Richard A. Wich, who spent much of his career with the CIA’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service and became an authority on Chinese-Soviet relations, died Sept. 17 at George Washington University Hospital. He was 79.
He had myelodysplastic syndrome, a bone marrow disorder, said his wife, Joyce Harmon.
Mr. Wich (pronounced “Wick”) held a graduate degree in philosophy and had a background in publishing when he responded in 1961 to a somewhat vague advertisement seeking people keen on overseas travel. It wound up being a job with the FBIS, which monitors news and information sources abroad.
During his 28-year career, he served as bureau chief in Tel Aviv, Vienna and Bangkok. His final assignment with FBIS was chief of the analysis group.
His first book, “Sino-Soviet Crisis Politics” (1980), was an examination of tensions arising between China and the Soviet Union after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and as China was emerging from the isolation of its Cultural Revolution.
Writing in the Journal of Asian Studies, the Sino-Soviet scholar William Mills of the University of Michigan called the book “an invaluable methodological guide” for analysts trying to forecast the actions of Chinese leaders based on their verbal warning signals. “He expertly weaves together the significance of secret behavior (revealed later) and public commentary to show the divergence between literal meaning and political connotation.”
His second book, “Becoming Asia: Change and Continuity in Asian International Relations Since World War II” (2011), was written with Alice L. Miller, a scholar of Chinese history and politics.
Richard Allen Wich was born in Muskogee, Okla., and raised in Tulsa. He was a 1955 graduate of the University of Texas, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received a master’s degree in philosophy from his alma mater in 1958.
He lectured on East Asian international relations at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in the 2000s.
He was a Washington Nationals season ticket holder since the team’s debut in 2005.
Survivors include his wife of 24 years, of Washington.
— Adam Bernstein