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Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia

Date: 1999
This is the eighth volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, and is a very solid addition to it. Cross, who was born of missionary parents in Beijing, spent 32 years in the US Foreign Service, and though his tours abroad included Egypt, Cyprus and London, most were in Asia and it is on these which this memoir concentrates.
He served in Indonesia and Malaysia, and in Vietnam (where he was chief of pacification efforts in I Corps) during the critical years 1967 to 1969. Thereafter he was ambassador to Singapore from 1969 to 1972 (where he fell foul of Lee Kuan Yew), consul-general in Hong Kong from 1974 to 1977 (because of the ‘China-watching’ brief of this mission, much more important than it sounds), and finally the first director of the so-called ‘American Institute in Taiwan’ from 1979 to 1981. This last diplomatic post was an even more significant position since it made Cross de facto ‘ambassador’ to an important friend still smarting from Washington’s recent withdrawal of recognition from it as the legitimate government of the whole of China. Because the posting was ‘unofficial’, Cross was required to ‘retire’ from the Foreign Service before taking it up. Some early retirement! The author has an engaging style and his book will rarely fail to hold the interest of anyone interested in the history of America’s post-war relations with Asia. As for students of diplomacy, they will find him particularly instructive on, among other things, the role of the political officer (chapters 10 and 12) and the desk officer in the State Department (chapter 11), the information-gathering value of a strategically placed consular mission (chapters 8 and 18 on the US consulate-general in Hong Kong), and the kind of devices to which states resort in order to conduct resident diplomacy with entities which they are unable to recognize (in addition to the American Institute in Taiwan already mentioned and dealt with at length in chapter 19, the PRC’s use of the office of the New China News Agency in Hong Kong, pp. 237-8).

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