Sent to Chongqing (Chungking) in January 1941, Currie met there with Chinese leaders. He recommended that China be added to the Lend-Lease program, despite the fact that Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) was more interested in building up his strength vis-à-vis the Communists than in fighting the Japanese. He helped set up the American Volunteer Group (the Flying Tigers) under Claire Chennault as well as a training program in the United States for Chinese pilots, and he expanded the China National Aviation Corporation.
Currie's paper to the Joint War Board in May 1941 on Chinese aircraft requirements stressed the role a Chinese air force could play in defending Singapore, the Burma Road, and the Philippines against Japanese attack and also pointed out China's potential for bombing Japan itself. Currie recommended Owen Lattimore as political adviser to Jiang and argued against concessions to Japan.
In 1942, when British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill diverted supplies from China to North Africa and Jiang threatened to discontinue war with Japan, Roosevelt dispatched Currie to Chongqing to soothe the generalissimo and to patch up strained relations between Jiang and his chief of staff, U.S. Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell. Currie recommended Stilwell's recall, but this action was delayed until 1944. By 1943, when he moved to the Foreign Economic Administration, Currie had come to share Churchill's view of China as a relatively unimportant theater. In early 1945, he headed the Allied delegation to Bern to persuade the Swiss to block Nazi bank balances and halt the flow of German supplies through Switzerland to Italy.
Part of Currie's work involved negotiating with the Soviets on wartime and postwar loan agreements and other matters. When his name appeared in partially decrypted Soviet cables between Moscow and Washington—the so-called Venona Papers—some believed Currie was a Soviet agent. He appeared before the House Committee on Unamerican Activities (HUAC) in August 1948 to deny these allegations. Although no charges resulted, U.S. authorities refused to renew Currie's passport in 1954 because he had taken up residence in Colombia following his appointment as the head of a World Bank mission there between 1949 and 1950 and his subsequent marriage to a Colombian. In 1958, he became a Colombian citizen. Currie taught in the United States and Canada as a visiting professor from 1966 to 1971, but he was active in Colombia as that government's most important economic adviser until his death in Bogota on 23 December 1993.
Sandilands, Roger J. The Life and Political Economy of Lauchlin Currie: New Dealer, Presidential Adviser, and Development Economist. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990.; Schaller, Michael. The U.S. Crusade in China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.