The concept of ‘face’ is integral in understanding the equipoise of relations in China. This was no more true than in the case of Secret Service clandestine liaison during the Second World War.
Accordingly, the crux of the debate analysed in this long essay revolves around British contemporary interpretation of Chinese cultural nuances in the framework of a contrasting racial environment.
Through the cultural lens of ‘face’, the essay re-evaluates recently made available Secret Service files and other primary material from the period 1942-1946, to understand the country-specific challenges that the British Secret Services faced in China in the context of human intelligence. Secondly, the essay enquires into the interoperation and intelligence liaison between the British Secret Service, the Americans and, somewhat uniquely, assesses the agency of their often-overlooked Chinese counterparts in order to highlight conflicting agendas in the China theatre. Finally, the essay explains how the service was able to overcome difficulties prior to VJ Day, drawing parallels to consider the modern understanding of relations between the Far East and the West. Ultimately, the Dragon’s agenda is all about ‘face’.