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CHINA: Chang kai-Shek



Chairman of the WAIS Board Michael May, who knows China well, writes:

"No one who knew Chiang Kai-Shek and who left a record thought he was any kind of democrat. Indeed, it was either Gen. Stillwell or another of his American advisers who said that he didn't have a democratic bone in his body."

So I began checking. Documents in the Hoover archives say President Hoover visited Chiang Kai-shek on May 3rd, 1946, and they traded compliments for 45 minutes, saying nothing substantial. He and his wife saw them off at the airport. Hoover had refused to answer political questions from newsmen. He said "I have a number of questions that have a political complexion. and that is not the purpose of my mission. I am engaged solely on a food mission, nothing else". In view of Hoover's sense of utter honesty, it is hard to believe that he would approve of dishonesty of the part of the Chiang regime. i am investigating further.

Hoover's protégé Glen Campbell, director of the Hoover Institution, who died recently, was less cautious in his book The Competition of Ideas. How my colleagues and I built the Hoover Institution (Jameson Books, 2001). In 1963 he and his wife Rita visited Taiwan. where the met with Madame Chiang Kai-shek, a Wellesley graduate. Then the Campbells were flown to the island of Quemoy, where they were received by the Generalissimo. A photograph shows them laughing happily together. Campbell does not raise the question of Chiang's democracy. His book is about Stanford politics, not national or international politics.

To get a better feel for the latter, we must resort to George Nash, Herbert Hoover and Stanford University. Hoover turned against his faithful assistant, Harold Fisher, on account of his relationship with the San Francisco-based Institute of Pacific Relations, which was "exposed in congressional hearings as having been for years a communist-controlled organization" (These are NOT my words). Hoover was primarily concerned about China and "losing it to Communists". Anyone who disagreed with him was labeled at best a leftist. Fisher had signed a letter to the New York Times implicitly denouncing Joe McCarthy, whose re-election Hoover applauded. When McCarthy died, he tried unsuccessfully to get his papers and vowed to clean the Hoover Institution of "left-wingers" In all of this the question of Chiang's devotion to democracy was lost.

Certainly Henry Luce and Clare Boothe Luce knew Chiang; we would have to go through the files of Time to find out what they thought of his devotion to democracy. There is no mention of Luce in the Hoover book, but Campbell was proud of the fact that at an Oxford dinner he sat next to Luce and told him how much he admired his wife, a congresswoman, for having invented the term "Globaloneyˇ". She responded later by saying she was especially fond of Campbell. She was on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. It would be an enormous job to go through all the Washington records to fine out who thought Chiang was a democrat. From the materials I have read it is clear that such questions as democracy were blurred if not forgotten. The dictum that politics stops at the water's edge is real baloney. For example, in official denunciations of lack of democracy and religious freedom there was until recently practically no mention of Saudi Arabia.

A footnote. Paul Simon tells us "Madame Chiang (Song Mei Ling) is still alive at 104, and lives in NYC. Her brother was the Nationalist finance minister (and held other cabinet posts at times). Many think she was the brains among the three Song sisters and in the Chiang household. She is US-educated and speaks superb English. The three Song sisters- one married Sun Yatsen and stayed behind after the revolution and became an important figure in the PRC government (though many experts say she had no power). Madame Chiang went to Taiwan with the Generalissimo. The last sister also married into the Nationalist cabinet, marrying another finance minister. On the mainland they say "one loved power, one loved money, and one loved China". I totally agree with historian Barbara Tuchman (Stilwell and The American Experience in China) that nobody "lost China", it wasn't OURS to win or lose. There was plenty of bad government all around in China 1900-1950, augmented by war, warlordism, colonialism, famines, etc. No outside government was going to overcome all this and produce the China of its dreams, especially considering the players at the time!"

Ronald Hilton - 12/26/01


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