SpyCast 3.12.24
Ep 624 | 3.12.24

Telling Americans About China (and Intelligence) – with Sara Castro

Show Notes


Dr. Sara Castro (LinkedIn, Bio) joins Andrew (XLinkedIn) to discuss the history of US-China diplomacy. Sara is an Associate Professor of History at the United States Air Force Academy. 

What You’ll Learn


  • The Dixie Mission 
  • The history of US-China relations dating back to the Opium Wars
  • China’s involvement with the OSS during WWII
  • How Mao Zedong & Chiang Kai-shek built modern China


  • Understanding and empathy
  • Knowledge is power 

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew was joined by Sara Castro, President of the Society for Intelligence History, professor of History at the United States Air Force Academy, and former intelligence analyst at the CIA. After taking the dare to study Chinese language in college, Sara developed a deep interest in understanding Chinese culture and history – An interest that would shape the trajectory of her career. Her new book, Mission to Mao: US Intelligence in China during World War II is available for pre-order now. 

In this episode, Sara and Andrew dig into the lesser-known history of the US-China collaboration during WWII, including an exploration of the fascinating Dixie Mission that occurred between 1944 and 1947. With an eye on current relations, this episode reminds us just how critical the study of history is to understand the present. 


The United States Air Force Academy has produced many notable graduates, ranging from Olympic gold-medalists to the first African American to command a space vehicle. One graduate was even the subject of a popular 2016 movie with Tom Hanks playing the title role – Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Class of 1973, the pilot who successfully landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River without a single casualty. 

Quotes of the Week

“One of the things that has been so appealing about teaching is that there is room there for people to be ready to change their minds. And so, the thread for me has been, content on China … telling Americans about China. That is the thread of my career – Explaining this place and explaining this culture and civilization to students and getting them to see, ‘Oh, it's not what I thought it was.’” – Sara Castro.



*Spotlight Resource*

  • Mission to Mao: US Intelligence in China during World War II, Sara B. Castro, (Georgetown University Press, 2024) 


*Beginner Resources*



  • Spies and Lies: How China's Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World, A. Joske (Hardie Grant, 2022) 
  • The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, M. Pillsbury (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016) 
  • Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937–1945, R. Mitter (Mariner Books, 2013)



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • After the signing of the SACO Treaty in 1942, Chinese spymaster Dai Li took command of the US-China intelligence cooperation during World War II. 
  • Six decades later in 2005, Nickelodeon premiered the now immensely popular American anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender. In the series, the elite secret police agency of fictional capital city Ba Sing Se are appropriately named, The Dai Li