As the Cold War began, the United States hoped that Chiang Kai-shek’s China would become a key ally. By December 1949, with Chiang’s armies collapsing, President Truman withdrew his support. Soon, politicians ranging from Kennedy to McCarthy were attacking Truman and his diplomats—especially General George Marshall—for having “lost China.” Why Marshall? To answer that question, we need to look at Siping—a small Chinese city of 3.36 million, the home of Li Liangui’s Big Marinated Pork Buns—and the site of a battle which turned out to be decisive precisely because it was, in fact, not decisive at all.
Harold Tanner is Professor of History at the University of North Texas. He received his PhD in Chinese history from Columbia University and is the author of "China: A History" and of a number of books and articles on modern Chinese military history.