In 1949, as the Chinese Civil War was about to enter its final, explosive stage, the small British frigate HMS Amethyst was sent on a dangerous mission up the Yangtze River to protect British citizens in Nanking. En route it was attacked by the Chinese Communists and held hostage on the river for several months before the crew managed to make a daring escape.
The Amethyst captured news headlines around the world and became an unlikely symbol of the cold war in Asia. This dramatic episode, hailed in the West as a triumph of the human spirit but bitterly condemned by the Chinese Communists, was to prejudice Anglo-Chinese relations for years to come.
Using sources not previously available, Malcolm Murfett has written a book that is much more than an account of a single incident. It provides a sweeping survey of British naval power in China, from its faltering and inept beginnings in the late 1630s right up to the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949. In explaining the importance of the Amethyst episode in the history of Anglo-Chinese naval relations, Murfett suggests that it was the final poignant break with the past.
Readers will find Hostage on the Yangtze to be a fascinating tale of high adventure, imperialistic oppression, diplomatic shortcomings, and political repercussions¬—a mixture that culminates in one of the most dramatic and memorable crises of the post-war world.