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.)
We begin with further discussion of the influence of Time Inc.–the Henry Luce publishing empire–on American perceptions of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. Theodore White, who wrote for Time magazine had this observation on the journal’s editorial policy: “ . . . . Theodore White posted the following sign in the shack that served as the Time office in Chungking: ‘Any resemblance to what is written here and what is printed in Time Magazine is purely coincidental.’ This reflected his increasingly pessimistic attitude about his ability, if not to change the course of China’s destiny, at least to keep the American public informed of the events as he and observers like [General Joseph] Stilwell, [State Department Officer Jack] Service and [State Department official John Paton] Davies saw them . . . .”
When White lodged his complaints with Henry Luce, the foreign news editor for Time was Whitaker Chambers, best known as the accuser of Alger Hiss in the proceedings which helped elevate Richard Nixon’s political career.
(In AFA#1, we noted that Chambers displayed a life-size portrait of Adolf Hitler in his living room. In AFA#2, we highlighted vehement criticism of Chambers from a former writer for Time, who spun stories from reporters in the field to the far right, making stories of the liberation of European countries by Allied soldiers look like a creeping Communist manifestation. The commentary was in a letter protesting Ronald Reagan’s awarding of a medal to Chambers. Reagan also elevated Albert C. Wedemeyer to a position of special military advisor.)
During the last year of the war, Chiang Kai-shek retreated into a world of debauchery, Green Gang camaraderie and ideological delusion. The debacle created by Chiang is embodied in the starvation of his own army conscripts and his refusal to believe accounts of what was taking place: “ . . . . So totally removed from reality did Chiang become that he was struck with disbelief one day by rumors that his own soldiers were dropping dead of starvation in the streets. Corruption was keeping them from being fed the barest rations. He sent his eldest son, CCK, to investigate. When CCK reported back that it was true, Chiang insisted on seeing for himself. CCK showed him army conscripts who had died in their bedrolls because of neglect. . . . The starvation deaths continued. In August 1944, the corpses of 138 stared soldiers were removed from the streets of Chungking. Chiang did not come out again to see. . . .”
Key Points of Discussion and analysis include: Chambers’ complete perversion of a story written by Theodore White about the circumstances surrounding the removal of General Stilwell (discussed in FTR#1203); T.V. Soong’s continued presence in China, the only member of the family to remain in the country after a failed “palace coup” discussed in FTR#1203; T.V.’s effective control of Chiang Kai-shek’s public persona and statements; T.V.’s use of his position as Premier to manipulate the disposition of American aid to his own benefit.
The scale of the corruption characterizing Chiang’s regime and the Soong clan that continued to control it was enormous. In addition to the pirating of American Lend-Lease material shipped to China by the Soong family, as well as Chiang and his generals (who sold much of what they did not keep for themselves to the Japanese invaders), post war United Nations Relief suffered a similar disposition.
“ . . . . After T.V. [Soong] was named Premier, he created a special agency, the Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (CNRRA) to oversee the distribution of UN relief goods. The deal he struck with the U.S. government and the United Nations was that UNRRA would relinquish all title to supplies the moment the goods touched down on any Chinese wharf. . . . The wharfs where most of these goods landed, the warehouses where the goods were stored and the transportation companies that moved them (including China Merchants Steam Navigation Company) were owned by Big-eared Tu [Tu Yueh-sheng]. This was a situation ready-made for abuse. . . .”
Like many other foreign regimes, as well as domestic elements of the power elite, the Chiang/Soong/Green Gang kleptocracy used the fear of Communism to bilk the U.S. out of vast sums: “ . . . . Chiang was using the fear of a Communist takeover to obtain millions from the United States. Fear served him well. . . .”
Key Points of Discussion and Analysis Include: The monumental rip-off of Chinese investors and financial institutions engineered by T.V. Soong with a scam launching a gold-backed currency; the panic that gripped Shanghai and much of the rest of China as a result of the “gold yuan” scam; the gobbling up of much of that wealth by the Soong and Kung families.
When Chiang made a woefully belated anti-corruption drive—headed up by his son, CCK made the mistake of arresting David Kung (son of H.H. Kung and Ai-ling [Soong] and the nephew of Mme. Chiang Kai-shek [nee Mae-ling Soong]) and the M.I.T.-educated stock broker son of Green Gang boss Tu Yueh-sheng: “ . . . . The son of Big-eared Tu, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was tried and sentenced by CCK so fast that it was all over before anyone was dimly aware even that he had been arrested. . . . He did not serve time, for that would have been pressing his father a bit much. . . .”
Presaging Hong Kong’s emergence as an augmented epicenter of high-level intrigue, Tu Yueh-sheng moved his assets there after the war: “ . . . . It was hard to concentrate on reorganizing the old Shanghai operations when the reds were steamrolling across Manchuria and moving ever southward. Tu began shifting his assets to Hong Kong. . . .”
In the case of David Kung, Mme. Chiang intervened on his behalf and his Yangtze Development Corporation—a major focal point of corruption–moved to Florida: “ . . . . Prudently, Mae ling hurried David onto a plane for Hong Kong, with continuing connections to Florida. He was not to come back. Yangtze Development Corporation’s offices in China were closed down overnight and reopened in Miami Beach. . . .”
Chiang then decamped to Taiwan, where he subdued the island’s inhabitants with characteristic brutality: “ . . . . The island did not welcome the KMT. It was driven into submission by terror. . . . Chiang forced Taiwan to heel. There were massacres; in the first, ten thousand Taiwanese were slain by KMT troops in riots in downtown Taipei. Twenty thousand more were put to death before Chiang was firmly established. . . .”