History’s Turning Points: America’s Chinese Obsession II

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider one of history’s great turning points – America’s Chiang Kai-Shek obsession.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In a 1927 match made in Chinese political heaven, ambitious General Chiang Kai-Shek, one of the founders of the Kuomintang, the Chinese nationalist party, married Soong May-ling, the sister-in-law of Revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen. Soong was a Christian and was educated in the United States. She attended boarding school in Georgia and Wellesley College. Her personal ties to many Americans, stated inclination toward democratic institutions, and Chiang’s alleged conversion to Christianity won for them extraordinary support in the United States in the 1930s and during World War II. This was despite the clear corruption of his regime and the on-going struggle with the Chinese Communist Party for control. This power couple seemed for many Americans a formidable bulwark in favor of democracy and Christianity and against international Bolshevism and fascist Japan.

History’s Turning Points: America’s Chinese Obsession I

Lead: Historical study often helps reveal twists in the human journey. Consider one of history’s turning points – America’s Chiang Kai-shek obsession.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: One of the most fascinating diplomatic and personal alliances of the twentieth century was that between the people and government of the United States and Chinese strongman Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his fourth wife Soong May-ling.

Boxer Rebellion III

Lead: Chinese hatred of foreigners in 1900 exploded in the Boxer Rebellion.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Many Chinese resented the presence of western soldiers, diplomats, merchants, and missionaries. The weak Imperial government seemed impotent to face powerful outside forces and by the end of the 1800s bitterness became violence. Chief among those opposed to the foreign devils was a secret fraternity named I Ho Chuan, the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, or Boxers. Part of their ritual was a set of physical and spiritual drills in which they would sink into a trance and there battle imaginary demons. Waking, they seethed with hatred for all things foreign.

Boxer Rebellion II

Lead: In 1900 native Chinese resentment against foreigners boiled over in the Boxer Rebellion.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts

Content: During the 1800s diplomats in search of concessions, traders in search of profits, and Christian missionaries in search of souls aroused great resentment in China. To their credit, many of these westerners, particularly the missionaries, were seeking to reform a vast society markedly unconcerned about the plight of the poor and abused. They built schools and hospitals and championed the cause of human rights long before such efforts were fashionable, but many did so with ill-disguised scorn for Chinese civilization.

Boxer Rebellion I

Lead: In 1900 native Chinese resentment of western culture, traders, and missionaries, boiled over in the Boxer Rebellion.

Intro: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: China is an ancient society whose rich cultural heritage was already well-established when western or European civilization was in its infancy. Therefore, when western merchants sought to open trade with the Asian giant, they encountered deep suspicion of outsiders. The Chinese regarded the westerners with ill-disguised contempt, considering them little better than barbarians.

Nixon Visits China IV

Lead: They were vigorous ideological opponents. Therefore, President Richard Nixon and the Communist leaders of China were in an excellent position to break out of old habits.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The habit of opposition can stand in the way of diplomatic progress. In the early 1970s for hard-nosed political and economic reasons, the old enemies, Communist China and the United States, reached out to one another. The United States was mired in a war in Vietnam it could not win without provoking a wider Asian conflict, Nixon needed a boost to his re-election chances, and the vast Chinese market offered hope for expanded trade to a troubled American economy. Mao Zedong and the other Chinese leaders were just emerging from the isolation of the highly destructive Cultural Revolution, needed a counter-weight in their disputes with the Soviet Union, and wanted U.S. concessions on the Taiwan dispute and the China seat in the United Nations. They also desired access to Western technology.

Nixon Visits China III

Lead: Vigorous anti-communism had built Richard Nixon's career. As President he found he had to do business with his old opponents.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: President Nixon had a favorite saying, "when you have a reputation as an early riser, you can sleep late on occasion." By the time he became President in 1969, few doubted Richard Nixon's anti-communism. He was cold warrior of great repute. Yet, he faced tough problems which required the cooperation of those whom during most of his career he had condemned as enemies.

Nixon Visits China II

Lead: Richard Nixon visited China in 1972. Both he and his hosts had reputations to overcome.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: After centuries of rule by often corrupt and inefficient imperial dynasties, China embarked on the road to Revolution in 1912. Inspired by Sun Yat-sen, the nation rejected the empire, but his party, the Guomindang, was not able to establish constitutional government. Corruption and chaos increased, and beginning in the 1920s, the government of Sun's successor, Generalissimo Jiang Kai-shek, was almost constantly involved in a civil war against the Communists led by Mao Zedong. After a truce during which both factions fought the invading Japanese in the 1930s and 1940s, the civil war resumed. The Communists won in 1949 but spent the better part of two decades consolidating their hold on China. During that time relations with the United States remained icy due to tensions over the fate of Taiwan, open conflict in Korea and Vietnam, and clear ideological differences.