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  1. Speleothem oxygen isotope records have revolutionized our understanding of the paleo East Asian monsoon, yet there is fundamental disagreement on what they represent in terms of the hydroclimate changes. We report a multiproxy speleothem record of monsoon evolution during the last deglaciation from the middle Yangtze region, which indicates a wetter central eastern China during North Atlantic cooling episodes, despite the oxygen isotopic record suggesting a weaker monsoon. We show that this apparent contradiction can be resolved if the changes are interpreted as a lengthening of the Meiyu rains and shortened post-Meiyu stage, in accordance with a recent hypothesis. Model simulations support this interpretation and further reveal the role of the westerlies in communicating the North Atlantic influence to the East Asian climate.