Fifth Question [Lofthouse]:
Pearl S. Buck [1892 – 1973], the winner of the Pulitzer and Noble Prizes for Literature, expressed her dissatisfaction with Chiang Kai-shek’s policies while remaining anti-Communist.
The FBI classified her as a Communist sympathizer and kept a file on her that ran in the hundreds of pages. The Chinese Communists [CCP] under Mao called her a “running dog” of capitalism. In China, Buck was critical of both the Nationalists and the Communists.
However, she said the Chinese people would be better off with the CCP than being ruled by Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalists.
What was it about Chiang Kai-shek and the KMT that caused Buck to believe this?
I can’t speak to Buck’s thought-process, but I agree with her appraisal. I don’t know how anyone could read 20th century Chinese history and not, during the second phase of the Civil War (1945-1949), root for the big Red boot. Although Mao was a heartless bastard, he was right when he likened the KMT to a toilet that, no matter how many times flushed, still stinks.
It wasn’t that Mao won the Civil War so much as Chiang lost it. Whole armies defected when generals realized the Generalissimo was up to his old tricks. Chiang’s post-WWII China-rule was aptly described by one US diplomat as “one of the biggest carpetbagging operations in history.”
It had taken the Nationalists six years to even face the Japanese in battle. Chiang’s officers were yes-men, his troops poorly trained and press ganged. At war’s end, the Nationalists deemed anyone residing outside the wartime capital of Chongqing a traitor, never mind they had left 40 percent of the populace at the mercy of Hirohito’s merciless army, defeating that army only once.
The KMT forced citizens to hand in all money and valuables. Hoarders were publicly executed. The KMT intercepted international aid and sold it on the black market, unsurprising given it had sold US military equipment to the Japanese.
Chiang Kai-shek was an inept, extortionate, dictatorial thug responsible for the deaths of millions of Chinese.
The KMT has always been very “business-minded.” It controlled the opium trade, and once extorted every bank and enterprise in Shanghai. The party’s collection agency was the Green Gang. Not keen on extending a “loan” to China’s new government? Perhaps you’ll have a change of heart when your own coffin is delivered to your door.
The Nationalists remain hopelessly corrupt, but at least in Taiwan they ended martial law and allowed for democratic reforms. For that, they deserve a medal, and can probably forge one from gold stolen from China.
What Buck couldn’t have known was that China’s peasant liberators were led by a madman whose reign was an exercise in revenge and would turn the nation on its head.
From what I’ve learned of Pearl S. Buck, I’m sure she would agree with your assessment of Chiang Kai-shek. However, she may have disagreed with the description of Mao as a totally heartless bastard and lunatic.
A better description would be that Mao feared China would revert to its Western dominated feudal past, and this paranoia contributed to Mao’s disastrous blunders.
If Mao had been “totally” heartless, there would have been no improvement of living standards in China as PRB.org reports, “For three decades after the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, China’s economy grew and stabilized, and the living standards of most Chinese citizens greatly improved. But China remained a very poor country…”
Mao was a product of the era. To understand how a sensitive, young idealist turned into the man that launched the Cultural Revolution, I suggest reading Mao and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Final Word [Parfitt]:
China does not have a “Western dominated” past. How could it? Europeans didn’t arrive until the mid-16th century. China’s modern history has been influenced by the West, but – to reiterate – that theme is just one of dozens.
Mao’s personal physician, Dr. Li Zhishui, a man who knew Mao intimately and saw him nearly every day he was in power, wrote a 736-page biography about the ruler called The Private Life of Chairman Mao. In it, Li decribes Mao’s thought-process as “prescientific,” adding that Mao himself was “incapable of love and devoid of human feeling.” Numerous health issues are mentioned and explained, but nowhere does Li mention anything resembling PTSD.
To understand Mao, one must read books.
I arrived at my assessments of Mao, Chiang, China, etc. by reading copiously about the nation’s past; a broad spectrum of books, mainly by academics, none of whom, to authenticate their claims, cite themelves.
Continued on December 3, 2011 in Discussion with Troy Parfitt, the author of “Why China Will Never Rule the World – Travels in the Two Chinas” – Part 7 or return to Part 5.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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