Claude Albert Buss was born on November 29, 1903, in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Washington Missionary College in 1922, received an M.A. from Susquehanna University in 1924, and in 1927, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with what is believed to be the first American Ph.D. in International Relations.
In 1929, Buss joined the US Foreign Service, because, he said, he wanted to go to China and it was the only way to get there. He was posted to the US Legation in Peiping (Beijing), and later served as the vice-consul in Nanking (Nanjing).
[Claude Buss with D. Y. Lin and Chen Kung-po, Minister of Industry, in one of the rural areas around Nanking, early 1930s]
As an American diplomat, Buss found himself perfectly positioned to observe the changes sweeping through China in the 1930s. He observed and documented acts of Japanese aggression in the region, the widespread effects of Chinese militarization, and the increasing poverty of the rural areas. He also befriended a number of high-ranking officials in the Chinese government.
[Evelyn Lukens Buss and daughter Evie at the Buss home in Peiping, 1930]
When Buss moved to China in 1929, his new wife, Evelyn, went with him. Their children were both born in China - Evelyn ("Evie") in Peiping in 1930, and Barbara ("Bobbie") in Nanking in 1932.
Upon his return from China in 1934, Buss joined the faculty of the University of Southern California as a professor of International Relations, where he remained until 1941.