The Overstretched Superpower
Does America Have More Rivals Than It Can Handle?
WHEN Chang Hsueh-liang startled the world by imprisoning Chiang Kai-shek at Sian in December 1936, he was so indiscreet as to recount in public a conversation he had had with the Generalissimo only a few weeks before. Chang had ventured to criticize the central government for arresting a number of anti-Japanese intellectuals. The Generalissimo rejoined that the responsibility was his alone. "I am the Government," he said. "My action was that of a revolutionary."
Few would disagree with the accuracy of at least the italicized phrase. For during the past decade Chiang has held in his hands more political and military power than any living Celestial. What is more, his supremacy has never been more unquestioned than in the present hour of China's mortal agony. When last March the Kuomintang Congress named him "Tsung Tsai,"[i] it merely recognized with a title the dictatorial authority which he has long exercised over the party, the government and the army. As the undisputed leader of the most populous nation on earth, he is therefore decidedly worth trying to understand.
Chiang arrived in this world in 1887, at the small village of Chikou near Ningpo, the oldest "treaty port" of China, and not far from Shanghai. His father, a wine merchant and small landlord, had five children by three marriages; Kai-shek was the first son of the third wife. The elder Chiang died when Kai-shek was nine, so that the son grew up almost entirely under his mother's care. Like most "strong men," Chiang attributes to his mother extraordinary qualities of character, and he speaks of her in terms of deepest reverence and gratitude. But it is doubtful if he possesses any such mother-complex as Hitler or Ataturk. "The only one who believed in whatever I had undertaken to do, and did everything to help me, spiritually and materially," he says, "was my mother. As a boy she loved me very dearly, but her love was more than the love of the average mother; she was a very strict disciplinarian." Chiang's own rigid insistence on national discipline, a quality which had become almost extinct in China as a result of many years of Manchu domination, probably traces to his mother's training, reinforced by later tutelage in Japan.
Chiang's mother, a devout Buddhist and an ancestor-worshipper, was a believer in Confucian ethics, especially as regards filial piety -- faiths which she early implanted in her son. This background, together with the gentry tradition of his birth, may to some extent explain why he became a military reformer but not a social revolutionary. It also explains why Chiang's conception of loyalty is the classical one of old China -- not as a bond between equals, but as a somewhat feudal code between inferior and superior: son to father, subject to ruler, soldier to general, general to Heaven. This is the authoritarian relationship demanded by Chiang from his followers and it forms the basis of his personal ethics.
Nothing very prophetic of his future seems to have happened to Chiang in his early youth. He had severe illnesses, and as a boy he was neither robust nor especially brilliant. He was fond of play-acting stories of feudal combat with himself as "chief," and evidently he made up his mind very early to be a soldier.[ii] He cut off his queue and in 1907 enrolled in the Paoting Military Academy. In the same year he qualified to study military science in Japan at the expense of the Manchu Dynasty, which he soon determined to help overthrow.
In Tokyo, Chiang entered the Shinbo Gokyo, a training school for Chinese, where he graduated in 1909. He then joined the Japanese 13th Field Artillery, with which he remained until 1911. In Japan he met Sun Yat-sen, then a political exile from China, and joined his anti-Manchu "T'ung Meng Hui," precursor of the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party. His sponsor at this meeting was Chen Ch'i-mei, a none too savory item of the Shanghai underworld who was later assassinated. Chiang worked under Chen when he returned to China in 1911 in time to participate in the overthrow of the Manchu garrisons in Shanghai and Hangchow. But that first revolution proved abortive when old Yuan Shih-k'ai, after seizing power and attempting to enthrone himself as Emperor, in the end only succeeded in leaving behind him an era of provincial warlordism and debt.
For nearly a decade the fortunes of Chinese revolutionists were quixotic, and Chiang did little to distinguish himself. He lived most of the time in Shanghai; for a while he was a clerk, then an exchange broker, backed by the wealthy curio dealer, Chang Ching-kiang. Occasionally he wrote political pieces or articles on military science.
Further details of Chiang's personal life at this time are not particularly relevant; it has been called his "dissolute period," and a number of questionable stories of it survive. It was from all accounts far from exemplary. But meanwhile he loyally kept up his association with Dr. Sun Yat-sen, though it was a period when the Kuomintang, then a defeated party, was politically demoralized. After 1920, as revolutionary hopes revived, he fought alongside Dr. Sun to create an anti-warlord rebel government in South China. Sun liked him, trusted him, and gave him increased responsibility. Chiang's talents began to mature.
In 1923 the Kuomintang made an entente with the Soviet Union, and thereby acquired fresh vigor, funds and guns. Sun sent young Chiang along with several others to visit Moscow; there he met Trotsky, but not Lenin, who was ill, nor Stalin. "Patience and activity are the two essential factors for a revolutionary party," Trotsky told him; and Chiang never forgot the counsel. Apparently he was well liked in Moscow. In 1924, when the revolutionary Whampoa Academy (China's West Point) was founded with Soviet help near Canton, the Russian advisers concurred with Sun in selecting Chiang as its first president and as commander-in-chief -- Generalissimo -- of the Nationalist Army.
Until then he was by no means the leading figure in the Kuomintang. For a time the Chinese Communists completely dominated that organization. But Chiang was "patient" enough to wait; and "active" while he waited. After the death of Sun Yatsen he made the most of his new position. Building around himself a nucleus of young, ambitious and well-disciplined cadets, he laid the foundations for his future power. Later on, when the split occurred in the Nationalist Army, some of the Whampoa officers went with the Reds, but the majority stayed with Chiang. Whampoa's training was modelled after Trotsky's methods and turned out the first modern generals of China.
From this point Chiang's story became front page news throughout the world. Allied with the Communist Party and helped by Moscow, he swept victoriously across the face of China. By 1928 he had destroyed the corrupt Peking dictatorship of Chang Tso-lin. With skilful diplomacy and the ceremony of blood brotherhood, the Generalissimo won the adherence of the "Young Marshal," Chang Hsueh-liang, and Manchuria also came under the Nationalist white-sun flag. For the first time real unity seemed imposed on China. But once more it proved chimerical. For, as a result of the "purge" by which all the Leftists and Communists had been eliminated from the Nationalist Movement -- the "Thermidor of the Chinese Revolution" -- the army lost many of these revolutionary elements from which it had derived its crusading spirit and morale. The Nanking Government, which had been established after the coup d'état, abandoned the mass movement and sought to build its base on working agreements with the foreign imperialists. This change of front naturally met with violent opposition from revolutionary China.
In the years that followed, Chiang's régime probably faced greater difficulties than any other government in the world. Every tragedy that can afflict a country struck China: flood, famine, banditry, wars between the local militarists, a prolonged and bitter class struggle, and foreign invasion. During the last twenty or thirty years China has been emerging from feudalism, a process which Europe took centuries to complete. The past decade of catastrophes alone cost the lives of many millions of people and a property loss of billions of dollars. The fact that Chiang's government is still standing is impressive testament to the mighty imperatives that are driving the Chinese people, despite every kind of reverse, into ever closer unity.
The underlying causes of none of these calamities was removed: yet none of them proved fatal. The Nanking Government gradually became a Central Government, while the Nationalist Army assumed shape as a National Army. And the Generalissimo's own leadership, slowly recovering from the low it reached in 1933 after the loss of Manchuria and Jehol, had attained its zenith by the beginning of the current Sino-Japanese War.
Chiang's persistence in power can readily be analyzed step by step; but the mystery of his personal leadership is not so easily explained. He lacks the long-range vision and the unity of concept necessary to make a military genius. Though the war has also demonstrated his remarkable recuperative powers and some ability to learn (however slowly) from experience, it has repeatedly shown his weakness as a strategist. There are in China half a dozen military tacticians more competent than he. Mao Tse-tung and Pai Chung-hsi are by many observers conceded to be at least his equals intellectually and as political leaders. T. V. Soong is an abler executive. In one talent alone history has demonstrated his consummate skill: his mastery of the art of political manœuvre. Yet despite the richness of rival talent, it is Chiang alone who has the prestige of having ruled a united China.
The fact is that in any other country a man with Chiang's qualities would probably have remained a mediocrity. Chiang Kai-shek has succeeded because he was profoundly typical of his own period in his own country: because he somehow provided within himself a crucible for the fusion, or the attempted fusion, of a myriad of mighty if undefined and half-understood elements, old and new, of his people.
Politically speaking, the secret of Chiang's survival lies, as I have explained, in his ability to manœuvre. He is an expert pivot whose position never gets very far away from the center of real events. He is a focus, a needlepoint of intensity around which the antipodal forces of China have found some degree of stabilization, even when they are locked in armed conflict. To employ another metaphor, Chiang is the apex of a loose pyramid of sand, and his peculiar gift is his ability to anticipate the shiftings in the immense weight beneath him in time to maintain his own precarious balance. He never leads the vanguard; but neither does he stand still with the rear guard. Rarely in politics does he take a positive step until the field of manœuvre has entirely closed behind him. He does not will the event, the event wills him; yet he does not deny the event once it has occurred. This agility alone explains the remarkable fact that he is today supported both by China's Communists and by her Fascists, a unique distinction.
Chiang's leadership therefore mirrors much of the strength -- and the weakness -- of the Chinese people. Among the world's men of power there has seldom been one so rich in contradictions, so ripe with paradox. But his paradox is to a large extent the paradox of China; his contradictions those of his people. That is what makes his career, like China itself, so fascinating to watch.
A strong nationalist, Chiang has had the misfortune to rule China during a period in which more national territory was lost than under any other régime in recent times. Apparently a sincere enemy of peculation, he has punished many an official -- even executed a few -- for dishonesty; yet the Soongs and Kungs, with whom he is united by marriage and politics, have accumulated during the past decade one of the largest fortunes in China. Repeatedly he has denied that he has ambitions to be dictator, and he has actually submitted most of his decisions for approval by the political organs concerned. But these are his organs, and in practice few men alive hold such great direct personal power over so many millions of people.
While professing to be a revolutionary, Chiang led the repeated drives which annihilated thousands of revolutionary youths fighting under a Red banner. The Chinese Soviets he described, not as Communists, but as "bandits," "Red-bandits" and "reactionaries." Yet today he finds himself obliged to carry out many of the policies advocated by those bandits, and borrows heavily from them in planning his tactics and strategy.
In 1934 he drove the Red leaders Chu Teh, P'eng Teh-huai and Mao Tse-tung into the border wastes of Tibet, with an aggregate price of more than half a million dollars on their heads. In February 1938 Chiang publicly announced that those same Communists, and their Eighth Route Army, were the "only part of the military forces accomplishing satisfactory results" in the war against Japan, and urged other generals to "follow their exemplary leadership." [iii] It is a mark of real maturity and of artful manœuvre that Chiang is able to suspend old quarrels and use the brains and strength of the former enemies.
Chiang's greatest national concept, the most "positive" thing about him, the pivotal driving force of his political as well as military life, has been his ambition to construct a powerful, modern, centralized army, informed with the discipline he learned from his tutors in Japan, responding to but one supreme command -- his own. To a surprising and hitherto unequalled degree in modern China he has succeeded. Yet when final triumph seemed within easy grasp, it was the insubordination of his own deputy commander-in-chief, Chang Hsueh-liang, that forced upon the government a momentous course of action contrary to the Generalissimo's own will.
It was that insubordination, the now famous Sian Incident, which, by revealing the fundamental weakness of Chiang's concept, changed the course of Chinese history. In modernity and strength, in military discipline, Chiang's army was approaching his ideal, was perhaps competent to complete the purely superficial military unification of the country. Its weakness lay in the fact that its political base was not adequately broad and deep. Chiang's personal leadership, while important, was not all-sufficient. The Sian Incident dramatically demonstrated that no army in China today can be stronger than its organic connections with the political, economic and social life of the people. After Sian, the urgent necessity of broadening the basis of political power became manifest and the present struggle inevitable.
Chiang loves his ancients, is a devout reader of the classics, and is a proud chauvinist. A master in the psychology of his own followers, he criticizes them not because they are more backward than the West, but because they disgrace the heritage of their ancestors. He sets before them as ideals, not a Napoleon or a Hannibal but historic Chinese soldier-statesmen like Tseng Kuofan, Tso Tsung-t'ang, Chi Chi-kuang and Chuko Liang, the stories of whose exploits he has read since childhood. From such men Chiang takes his own fundamental lessons in strategy. Yet he retained more than a hundred German military experts (non-Nazis); he still seeks whatever other foreign helpers he can get; and sometimes he heeds their advice.
Chiang is, in spite of his filial piety and ancestor worship, a plodding student of the Bible, and his Methodism evidently has become a living factor in his personal conduct. He has publicly stated that in his moment of greatest peril he prayed to a Christian God, and thereby his "strength was redoubled." His religion does not hinder his realism in politics, but there is a little-known sentimental side to his character that would make him risk his position, perhaps his life, to save an old comrade from death or disgrace. Chen Keng, a young Red commander whom I met in the Northwest, once saved Chiang's life in the early days at Canton when he was the Generalissimo's personal aide. Chen later revolted and joined the Reds, and in 1933 was captured by Chiang. Chiang offered him the command of a division in his own army if he would repent; but Chen said he was ready to die for his beliefs, and refused. Chiang kept him a prisoner for weeks, hoping to change his mind, then chivalrously permitted him to "escape" -- and rejoin the Reds!
Unlike Sun Yat-sen, Chiang never knew extreme poverty. His comments and actions indicate that he regards character as being synonymous with success. I suspect that this is not unrelated to one of Chiang's basic weaknesses in the past: his underestimation of the potential power and greatness of the illiterate Chinese peasantry. Consistently he fought against organized labor's political and economic rights. He smashed scores of workers' unions and had their leaders imprisoned and executed. Several times he even intervened to crush strikes in British factories in the Shanghai concessions, with the help of the Ch'ing and Hung tongs. To him such strikes were violations of discipline; and everywhere he wanted discipline. But perhaps more than discipline he wanted continued British support. He once publicly declared that Chinese labor's average working day of 12 hours should be lengthened, not shortened. In justification he could point to his own strenuous day, which often began about six and did not end till he retired at midnight.
There is nothing effete about Chiang and he uses his boundless energy with efficiency. His outstanding virtues are courage, decision, determination, ambition and sense of responsibility. He is a man of strong feeling for those to whom he is personally attached. His emotionalism, usually carefully repressed, is all the more astonishing when it breaks loose. He wept copious tears of real grief over the coffin of Chu Pei-teh, when that loyal old general died. He was deeply affected for a long time by the death of his mother.
After his conduct at Sian no one can deny Chiang's personal courage. He has a flair for the melodramatic, and during battles often exposed himself to shot and shell, to the despair of his staff. During the present war he frequently visits the front lines at some hazard to himself. When he abandoned Nanking, he and Madame Chiang literally raced with death, until the Japanese pursuit ships trailing them finally fell far behind, outdistanced by the powerful American plane in which the Chiangs flew. More recently, during the Japanese drive on the Lunghai front, the planes which convoyed him were attacked in mid-air, and he had an equally narrow escape.
Chiang's sheer physical vigor, in contrast with that of former Chinese leaders, is astounding. He has at various times held most of the important posts in the army, the party and the government. Even when his official titles were purely military he remained in practice minister without portfolio in every ministry, and as such concerned himself with a variety of detail as wide as any on Stalin's or Mussolini's agenda.
"I am a man of action rather than of words," he has often said. And he has often demonstrated it. When he moves against an adversary much weaker than himself he does so with speed, decision and overwhelming force. He was the first man to discard the "umbrella truce" from Chinese war. Thus, in suppressing the Fukien Rebellion in 1933 he won his victory chiefly by swift, energetic action which prevented the surprised 19th Route Army from even fully mobilizing. On the other hand, when his own position is uncertain, he does everything conceivable to avert or delay a sharp crisis; if he acts at all, he does so reluctantly and if possible indirectly, leaving open well-made roads of retreat, of compromise. Because of this we may be absolutely certain that Chiang exhausted every practical possibility of reconciliation with Japan before the current bloodbath began.
Some people have doubted whether any other Chinese military leader would have so implacably carried on the anti-Red crusades. Chiang suffered repeated setbacks, and sometimes seemed to be the only man in China who believed he could destroy the Chinese Soviets. Chen Ch'eng, probably his ablest general, once exclaimed in disgust, "Fighting the Reds is a lifetime sentence! It is hopeless." But Chiang persisted, and finally recovered and pacified the Soviet areas in the south though he did not annihilate the Red Army. This stubbornness is in fact one of Chiang's qualities that make the Chinese Communists respect and support him today. They believe he can be made to fight with equal stubbornness against Japan.
Under Chiang's personal urgence several hundred miles of new railway lines have been laid down, many thousand miles of new roads built, airlines opened and successfully operated, the modern capital of Nanking constructed, hundreds of new public buildings erected, the currency stabilized, China's credit established abroad, education improved, the use of opium gradually reduced, and beginnings made in the country's industrial development. What has been done is but a fraction of what could and should have been done; and it was done with nepotism and corruption worse than in America's boss politics. But at least something has been accomplished -- which is more than could be said for past régimes.
Much of the result of Chiang's enterprise has now been ruined by the invading hordes of Japan, who have systematically plundered, looted, burned and raped as thoroughly as Jenghiz Khan. In a few months they have conquered over half of China's resources, reduced her foreign trade by one-half, seized or destroyed three-fourths of her industry, and brought about a human cataclysm worse than that left by the twenty years of the Taiping Rebellion. In Shanghai alone they turned to rubble billions of dollars worth of Chinese industrial enterprise. Chiang had a personal interest in some of it. In the past he had often been called "pro-Japanese." But that can never happen again. So intense is the struggle between Japanese imperialism and Chinese nationalism that if one is to live the other must die.
"We should realize," Chiang said on July 18, 1937, in the most significant speech of his career, "that to seek peace after war has once begun means that the terms would be subjugation of our nation and the complete annihilation of our race. Let our people realize the full meaning of [the words] 'the limit of endurance' and the extent of sacrifice thereby involved; for once that stage is reached we have to sacrifice and fight to the bitter end. Should, however, we hesitate and vainly hope for temporary safety, we shall perish forever." Japan answered Chiang with her attack on Lukochiao. Today, with the conflict soon to enter its second year, the Japanese realize that Chiang understood the implications of the issue better than their own warlords.
There is no doubt that the Japanese underestimated Chiang and were misled by his ambiguity and non-resistance in the past. Although the majority of the Japanese military expected him to put up a show of resistance to save North China, they never believed that he would engage in a protracted war, and they feel that he "betrayed" and "insulted" them when he refused to admit defeat after the fall of Nanking. The Japanese now believe Chiang's "duplicity" to have been thoroughly established by the belated publication of the series of violently anti-Japanese lectures which he secretly delivered before his Officers' Training School as long ago as 1934, when he guaranteed to suppress all anti-Japanese agitation throughout the country.[iv] The fury of Japan's military men following these revelations was perhaps reflected in Prince Konoye's recent announcement that Chiang will be beheaded when the Emperor's legions take him captive.
There is little about Chiang of the warm human magnetism that is said to have radiated from Sun Yat-sen. Nothing in his public speeches and writings, nor in any of the anecdotes told of him, suggests that he possesses much sense of humor. He has little gift for wit and repartee, which he despises as "small talk." He lacks that mastery of satire and irony in the turning of a phrase which is an easy heritage for most Chinese; and his nearest approach to wit is an occasional heavy effort at sarcasm. But this absence of humor in a country where its abundance constitutes a national menace, is a great asset in leadership. It may be said in Chiang's favor that his flights into the rhetorical stratosphere are few. He is not a spell-binding demagogue like Hitler or Il Duce, nor does he, in his public speeches, suffer from the statisticitis that afflicts Stalin. When he speaks, it is usually to the point. As one Oriental admirer has expressed it, "He does not shoot an arrow where there is no target."
In the early days, Chiang's external coldness and reticence did not easily stir affection, and made contact with him difficult for those not of the inner circle. He quickly inspired fear and respect, but complete trust and loyalty only very slowly. This isolation placed excessive burdens on him for which his personal equipment was insufficient and, together with his inability to stand criticism, resulted in his being surrounded for a long time by mediocrities and yes-men. He forgave much incompetence in those demonstrably loyal to him in crises. Take, for example, General Ho Chien, one of the worst degenerates in China. Ho Chien's sole achievement was that in 1927 he carried out a massacre of students and unionized peasants in support of Chiang's anti-Red "purgation;" from that day hence, despite all his corruption and all the popular petitions against him, the Generalissimo retained him as ruler of one of the richest provinces in the country.
In recent years Chiang's own life has been almost monastic in its simplicity. He does not smoke or drink and he eats frugally. Physically not a strong man, he is slight of stature; his bearing is erect and spry. He wears false teeth, but otherwise is physically intact. Throughout the war, despite the severe shocks he received during the Sian Incident, his health has stood up remarkably well. Like most generals he has never been wounded. The most remarkable feature about him is his sharp flashing eyes. I remember thinking, the first time I looked into them, that they were like blades. He gives you the impression of being wound up tight, like a spring, quite different from most other Chinese, who convey a sense of repose. A nervous idiosyncrasy, a kind of grunt or cluck he emits when he greets you and with which he frequently punctuates his speech, emphasizes this.
One thing which makes Chiang's position unique among world leaders is the influence and power exercised by his wife. Mussolini's wife is a political nonentity; Hitler is a bachelor, Stalin a widower. But in China, where the emancipation of women is still a distant dream, Madame Chiang has been at times a decisive personality, perhaps second to none but her husband.
The language barrier -- Chiang speaks no foreign language but Japanese -- together with his laconic manner, formerly kept a distance between him and the West. Madame Chiang did much to bridge the gulf. Her knowledge of foreign lands was helpful to Chiang and unquestionably contributed to his growth. She acts as his interpreter in the broadest sense, and Chiang relies on her judgment in dealing with the foreign devil. Few occidentals manage to see Chiang except at her recommendation, and usually in her presence. Knowing the importance of public opinion in America and England, she carefully scrutinizes the press treatment Chiang gets abroad, and has had much to do with its favorable "build-up," both by writings of her own and by her influence on foreign diplomats, writers and newspapermen. She tries to see that the foreign correspondents get better treatment; she has helped improve and systematize what was once the worst censorship on earth. Some years ago I had the misfortune to incur her displeasure over a brief sketch I wrote about the Generalissimo. The repercussions of this episode lasted more than three years, and were an amazing revelation of the thoroughness with which she follows everything written about him.
It is not surprising that Madame Chiang has found no time to have children; at the age of 40 she is still girlishly youthful. She is stepmother to Chiang's son Ching-kuo, and foster-mother to his adopted son Wei-kuo. Ching-kuo is a son by Chiang's first wife, whom he married when he was 15; she was a local girl of Chikuo chosen for him by his parents in the traditional Chinese manner. The marriage did not prosper and they soon separated, long before Chiang married Soong Mei-ling. Until the recent reëstablishment of the Communist-Kuomintang United Front, young Ching-kuo lived in Moscow, where he periodically issued attacks against his father, charging him with being a "counter-revolutionary." Today father and son, like China and Russia, are reconciled. Upon his return to China, with his pretty Muscovite wife and a half-Russian grandson for Chiang, Ching-kuo was made Pacification Commissioner of Kiangsi Province.
Few Chinese except Chiang's own staff have access to him without Madame's approval, and few enjoy his complete trust. It is significant that state finances have always been in the hands of a member of Chiang's immediate family. The present Finance Minister, and concurrently Premier, is corpulent H. H. Kung, who is married to Madame Chiang's elder sister, Ai-ling. Dr. Kung claims relationship to the descendants of Confucius, as do all Kungs in China from coolies up. But he owes his power and the nickname "God of Wealth" less to his ancestral tablets than to the shrewdness of Madame Kung, a woman of extraordinary cleverness. Madame Kung also exercises considerable influence on the Generalissimo through Madame Chiang, though she has never openly held high political office; her chief interests are finance, commerce and jewelry. It is through Madame Kung that most of the family's wealth has been amassed.
Necessary to complete this picture of the firm Chiang-Soong family grasp on finance is Madame Chiang's brother, Soong Tzeven, popularly known as "T. V." A Harvard graduate, and primarily a sound business man, T. V. Soong is a good representative of the new Chinese national bourgeoisie: anti-feudal, progressive, nationalistic, capitalistic, democratic, liberal. To him goes the main credit for the foundations of China's stable currency and the beginnings of a modern banking system. Long Minister of Finance, Soong is today Governor of the Bank of China. He also now enjoys, for the first time, a military position: as Chairman of the Aëronautics Commission, a position which he took over from Madame Chiang, he is head of China's Air Force. Soong is perhaps the most competent administrator in China.
Only one member of the Soong family has consistently refused any favors from Chiang's government. That is Madame Sun Soong Ching-ling, widow of the immortal Sun Yat-sen, before whose portrait party etiquette requires Chiang to genuflect once a week. Madame Sun shares the keen intelligence of the family, but none of its wealth. She is its only social revolutionary. A brilliant writer, and a woman of fearless courage and incorruptible integrity, she is the idol of China's youth. Long ago she repudiated Chiang and openly stated that the Communists represented the real content of her revered husband's "three principles" -- nationalism, democracy, livelihood. However, since the beginning of the present war she has staunchly supported the United Front.
Nobody knows -- except Chiang, Kung and the Soongs -- exactly how much treasure China has shipped to England and America, or how much gold and silver reserve there is for China's currency. Because of the family's key financial positions and close relationships with foreign banks and governments, its political hegemony might continue even if Chiang lost most of his military power. It is doubtful if anyone but a member of the Chiang-Soong-Kung family could draw on China's bullion reserves abroad. Chinese bonds and currency would take a nosedive if Chiang were overthrown. No opposition group will attempt to oust him by force as long as the Chinese dollar stands up and the government enjoys American and British support and Japan is unable to win either a conclusive victory or an armistice.
What is more likely, what is already visibly happening, is that radical changes will be made peacefully by Chiang, and by the army and the government that he symbolizes as "Tsung Tsai." Inevitably China must adopt all those national revolutionary policies which are necessary if the country is to assert its freedom. These include the widest mobilization of the latent strength of the Chinese masses. That in turn implies more political liberty, democratic training and enfranchisement for the people; the completion of long-deferred anti-feudal agrarian reforms; the integration of the peasantry's mass power in political, economic and military organization; and consequent deep social changes everywhere.
In this changing situation Chiang Kai-shek is more than ever the focal point, the "expert pivot that never gets far away from the center of real events." Objective circumstances under which men act can change the character and significance of their rôle. Chiang's rôle is as fluid as Chinese society: no more reactionary and no more progressive than the sum total of forces. The objective conditions which are the instrument of Chiang's fate today are relatively dynamic and progressive, and it is because he continues to reflect their nature that his leadership remains secure.
[i] "Tsung Tsai" literally means "General Planner," but implies also the possession of full power to make final decisions.
[ii] Hence possibly the name Kai-shek (in Mandarin Chieh-Shih), which means "border stone" and has a valiant ring to it.
[iii] Shanghai Evening Post, February 16, 1938.
[iv] "Resisting External Aggression," in Chinese Opinions on Current Events, March 2, 1938.