By Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs
In a well-intentioned but misdirected move, U.S. Senators Bob Dole (R-KS) and Paul Simon (D-IL) have invited Madame Chiang Kai-shek (born Soong Mei-ling) to be the guest of honor at a reception to be held in Washington D.C.'s Capitol on July 26. According to these plans, Mme. Chiang would be honored "for her contributions to the solidification of the Sino-American relationship during World War II." The invitation has stirred disbelief and anger among Taiwanese Americans. Below, we explain the reasons why:
Firstly, whether Chiang Kai-shek and his wife have "solidified" American relations is highly debatable. Several works which focus on that period of history describe the Chiangs as highly manipulative and their entourage corrupt -- mostly at the expense of the American taxpayer. The excellent work by Sterling Seagraves, "The Soong Dynasty" gives one example after another of the intrigues and corruption of the Chiangs and the Soongs. Another authoritative book, "Stilwell and the American Experience in China," by American historian Barbara Tuchman, is filled with illustrations and anecdotes on the impossible relationship the Americans maintained with "Generalissimo" Chiang Kai-shek and his wife and their lack of willingness to cooperate with the Americans.
Secondly, Mme. Chiang and her husband were responsible for establishing a political system of terror, oppression and corruption on Taiwan -- a system of which the remnants last until this very day. The Kuomintang must be held accountable for establishing Martial Law on Taiwan in 1947, characterized by a repressive rule which lasted for almost 40 years. They ordered the 1947 massacre of an entire generation of Taiwanese leaders. While President Lee Teng-hui recently apologized for the suffering inflicted by the Kuomintang on the people of Taiwan, there was never any sign of atonement from Mme. Chiang.
In her book, Tuchman paints a picture of Mme. Chiang as a manipulative woman, setting everything and everybody in motion for the sake of her own benefit and enrichment. And all this, of course, was much to the chagrin of the American leadership. How could she get away with this? Because she knew that the Americans needed China as a strategic stronghold and as a base of operations in the war against Japan, and at no matter what cost. So whenever Mme. Chiang needed something done, she simply threatened to take China out of the war.
Despite the fact that on 9 February 1942, General "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell had heard Roosevelt say that "... he did not want Mme. Chiang to come on a visit," Mme. Chiang visited the U.S. from November 1942 until May 1943. Part of that time, she stayed at the White House and angered its staff "by clapping in her hands for their attention, although all the rooms in the White House were equipped with bells and telephones."
According to Tuchman "Madame's behavior did not suggest a leader who was guiding her country toward a democratic future." She quotes U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau as telling his staff: "The President ... is just crazy to get her out of the country." There is an abundance of stories in the book about Mme. Chiang's way of enriching herself and her family. She and her sister Ei-ling were reported to have manipulated Government bonds and to have raked in huge profits from speculation in silver in the course of currency measures put through by Dr. H.H. Kung - Ei-ling's husband.
Nelson T. Johnson -- American Ambassador to China from 1935 on -- stated that Dr. Kung and his brother-in-law T.V. Soong could not give "unbiased consideration" to China's problems because of their various personal financial interests. While her husband was Minister of Finance, Ei-ling was also "credited with receiving a moderate but invariable commission on all purchases of military planes." This pattern of corrupt behavior led President Truman to angrily state a few years later that: "They are all thieves, every damn one of them!" The Soongs and Chiangs amassed one of the world's largest fortunes at a time when millions of Chinese died from starvation and from the bitter civil war against Mao.
According to Tuchman, Kuomintang officials were proud of their diplomatic skill in playing on American nerves; they maintained contact with Japanese in Shanghai "in order to excite fears in Washington." Mme. Chiang went as far as launching a campaign to have General Stilwell recalled back to Washington from the Chinese theater. Part of the reason why Mme. Chiang had started this campaign was that "he signed memoranda as "Lieutenant General-USA" instead of "Chief of Staff to the Generalissimo."
Roosevelt had predicted that "no other country was so likely to be the source of postwar trouble." He proved to be right, because in December of the very next year, Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang Government, accompanied by one million soldiers, were forced to flee to Taiwan. As Tuchman writes: "Born in the revolution of 1911, the Kuomintang had spent its mandate in one generation."
In spite of the repression imposed on Taiwan by the Kuomintang of Mme. Chiang and her husband, the people of the island were able to turn the tide and during the past decade move towards a democratic political system. But on the island, Madame Chiang continues to be seen as the embodiment and the symbol of repression and corruption during the post World War II period.
Taiwan Communique comment: Inviting Madame Chiang to Washington is a slap in the face of the countless Taiwanese who have worked so hard for human rights and democracy on the island. It is an insult to the thousands who died during and after the "February 28" Incident of 1947 at the hands of Chiang Kai-shek's secret police. We urge Senators Simon and Dole to withdraw the invitation. Mme Chiang is not a symbol of freedom and democracy that the U.S. fought for in Asia and stands for now. If anyone needs to be honored, it is those courageous Taiwanese who helped bring about democracy in Taiwan as well as the family members of those who died during the "February 28 Incident" of 1947 who should be invited to the Capitol.
On 7 April 1995, a Resolution was introduced in the US House of Representatives regarding Taiwan's participation in the United Nations. The resolution was co-signed by a large number of representatives from both the Republican and Democratic side of the House. The text is as follows:
CONCURRENT RESOLUTION Relating to the Republic of China (Taiwan)'s participation in the United Nations.
Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of the Congress that--
Taiwan Communique comment: while this resolution is a significant step forward in comparison to previous texts, it has one draw-back: in the title it still refers to theanachronistic "Republic of China" name. As we have argued before, this perpetuates the claim of the Taipei authorities on China, and thus invites Beijing's counter-claim on Taiwan.
It would increase the chances of Taiwan to enter the UN, if the case would be presented simply and clearly as a new Taiwan, which intends to live in peace with all its neighbors, including the PRC. We thus urge members of Congress to move forward with this resolution, but to amend the title, so it reflects the present reality, and not a fiction that is past.
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