Continuing our series on the regime of Chiang Kai-shek–all but beatified during the Cold War–we draw still more on a magnificent book–The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave. Although sadly out of print, the book is still available through used book services, and we emphatically encourage listeners to take advantage of those and obtain it.
(Mr. Emory gets no money from said purchases of the book.)
The program begins with review of the structure of Chiang’s fascist infrastructure, his secret police cadres in particular.
Key points of analysis and discussion include:
1.–Chiang translated his admiration of Hitler and Mussolini into the most sincere form of flattery—imitation: “ . . . . Chiang believed that fascism stood on three legs—nationalism, absolute faith in the Maximum Leader, and the spartan militarization of the citizens. The New Life Movement [the chief promoter of which was Madame Chiang Kai-shek] was the popular manifestation of Chiang’s fascism—a toy for his wife and the missionaries—and it was comic enough not to be taken seriously by foreigners in general. The missionaries . . . . were now eagerly climbing aboard the New Life bandwagon. . . .”
2.–There were three overlapping organizational elements to Chiang’s fascist cadres—the Blue Shirts, the CBIS (Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics) which was run by the Ch’en brothers and the MBIS (the Military Bureau of Investigation and Statistics which was run by Tai Li. Both Ch’en brothers and Tai Li were Green Gang associates of Chiang Kai-shek: “ . . . . Chiang’s fascination with Hitler resulted in the creation of a new secret society modeled on Hitler’s Brown Shirts and Mussolini’s Black Shirts. Chiang called his the Blue Shirts, though he denied their existence repeatedly. They were an offshoot of his two secret services, the party gestapo under the Ch’en brothers, and the military secret police under Tai Li. . . .”
3.–The CBIS was the Kuomintang’s secret political police: “ . . . . Chiang came to depend heavily on the two nephews of his Green Gang mentor . . . . Ch’en Ch’i-mei. The older nephew, Ch’en Kuo-fu, who had organized and headed the drive that recruited seven thousand Green Gang youths for the Whampoa Military Academy had since then been given the responsibility of setting up a gestapo organization within the KMT. As head of the KMT’s Organization Department, his job was to purify the party and the Nanking government continually. To guarantee the loyalty of each party member, Ch’en Kuo-fu built a spy network that touched every government agency. To run this new apparatus, he selected his younger brother, Ch’en Li-fu [educated at the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S.—D.E.]. Both the Ch-en brothers were “blood brothers” of Chiang Kai-shek, having taken part in a Green Gang ceremony after the death of their uncle. . . . Li-fu . . . . became the director of Chiang’s secret service—the Central Bureau of Investigation and Statistics (CBIS), the euphemism chosen for the KMT’s political secret police. . . .”
4.–“China’s Himmler”—Tai Li—headed the MBIS: “ . . . . While the CBIS spied, conducted purges and political executions within the party, large-scale public terrorism was the province of its military counterpart the Military Bureau of Investigation and Statistics (MBIS) was run by “China’s Himmler,” Tai Li—for twenty years the most dreaded man in China. . . . Tai Li had spent his youth as a Green Gang aide to Big-eared Tu and was educated at Tu’s persona expense. In 1926, he was one of the Green Gang recruits enrolled at Whampoa Academy. . . . All clandestine operations in China, except those conducted by the Ch’ens, were his responsibility during the 1930’s. . . .”
5.–Supplementing and overlapping both CBIS and MBIS were the Blue Shirts: “ . . . . Both of these secret police organizations were supplemented by the Blue Shirts. Although it was a replica of the European fascist cults, the Blue Shirts also emulated Japan’s dreaded Black Dragon Society, the most militant secret cult of the Imperial Army. [The organization that helped spawn Kodama Yoshio—D.E.] The Blue Shirts job was to reform China the hard way, by knocking heads together, carrying out political assassinations, liquidating corrupt bureaucrats and “enemies of the state.” . . . . They were officered by old Green Gang classmates from Whampoa. . . .”
6.–Exemplifying the homicidal brutality of Chiang’s secret police cadres was the liquidation of six of China’s most important writers: “ . . . . The extreme was soon reached with the horrific end of six of China’s foremost writers, all followers of the leading literary figure of the  revolution [led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen], Lu Hsun. . . . He [Chiang] ordered his secret police to arrest the writers. Lu Hsun eluded arrest but six young leaders of the group—including Feng Kung, China’s best-known woman writer—were taken into custody and forced to dig a large pit. They were tied hand and foot, thrown into the pit, and buried alive. . . .”
A fundamental dynamic of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime was his steadfast refusal to use his military forces to fight the invading Japanese. (Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and the Sino-Japanese War preceded—and then overlapped—World War II.)
Chiang and his forces frequently collaborated with the Japanese and “the Generalissimo” steadfastly refused to commit Kuomintang armies against them, preferring to husband his combatants for use against the Chinese Communists. (This ideological manifestation of Chiang’s dictatorship won him favor with the Axis powers, as well as dominant elements of the American power elite. As will be seen in future programs, Chiang’s stance led to the replacement of General Joseph Stilwell with Albert C. Wedemeyer as chief military adviser to the KMT.)
Chief among Chiang’s critics was T.V. Soong, who—correctly—forecast that Chiang’s military posture would propel the Chinese populace into alignment with the Chinese Communist Party whose fierce, successful military resistance to the Japanese was recognized as manifest patriotism.)
“ . . . . Shaken by what he had observed of the Japanese assault, T.V. Soong began to draw some dangerous conclusions. ‘If China is placed before the alternative of communism and Japanese militarism with its military domination, then China will choose communism.’ This rather daring statement, given during an interview with Karl H. von Wiegand in March, 1932, placed T.V. in direct opposition to Chiang Kai-shek. It was all the more iconoclastic for being made by a rich financier and Finance Minister. . . .”
T.V. Soong—in that same interview—noted that the Western powers had passively collaborated with the Japanese attacks on Manchuria and Shanghai: “ . . . . ‘The League [of Nations—D.E.] and the big powers looked on. They even permitted the International Settlement to be used as a base of operations. Can you be surprised that China would turn to Communism or Sovietism, if that were to unite the country, rather than submit to foreign military domination?’ . . . .”
We conclude with discussion of a major event in the history of Chiang Kai-shek’s conservation of his military resources to fight the Communists–what has become known as the Sian incident.
The Sian Incident was very important—though little recognized—event in the history of China: the “kidnapping” of Chiang Kai-shek by Kuomintang military officers who were intent on forming an anti-Japanese coalition called for by Madame Sun Yat-Sen (Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s widow and the former Ching-ling Soong.)
This became known as the Sian incident, named after the locale in which Chiang was taken into custody and held.
Inspired by the success of Mao Tse-Tung’s forces in fighting the Japanese, a mass student protest movement precipitated the call by Mme. Sun Yat-sen, which was put into action by “The Young Marshal,” Chang Hsueh-liang. He was supported in this by the forces of General Yang Hu-cheng. “ . . . . Meanwhile, Mao Tse-Tung’s Communist forces reached Yenan at the end of the Long March, and began rallying anti-Japanese nationalism to their side. To many students, the authentic heroism of the Red Army combined with this blunt stand against Tokyo was a siren call. On December 9, 1935, ten thousand Peking students demonstrated against Japan. The protest drew nationwide attention and Madame Sun Yat-sen emerged from seclusion in Shanghai to support the students by launching a National Salvation League. . . .”
Key points of analysis and discussion include:
1.–The Young Marshal’s return to China after kicking narcotics administered to him Tai-li’s secret police (this during a recuperative sojourn in Europe): “ . . . . When the Young Marshal returned to China in 1934,, he was transformed. Gone were the narcotics, and in their place was a tough new nationalism. He decided that China’s salvation lay in persuading Chiang to stand firm against Tokyo. He had long talks with T.V. Soong in Shanghai about how to engineer this, and T. V., who must have realized that a powerful military lever had fallen into his hands, burned the midnight oil with the dapper Manchurian general, exploring all possible maneuvers against Chiang . . . .”
2.–“ . . . . Early in 1936, the Young Marshal quietly instructed his troops on the frontier to stop shooting at red guerrillas. He had reached the conclusion that most of China’s Communists were driven into the arms of the CCP by the degradation of the country at the hands of Chiang and the foreign powers. Chinese, he decided, should no longer fight Chinese while the nation was being ravished by foreign invaders. . . .”
3.–The Young Marshal then met, and reached agreement with Chou En-Lai, later the Foreign Minister of China under Mao Tse-tung. “ . . . . That June, he met privately with Chou En-Lai to see if they could put aside differences and develop a joint strategy. He came away with his conviction reaffirmed that the answer lay in a united front He was good to his word. All military action halted, liaison was set up between their two headquarters, and bureaus of the National Salvation League were organized throughout northwestern China. . . . Word of this ‘treachery’ reached Chiang Kai-shek at Nanking. . . .”
4.–Chiang refused to join the nationalist coalition: “ . . . . When the Generalissimo arrived, the Young Marshal told Chiang that his anti-red campaign that his anti-red campaign should be scrapped and a united front formed with Mao Tse-Tung. The time had come for a patriotic war, not a civil war. Chiang hotly rejected the argument . . . .”
Chiang publicized his determination to continue with his anti-communist annihilation campaign: “ . . . . On December 4, 1936, the Generalissimo returned to Sian to announce that he was going ahead with the annihilation campaign, to begin on December 12. . . .”
5.–In combination with General Yang, the Young Marshal decided to take Chiang hostage and extract his consent to a nationalist coalition: “ . . . . At 5:30 in the morning of December 12—the day the new annihilation campaign was to begin—Chiang Kai-shek was staring out the back window of his bedroom at the mountain beyond the garden wall. In the darkness, four trucks loaded with 120 armed soldiers rumbled to a halt at the gates. The battalion commander in the lead truck demanded that the gates be opened. The sentries refused. The men in the trucks opened fire. . . .”
6.–Despite being taken captive, Chiang refused to form a nationalist coalition: “ . . . . At Sian, Chiang stubbornly resisted the Eight Demands. ‘He refused to turn our guns against the enemy,’ the Young Marshal explained in a public address to a huge crowd in a Sian park on December 16, ‘but reserved the for use against our own people.’ . . .”
7.–Eventually, Chiang grudgingly agreed to the coalition, apparently after T.V. Soong saw to it that Chiang got a significant amount of money. “ . . . . The Young Marshal gallantly accepted all blame for the Sian Incident, allowing Chiang to wash his hands in public and wipe them on him. (Interestingly he was put up at T.V. Soong’s home in Nanking.) He had done China a historic service by bringing about the long-sought united front, whatever its later failings. . . .”
7.–Chiang’s reluctant agreement was trumpeted by Henry Luce: “ . . . . He put them [Chiang and Mme. Chiang] on the cover of Time’s firs issue of 1938 as ‘Man and Wife of the Year.’ May-ling Soong Chiang now became an even bigger international celebrity. . . .”
8.–As was his wont, Chiang broke his promise to the Young Marshal and General Yang. Lauded by Henry Luce and his associates as an Exemplary Christian, Chiang promised an amnesty on Good Friday—a promise he promptly broke. “ . . . . In his Good Friday message to China that spring of 1937, Chiang referred to the Sian Incident and said piously, ‘Remembering that Christ enjoined us to forgive those who sin against us until seventy times seven and upon their repentance, I felt that that they should be allowed to start life anew. . . .”
9.–Similar treatment was afforded General Yang: “ . . . . The Young Marshal’s co-conspirator, General Yang, despite the Good Friday amnesty, was imprisoned when he came back from European exile and languished for eleven years in one of Tai Li’s special detention camps near Chungking. His wife went on a hunger strike in protest and was allowed to starve herself to death. . . .”