Update 7: Wrap Things Up: the Complexity of Experiences and Mentalities—American Protestant Missionaries in China, the origin of distrust. 1948-1950

My research process is often of surprises and unexpectedness, as I would never be sure what the next historical document would be talking about, or what directions all the materials would bring me to. The materials I am looking for is often scattered among thousands of pages. That’s why in my previous updates I was only able to summarize some noticeable points but not a coherent narrative. This update attempts to connect all the discoveries. I wish this connection could show, or inspire, something beyond itself.

I placed my major focus on missionaries’ interactions with Chinese Communists, their observations and their reports to the U.S. because their dual identity as Americans and Christians created some special dynamics. The missionaries reacted to Chinese Communists with a mixed feeling where signs of hopes could not discard their fears, and appreciations for certain programs could never appease their suspicions.  My major question is how the missionaries were trying to make sense of Communist China, and what led to their fundamental sense of distrust. It is easy to argue in terms of ideologies, especially the theist-atheist division. However, as the findings in my first update show, missionaries had long realized and somewhat prepared to deal with with these two factors. Nevertheless, they still felt profound sense of confusions and uncertainties which were probably caused by something beyond ideology (which is also too grand for explanations.)  I tried to summarize several points for their vacillation between pessimism and optimism, which could nevertheless escape from the fundamental sense of distrust, including:

1. The unpreparedness on the Chinese Communists’ quick victories

2. The limited time and information made missionaries unable to fully understand Chinese Communists. Most of missionaries were trying to make sense of them through a preconceived framework which they knew better: the framework of Old China; of dogmatic interpretation of Communism; of Soviet Union; of  the United States.

3. The confusion over the Communist and non-Communist, radical and continuous factors in Communist China. The missionaries’ attempt to made sense of Communist China through a preconceived framework made it difficult to have a balanced and well-rounded understanding of its own complexity, and easy to be pushed into extremes of over-optimism and despair.

4. The chasm in understanding the same word within Communism and Liberal-Democracy context

5. The uneasiness with the highly politicized atmosphere and the blurred line between individuals and the state

6. The general policy grants religious freedom and protection of foreign personnel and property, and overall this policy was carried on despite some limitations and local irritations. The missionaries felt especially uneasy with the incongruity in treatments in different areas, largely because they could never be certain whether it was the result of Central Government’s lack of control towards local government, or that the Central Government selectively ordered the diversity of treatments to show its power and control