Generalissmo and Madame Chiang not yet 'out of mind'
The China Post news staffThere's a very timely exhibition which opens at National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall today. On display at the “Forever Madame Chiang” exhibit are more than 250 photos and memorabilia of May-ling Soong, better known in the West as China's eternal first lady. This 10th-anniversary commemoration of the death of Madame Chiang Kai-shek shows the world that she and her husband are neither out of sight nor out of mind, as far as Chinese people are concerned.
October 24, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Among the memorabilia on display are two silver goblets presented to the newlywed Chiangs at the end of 1927 by Wang Qingwei and Sun Fo, who headed the Kuomintang government in Wuhan as a rival of Generalissimo Chiang in Nanjing. The wedding presents are known as “Goblets of Reconciliation.” Inscribed on Wang's goblet is the congratulatory note, “Hearts Bound Together” (綰結同心), while the inscription on Sun's reads “Base for Peace” (治平之基).
Sun Fo, son of founder of the Chinese Republic Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and Wang, Dr. Sun's right-hand man, continued their alliance with the Chinese Communist Party and moved the Kuomintang government from Guangzhou to Wuhan in April 1927, while Generalissimo Chiang was on his Northern Expedition to unify China. Chiang conquered Nanjing and put up another government to split the Kuomintang. Wang found out that Joseph Stalin was trying to help the Chinese Communists take over his government and reconciled with Chiang, making it possible for the generalissimo to nominally unify China in 1929.
Unlike the Chinese Communist Party, the Kuomintang has survived many splits, like the Nanjing-Wuhan split of 1927. Early last month, the Kuomintang's attempted ouster of Wang Jin-pyng from the party started a political crisis, which was just averted by the defeat of a no-confidence motion against Premier Jiang Yi-huah last week, but the threat of another split hasn't totally disappeared. The two goblets should remind the ruling party of Wang and Sun's successful attempts in achieving reconciliation with Chiang to ensure Chinese unification.
The exhibition also reminds those on both sides of the Taiwan Strait how Madame Chiang helped her husband cope with Japanese aggression against China, which began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937. It was Madame Chiang who went to Xian to secure the release of the generalissimo by a rebelling army and manage reconciliation with Mao Zedong at the end of 1936. As a result, Chiang was able to lead China to fight an eight-year-long war of resistance against the Japanese Imperial Army.
The Japanese thought Chiang would surrender when Nanjing fell near the end of 1937. Chiang refused to do so, but Wang split the Kuomintang, surrendering to Japan to form a puppet regime in Nanjing. It was Madame Chiang who relied on her personal charisma to secure United States' support for China's war for survival.
Chiang's perseverance that alone saved China might not have lasted long if the United States had not changed its hands-off policy vis-a-vis the undeclared Sino-Japanese War. Thanks to Madame Chiang's lobbying, the U.S. began to demand that Japan withdraw all its troops from China to restore peace. Japan subsequently allied with Hitler's Third Reich and Mussolini's Italy to form the Axis, and attacked Pearl Harbor to kick off the Pacific War. The United States took part in the war against the Axis, in which Chiang's China played a major role. The costs were great. At least 14 million Chinese were killed and some 80 million became refugees over the course of the war.
The People's Republic of China now recognizes Chiang's legacy, and is trying to cash in a geopolitical check he, with the help of his first lady, wrote almost seven decades ago. No wonder that the first couple are neither out of sight nor out of mind for not just the people of Taiwan, but also the people of mainland China as well.