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The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is the leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages understanding of China and the United States among citizens of both countries.

Feb 1, 2023

Agents of Subversion reconstructs the story of a botched mission into Manchuria, placing it in the context of a wider CIA campaign against China. In the winter of 1952, the CIA flew a covert mission into China to pick up an agent. One of the Americans on the mission, a recent Yale graduate named John T. Downey, ended up a prisoner in China for the next twenty years. The U.S. government kept the public in the dark about decades of covert activity directed against China while Downey languished in a Beijing prison and his mother lobbied desperately for his release. John Delury sheds new light on Mao’s campaigns to eliminate counterrevolutionaries and on his use of captive spies in diplomacy with the West.

In an interview conducted on January 25, 2023John Delury and Jerome Cohen discuss Downey’s story and its implication for today with Gina Tam.

0:00-2:11 introductions 

2:11-11:03 Who was John Downey? 

11:03-15:44 Cold War framework

15:44-23:16 What did it have to take for Downey’s release?

23:16-29:10 CIA activity in China

29:10- U.S.-China cooperation

About the speakers:

Read the transcript to this conversation 

Follow John Delury on Twitter: @JohnDelury

Follow Jerome Cohen on Twitter: @jeromeacohen

Follow Gina Tam on Twitter: @DGTam86

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