley became a member of the first official U.S. team posted in Beijing after President Richard Nixon's opening of relations with China. (Henry Kissinger negotiated the placement of intelligence officers in each mission so the White House would be able to bypass the State Department.) Shortly after returning to Washington to be the national intelligence officer on China, Lilley left the CIA to return to Asia as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan and, later, as ambassador to Seoul and then Beijing -- the culmination of an extraordinary career. Lilley recounts the inside story of U.S. policymaking in a keen, clear-eyed manner. His insider's account of key policy decisions related to both Taipei and Beijing, as well as of personal relations among Washington elites, adds considerably to our understanding of four critical decades in East Asia -- and offers a great deal of wisdom about how Washington should manage relations with the region today.