China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change

By Emily Hahn | Go to book overview
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Chapter Twenty-two

At the time China so suddenly became one of the Allies there was almost a stalemate between three combatants, Japan, the Nationalists, and the Communists. The struggle between the two latter was particularly complicated and under the surface. A foreign visitor might well wonder why Chou En-lai should be in Chungking, apparently in a diplomatic capacity and in good standing with the Nationalists. Soong Chingling too was a Chungking resident. Yet the Communist headquarters of Yenan and Red-controlled territory were marked off from the rest of China either by Japanese or determined Nationalists who spent their time making sure the Reds did not cross the line. The Japanese, as a matter of fact, were for a time after Pearl Harbor almost a negligible factor in western China. They had bigger fish to fry elsewhere.

Foreign allies were very much of two minds about China's value to them. It is necessary to remember the contrasting backgrounds of the two chief powers, Britain and America, in relation to China. Like many of his compatriots, Churchill could not take the Chinese seriously. He looked upon them as "natives," funny, exasperating, childish creatures, inhabitants of a country that had never in the past given Britain any genuine grown-up opposition at war. The only reason Japan did not occupy the same category was that she had just administered a shock, and was in fact--he had to face it-- being a definite problem in Hong Kong and Singapore. But Roosevelt was an American with all his country's prejudices and traditions, and be started out on China's side. He had clearcut notions about imperialism and exploitation. Americans--who, it is true, depended on other traffic than overseas trade for their livelihood--had sent missionaries rather than salesmen to the East. Without going too far into the generalities of popular psychology it is probably a

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