The Korean War lasted for three years, one month, and two days—but armistice talks occupied more than two of those years, as 14,000 Chinese prisoners of war refused to return to Communist China, effectively hijacking the negotiations and thwarting the designs of world leaders at a pivotal moment in Cold War history. In The Hijacked War, David Cheng Chang vividly portrays the experiences of Chinese prisoners in the dark, cold, and damp tents of Koje and Cheju islands in Korea and how their decisions derailed the high politics being conducted in the corridors of power in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. The Truman-Acheson administration's policies of voluntary repatriation and prisoner reindoctrination for psychological warfare purposes—the first overt and the second covert—had unintended consequences. The "success" of the reindoctrination program backfired when anti-Communist Chinese prisoners persuaded and coerced fellow Chinese prisoners to renounce their homeland, derailing negotiations between the U.S. and China and changing the course of the Cold War in East Asia. Drawing on newly declassified archival materials from China, Taiwan, and the United States and interviews with surviving Chinese and North Korean prisoners of war, Chang depicts the struggle over prisoner repatriation that dominated the second half of the Korean War, from late 1951 to July 1953, in the prisoners' own words.
About the author
David Cheng Chang is Assistant Professor of History at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
"This book represents a giant step forward in our understanding of the prisoner-of-war issue in the Korean War. The research on the Chinese prisoners is extraordinary, the stories of individuals compelling, and the analysis of the context in which they made choices balanced and persuasive."
—William Stueck, author of The Korean War: An International History
"David Cheng Chang's superlative research reveals the use of Chinese POWs as pawns in the larger Cold War standoff between the US and China during the Korean War. His cogent analysis encourages us to think about the aftermath of the war and the lives of those who made the 'voluntary choice' to join or who faced 'forced conformity.'"
—Barak Kushner, author of Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice