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Between Mao and McCarthy

Chinese American Politics in the Cold War Years

During the Cold War, Chinese Americans struggled to gain political influence in the United States. Considered potentially sympathetic to communism, their communities attracted substantial public and government scrutiny, particularly in San Francisco and New York.

Between Mao and McCarthy looks at the divergent ways that Chinese Americans in these two cities balanced domestic and international pressures during the tense Cold War era. On both coasts, Chinese Americans sought to gain political power and defend their civil rights, yet only the San Franciscans succeeded. Forging multiracial coalitions and encouraging voting and moderate activism, they avoided the deep divisions and factionalism that consumed their counterparts in New York. Drawing on extensive research in both Chinese- and English-language sources, Charlotte Brooks uncovers the complex, diverse, and surprisingly vibrant politics of an ethnic group trying to find its voice and flex its political muscle in Cold War America.

328 pages | 11 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014

Asian Studies: East Asia

History: American History, Urban History

Political Science: American Government and Politics, Race and Politics


Between Mao and McCarthy opens new ground in the study of Chinese American politics. Recovering a lost history with contemporary significance, Brooks’s energetically researched study returns a host of once prominent personalities and organizations to their place as political pioneers. Chinese American politics were at the same time local, national, and international, as well as ethnic, ideological, and partisan. Brooks’s richly textured account is an original and important contribution.”

Gordon Chang | Stanford University

“With the support of extensive and prodigious research, Brooks has written a path-breaking book that articulately explores the complicated relationship between, on the one hand, changing racial politics in general and the experience of Chinese-American communities in particular in the 1950s and 1960s and, on the other, the deeply politicized pressures of the Cold War environment. Between Mao and McCarthy is highly revealing and, therefore, highly recommended.”

Chen Jian | Cornell University

“Drawing upon prodigious research, Between Mao and McCarthy remakes the possibilities of Chinese American civic participation and pushes back to the 1930s the kinds of political activism and claims once associated only with the civil rights movement. An impressively nuanced account of a complex and perplexing era.”

Madeline Y. Hsu | University of Texas at Austin

Between Mao and McCarthy is an enlightening and engaging political history of Chinese Americans from the Depression Era to the Civil Rights Movement. Brooks’s comfort and ease in moving back and forth between languages makes for an especially compelling narrative, as she deftly unearths the moments when newspapers, advertisements, or historical actors purposely provided divergent messages or translations. She culls evidence from archives as variegated and far-flung as the Bancroft Library, the British Foreign Office on China, Congressional records, the Kennedy and Truman Libraries, the Hoover Institution, and various community association holdings. The reader is rarely left wondering whether or not the author may have missed an unturned stone here or there.”

Matthew Briones | University of Chicago

Between Mao and McCarthy is an impressive scholarly tome on the evolution of Chinese American politics in the years after World War II. . . . Brooks’ inclusion of the prominent voices in community newspapers and her detailed information about the power players within New York and San Francisco lend an insider’s view on a turbulent time for Chinese American communities. . . Well worth a read.”


“Brooks continues her examination of transnationalism and Asian America with this impressive study of the interaction between China and Chinese-American politics. In this work, she considers how Chinese Americans came to shift their attention from China to the US, gradually shedding their psychological dependence on their ancestral country. . . . This book expands the understanding of transnationalism while also delivering another blow to the myth that Asian Americans were politically passive prior to the 1960s. Recommended.”


“With sharp focus on the Chinese American communities in San Francisco and New York City, Between Mao and McCarthy presents an insightful investigation on the transfor­mation of Chinese American politics in the mid-twentieth century. . . . Brooks’s examination of the transforma­tion of Chinese American politics is provoca­tive and pathbreaking. . . . It shines brilliantly as a major addition to the study of Chinese American politics during the Cold War.”

Journal of American History

Table of Contents


List of Abbreviations

A Note on Names and Translations


Chapter One

New York and San Francisco: Politics in the Political Capitals of Chinese America

Chapter Two

War, Revolution, and Political Realignment

Chapter Three

The Resurgence of China Politics

Chapter Four

Divergence: New York and San Francisco in the 1950s

Chapter Five

The “Immigration Racket” Investigation and the Rise of a New Politics

Chapter Six

Chinese Americans, Orientals, Minorities: Politics in a New Era



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