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Madame Chiang Kai-shek is the name known to many of us. She was one of the most influential woman in recent history recent history of China and Taiwan. And her background illustrates the changes and opposing ideals which split China in the 20th century. She was fluent in English, raised as a Christian and born into one of the wealthiest and most influential family in pre revolutionary China. She was the wife of China's nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek and she remained a powerful figure after his death in Taiwan until the 1970s. Brilliant, charismatic, glamorous are words that are used to describe her. And she was celebrated as the world's greatest living woman on the one hand and symbol of resistance to communist tyranny by her admires. While to her critics, she was condemned as a scheming and manipulative dragon lady. In Madame Chiang Kai-shek: China's Eternal First Lady, author Laura Tyson Li tells the story of this extra ordinary woman. After discovering that no length English language biography of Madame Chiang existed, Tyson Li explains why this mysterious woman could still inspire such strong and conflicting emotions. Laura Tyson Li spent a decade living in China, Hong-Kong and Taiwan during which she was a student, business reporter for the South China Morning Post, in Taiwan Correspondent for the Financial Times from 1994 to 1998. She has written numerous articles for The Economists as well and many other publications. Please join me in welcoming Laura Tyson Li. Thank you Marsha, hi, I am very glad to be here today. I feel deeply honored to be invited by the World Affairs Council. Can you hear me? I am soft spoken so if that's okay I will keep going. I am really glad to be in California, I was just in LA for the Los Angeles Times Book festival on a panel there and which was tremendous amount of fun. I also did an event at the Chinese Historical Society in Los Angeles and that was terrific fun too. And to my great surprise I feel like a rock star here in the west coast. I was given a citation by State Assemblyman Mike Eng from Los Angeles. So that was pretty unexpected. And I am looking forward to your questions and comments afterwards. This is an opportune and very exciting time to be discussing Madame Chiang Kai-shek not only because May is Asian Pacific heritage month, as many of you know, but because her role and her legacy and that of her husband of course in modern Chinese history are, as we speak, undergoing intense scrutiny and reappraisal both on Taiwan as well as in the Mainland Mainland China. On Taiwan under the current government, which as you know, favors Taiwanese independence there is a so called Anti Chiang campaign now in full swing. Hundreds of statues of the late nationalist leader are being toppled and Madame Chiang Kai-shek memorial in downtown Taipei is being renamed Democracy Park. And there is even talk of revising text books not only to downplay Taiwan's historical ties with China but to minimize Chiang Kai-shek's role in the islands own history, a role that remains the subject of vigorous debate. In contrast and quite ironically given the Communist government's long history of denouncing Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang as running dogs of the imperialist, capitalist powers and similar epithets the Chiangs have undergone a rehabilitation of sorts in China over the last five or ten years and they are now seen widely seen as having made substantial and important contributions to Chinese history and are being viewed much more positively than ever before and certainly more positively than they are on Taiwan in certain quarters at this time. Well some people love her and some hate her and others, it seems, just love to hate her but virtually virtually no one among those who have heard her at any rate is neutral about Madame Chiang Kai-shek. Representative of her supporters is a Chinese gentleman that I interviewed in Taiwan, who served as a pilot in the Chinese Air Force during World War II and later as a diplomat representing the Nationalist Chinese government and he called Madame Chiang and her husband a god sent couple for the uplifting of the Chinese people and the Chinese nation. And on the other extreme, an American academic that I know, a Chinese specialist termed her one of the most heinous woman of the 20th century and after her death there was a one Taiwanese newspaper editorial wrote good riddance to a evil empress. Well, I was astonished when I first started researching her and writing about her, that was in the 90's and I was living in Taiwan working for the Financial Times, and I was astonished and intrigued by the passion, the mystery and the divisiveness surrounding this woman. Regardless of ones opinion of her there was no denying that she was one of the most prominent, colorful and controversial woman political figures of the 20th century. So when I began to research the book I was surprised to learn, as was noted earlier, that there was no full length biography of her in English. And I was even and I was even more surprised that in the several biographies of her husband, in English, there are a lot in Chinese, there was only a page here and there along with passing references to Madam Chiang Kai-shek. And most of it was the usual boilerplate; no serious study had ever been attempted on her life and historical role. And there were some good reasons for that as I was ultimately to learn to my chagrin. When I first embarked on this endeavor I confidently told my publisher and my agent that the book would be 350 pages and I would finish in less than two years. That was in late 1997. And the book of course is is well over 500 pages. Clearly I didn't have the faintest idea what I was getting myself into and it's probably just as well because if I had I somehow doubt I would ever have begun. Because she was still living many of her friends and acquaintances were unwilling to be interviewed or to say much if they were. She had not donated her papers to any archive. So the research required a great deal of leg work consulting the papers of the many people with whom she corresponded over the years. Her protective family for the most part politely responded to my many enquiries but was not encouraging. And I was unfortunately never able to meet Madam Chiang in person. And I had the sense that the family was, although they didn't say so, that they were deeply unthrilled that I was writing this book. However those were not the only reasons, no one had tackled the biography of her. I discovered, that with few exceptions, serious scholars, be they Chinese or Western, did not seem to regard her to be a worthy subject of serious study. Some dismissed her role arguing that she was not very influential after all; she was a spoiled rich girl who was totally americanized and did not really understand China. She did not have much influence on her husband it was argued and after all as a woman did not have much in the way of official positions apart from first lady. What little influence she may have had was derived from her husband and so forth. I sense that there had to be a lot more to the story than that, but what was it exactly. I had encountered the crux of the problem with much of woman's history or her story as some would call it, few woman political figures came to power entirely in their own right, but only through family and marriage. And many like Madam Chiang had no proper position at all. So what exactly was her role and contribution to history? And as a practical matter how would I go about figuring that out. I encountered some resistance in other ways as well. I learned that in some quarters I was not considered "qualified" to write a biography of Madam Chiang. I didn't have a PhD and so on and so forth. This was underscored when I attended a conference hosted by the Harvard Asia Center in 2000. I arrived to register only to find that the line in my very brief bio, stating that I was writing a biography of Madam Chiang Kai-shek had mysteriously been deleted from the prepared conference materials handed out to the many conference participants, hundreds of participants. Perhaps this was testimony to the inflammatory nature of my subject's name, even at the age of 100. At any rate I have to confess that may be slightly paranoid but may be that an occupational hazard. Henry David Thoreau once said that there is no history, only biography, not everyone will agree with Thoreau. But it is certainly true that for those of us who had a difficult time memorizing dry facts and dates in history school school history textbooks biography is a far more interesting way to learn about history. If there is such a thing as history I argue that this book is as much as American history as it is Chinese history because Madame Chiang's life is a prism through which to view the relationship between the United States and China over the last century. And this is the theme that underpins the book. Like many of you, I suspect, I didn't know much about that Madame Chiang at the outset. I had heard about her since childhood from my mother who had attended Wellesley in the late 1950s. And once saw her speak at her alma mater, and who had spoken admiringly of her. And I had heard the stereotypes, Dragon Lady, Power behind the Throne and so on. And I had the old boilerplates saying about the three World famous sisters, that one loved money, one loved power and the other loved China. Madame Chiang was born in about 1897 and died just a few years ago, in October of 2003 at the age of 106, her life spanning the twentieth century. May-ling Soong as she was known in her girlhood was born into an illustrious Shanghai family that was not only well to do but devoutly Christian Methodist to be precise. Her mother Ni Kwei-tseng was a descendant of ____ a scholar who rose to be Prime Minister during the late Ming Dynasty. He was a student of the Italian Jesuit Priest Matteo Ricci who converted him to Catholicism. She herself was educated at an Anglican Missionary School, her family having converted to Protestantism a few generations earlier. May-ling Soong's father Charles Soong or called by some Charlie Soong, came from a poor family on Hainan Island of the south shore of China. But through an extraordinary series of events aided by his wit and personality, became one of China's wealthiest man and an important financial backer of the revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen. Charles Soong spent many years in America, beginning in 1870s and was informally adopted by the most prominent entrepreneur of the south, a North Carolina Tobacco and Textiles magnet and devout Methodist who sent Charles to Divinity School to prepare him to return to China as a missionary and which he did. But he soon grew tired of the shabby treatment at the hands of his fellow Methodist missionaries and left the ministry but not the church. Inspired by his American mentor he went into business and was hugely successful in publishing, manufacturing and other fields including printing bibles. Little did he know he would be the founder of the fabled Soong Dynasty. He became a close friend and financial backer and later father in law of Sun Yat-Sen, because Charles had been educated in the US he sent his six children three boys and three girls to school there too. All would eventually play a prominent role be at publicly or behind the scenes in the Nationalist Chinese government. After studying in Georgia for about five years Madame Chiang went north to the elite Wellesley College in Massachusetts from which she graduated in 1917. She subsequently returned to Shanghai, where she was born, having spent over a decade of her formative years in the United States. She then underwent what we would call culture shock, reintegrating back into her family and into Chinese society in the colonial enclave that was then Shanghai. And she also courted was courted by I should say quite a few wealthy and prominent Chinese men and what is something very interesting to many Chinese, she also dated some dated in those days, some western men, a couple of European men and I think a few American men as well which was a great scandal to her family. One of them she fell in love within, nearly eloped with, but her family was very much against it and regarded him as a barbarian of course they had many western friends and missionary friends and so on but when it came to marriage that was a different story. Originally I planned to subtitle the book China's American first lady. And sometimes I still wonder whether I should have kept that description. Her role in the history of Chinese and Asians and America is substantial in that she had an enormous impact on "white" American's perception of Chinese. But was she part of the Asian American experience broadly defined even though she never took an American passport? I would argue that she is although not every one will agree. Madame Chiang is not always warmly embraced by the Asian American community or even Chinese Americans as one of their own. There is a certain ambivalence and she has kept at arms length. This may be to in part to the fact that she was such a highly polarizing figure and her wealth and status distanced her from the majority of Chinese emigrants in the United States. She was also associated with her husband's regime, often seen as repressive and corrupt, first on the Chinese mainland and later or Taiwan, a regime that some Chinese emigrants in America had fled. During the 1930s she was fast becoming a household name in America. She wrote many articles for American publications such as the Atlantic Monthly and The Nation. In January 1937 she and her husband appeared on the cover of Time magazine as man and wife of the year. She was the first woman to win the honor albeit together with her husband. And you will note its man and wife not husband and wife or man and woman of the year. So when she came to the United States to appeal for American aid during the height of World War II she created a national sensation. And here I will read you just a few passages from my book. Well first of all in 1942, Clare Booth Luce was the wife of Henry Luce, Founder and Publisher of Time and Life magazines. Clare Booth Luce wrote about culture, the world's greatest living woman in the July 1942 issue of Life and she went on to call her one of the world's greatest wives and compared her to Joan of Arc and Florence nightingale and called her one of the world's most skilled diplomats and statesmen and also not least one of the world's most beautiful and charming woman. So you can see she was getting quite a build up already well before she she actually came to the to the States. Just going to read a little bit about her. She came in late 1942 and there was a US Government news embargo on her visit. And when the embargo was lifted in early in January, thousands of friends and well wishers clambered to see her; the adulation she received even before making a public appearance was astonishing. Her mail quickly swelled to a 1000 letters a day. Her nephew David K'ung took leave of studies at Harvard to handle her correspondents and public relations. No date had been set but her anticipated visit to the White House neared, she received much advanced billing. She radiates the courage of spirit and a will to accomplish her convictions which fairly takes her your breath away, wrote Anna Roosevelt, the President's daughter in a newspaper article. And at that time, detective Charlie Chan had become a cultural icon as was the Pirate Heroine Dragon Lady from Milton Caniff's enormously popular comic strip, Terry and the Pirates. American Pilot Terry Lee was often rescued by the oriental vamp, an archetypal femme fatale loosely modeled on Madame Chiang Kai-shek. She was alluring and delicate, yet scheming and ruthless. She smokes cigarettes in a long holder and wore slinky black dresses slid high on the side. China was depicted as an exotic land of opium dense and dark cruelty. Caniff, a self described arm chair Marco Polo had never set foot in china. He gleaned fodder for his strip from the Encyclopedia Britannica and the New York public library. Confucius say gags were extremely popular with comedians such as Jack Benny and Fred Allen. Let's see then she okay, so then she she is to appear at the before Congress her famous speech on February 18th 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt accompanied her to the Senate shortly after noon. In those pre television days, press and radio reporters captured for their eager audience every visual detail of events. As she walked to the rostrum Senators caught glimpses of "well turned, beautifully flashing legs" when the split sides of her red lined dress opened to the knee as she walked. She wore a dainty sequin turban, a slim black Chinese dress, severe yet alluring with high color and embellished with the bejeweled wings of the Chinese Air Force Pin. Her appearance had the Senators "completely boggle eyed" as one report said. Then she she gave her off the cuff speech and she said, coming here today I feel that I am also coming home. If the Chinese people could speak to you in their own tongue or if you could understand our tongue they would tell you that fundamentally we are fighting for the same cause, that we have identity of ideals. I assure you that our people are willing and eager to cooperate with you in the realization of these ideals for ourselves, for our children and for our children's children and for all mankind. And then she went on to give her speech in the house and I her audience was amazed that her English was flawlessly American with a pleasing mix of Georgia softness and Massachusetts cultivation. That was a quote also. And she had an extraordinary mastery of drama and timing, working up to an emotional crescendo, dropping her voice at exactly the right moment. And the audience was at trance by her exotic looks which contrasted with her utterly American way of speaking. One Newspaper called her China's lissome Joan of Arc. And part of the part of the part of the interest, fascination with her looks was due to war it was war time, so there was restrictions on what one could wear and and on fashions and also because she contrasted with, perhaps an unfortunate contrast with Eleanor Roosevelt. And she protected the image of tiny woman, fairly at valiance, being rescued by tall strong chivalrous male Senators. I will show some pictures in a moment. China was the damsel in distress. And America the knight in shining armor. It was a calculated strategy. She was aware of the power her looks and of her message and the effect she had on men as well as woman. And she knew her audience, she knew her part and she played them both to perfection. Well I hope that gives you some taste of the adulation she received when she came to the states and appeared before congress she went on a major tour around the states and spoke to tens of thousands of people and there would be everywhere she went there would be 1000s of people outside thronging, who couldn't get in and didn't have tickets. There were 30000 people at the Hollywood Ball, when she went there it was packed. After the war of course she fell from grace in certain quarters as her husband's armies were forced to retreat to Taiwan by the Communists led by Chairman Mao and the Nationalist regime was accused of squandering billions of dollars of American aid and of corruption, nepotism and incompetence. There were tremendous uproars rose in America. Who lost china was the outcry as though China were America's to lose. Madame Chiang re fashioned herself in the 50s and 60s as a Cold War icon and a highly vocal anti communist symbol pitting herself on the world stage against her very own sister, Madame Sun Yat-Sen who had sided with the Communists in 1949. And from within her lacquer cage became the Communists most reverent apologist to the world. Madame Chiang meanwhile became the chief propagandist in the West of her husband's government on Taiwan. The two sisters stood on opposite ramparts of the great ideological battle of the 20th century, publicly trumpeting their respective use, while privately hiding a deeply traumatic and painful family divide that mirrored the experience of millions of other Chinese families in the turbulence of Chinese history over the last century. The two sisters never saw or communicated with each other again even though Madam Sun Yat-Sen tried to reach out to her little sister before her death in 1981. But ideology trumped family and Madame Chiang did not respond. After Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975 Madame Chiang returned to the US due to failing health and conflicts with her step son who had taken over the reins of power and she went in to seclusion. She evidently planned to spend her remaining years with her family in the US. But in the late 1980s, at about the age of 90, she resurfaced on the Taiwan political scene and made what appeared to be an astounding grab for power, in an attempt to return to her glory days. In late 1986 she returned to the island to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of her husband's birth, not planning to stay for more than a few weeks. But her step son Chiang Ching-kuo was dying and the succession was in play. So she began calling meetings with her old friends and operators among the Nationalist Party, old guard and the faithful. Then she delivered a bombshell speech entitled "Resurgam" which meant "I shall rise again". She had studied Latin at Wellesley, naturally. Her friends later claimed she was misunderstood and that she meant "rise again" in a religious sense. But in Taiwan the speech created a sensation and caused many to think she was trying to seize power herself or failing that, install her family members on the throne. By this time she was about ninety years old. She was heavily criticized by now relatively unfettered Taiwanese press as well as in private circles. After several years back on Taiwan she left again to the US in the early 90s about 1990 and spent the rest of her life in seclusion. It is debatable whether Madame Chiang Kai-Shek really is China's eternal first lady as her faithful supporters call her, but she was and continuous to be eternally fascinating to generations of Chinese and Americans alike. And I will read just one last little paragraph. Few figures in modern history have been more extravagantly exalted or more viciously condemned and fewer still have experienced both extremes. In her final years her compatriots began to view her in a more favorable light. But in the west where she had once been so celebrated she died virtually unknown, her contribution to history relegated to a footnote. Hers was a life of much sorrow with flashes of brilliance amid failed dreams, resplendence and tragedy. What was her greatest tragedy is she herself intimated in her twilight years, to have lived so long. For all her flaws she was a woman of indomitable spirit, courage and determination and an ardent Chinese who shall help shape Chinese relationship with the west and in so doing the course of modern history. And I have a few photos here today, actually they are the photo insert from my book, but I just thought I would see if I can make this come up; okay here we go sorry. She would be coming right up, there you go. This is Charlie Soong when he was an young man studying in the States. This is a photo from Duke University archives and on the right is Charlie Soong surely after he got back to China and married his wife no they are not, she was Christian and sorry she was Christian and they did not bind her feet. So apparently, reports say that she was having a hard time finding a suitable husband because her feet weren't. Okay this is the whole family in about 1917. Madame Chiang Kai-Shek is in the upper right hand corner, May-ling Soong of course, at that time she was about 19 and then her famous sister Madame Sun Yat-Sen is in the lower right hand corner sitting down and T. V. Soong, who was also very famous, her brother is in the center there with glasses. Here she is in Georgia as a student there she is again at Wellsley. This one here is Wesley College in Georgia and that one is her Wellsley College year book, it is quite confusing with the names here. She is looking a little she looks like she has a trimmed hair or some kind perm rather in her hair, may be was fashionable at that time at college and she is also quite much heavier than she was. She weighed about 130 pounds when she was in Wellsley and when she went back to China she lost weight. She dropped about 30 pounds so she was about 5'2" so she must been pretty plump for what that's worth. There is Chiang Kai-Shek. He is this is before they were married about approximately 1926. But this is clearly you know this photo was sent around quite a bit, so clearly this was some and it was published in publications, so I think things were already well on their way at that point in terms of their courtship. This is one of her former suitors on the left here. Also a protÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©gÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© of Sun Yat-Sen and this is Jennie Chan on the right; she was the third wife of Chiang Kai-Shek. Chiang had been married three times before he married Madame Chiang Kai- Shek, but he was able to finesse this was by calling the first wife an arranged childhood marriage which it was in effect hadn't been in any practical sense a marriage for a very long time. But the other two he he dismissed, he said they were he called them concubines, that he had freed prior to his marriage to May-ling Soong because as a modern man he wanted to let them have their freedom. So any way Jennie Chan was second of those. She was packed off to the United States to study and but she didn't know apparently that he was marrying May-ling Soong and so there are you know front page article there is a front page article on the San Francisco Chronicle with her picture, saying Madame Chiang Kai-Shek because Jennie Chan was known as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek before May- ling Soong was. Madame Chiang Kai-Shek arrives in US by you know, steam ship or whatever. And mean while Chiang Kai-Shek is back in China giving an interview to The New York Times saying, I don't know this woman, she as an imposter she is an imposter yes, pretty amazing. Let me see. I will quickly just try to breeze through. There is the wedding photo sorry this is being little slow here all right here she is in the early 30s and this is Chiang Kai-Shek with on the right end of black cape, on the left is The Young Marshall as he was called, Zhang Xueliang, he was one of he was a former warlord of Manchuria and he had been kicked out of Manchuria by the Japanese and in December 1936 he very famously kidnapped Chiang Kai-Shek, nearly killed him and then Chiang Kai- Shek then he released him, Chiang Kai-Shek put him under house arrest. He remained under house arrest until 1990, he was a hundred years old 1990 he was freed from house arrest, he died a couple of years later. And I am sorry he was ninety years old and he died in about 2001 2000 I think. All right and this is Madame Chiang Kai-Shek with her very closest adviser during the 1930s and early 40s, he was an Australian journalist, quite a character in and of in himself. I guess this is this is important because it lent fuel to the people that criticized her as being westernized and not really in touch with the Chinese people because her closest advisors even where foreigners. Here is a war time portrait of her by Yousuf Karsh a famous portrait photographer. This is the two of them with General Chennault Claire Chennault during the war and she was by the way she was very much a full partner of her husband and participated in all kinds of meetings including military meetings and she headed up the Chinese Air Force for two years in late 30s so she it was political partnership - Clare Booth Luce I will just move down here. And here they are with the three sisters, in the center they are with the orphans. They set up many, many orphanages during the war for all the orphans and here they are with having a meeting with Gandhi in 1942 and here she is with the famous Wendell Wilkie with whom she had an affair, ostensibly in the early 40s in 1942. Oops sorry this is not working out. Wait go back. All right this is Eleanor Roosevelt. This is okay this is her with this is another orphan's photo. There she is with Eleanor, White House Lawn photos, with the FDR oops sorry, excuse. Here she is in Wellesley wearing slacks which was - created a fashion sensation across the states, women didn't wear slacks as they were called in those days - in public and or smoke in public either. So that made a lot of newspaper headlines. And here she is with a few of her nephews and nieces. All right, this isn't working too well. Here is part of her US tour. This is a famous portrait of war time summit at Cairo is one of the biggest may be the biggest war time most important war time summit, November 1943. And you have I mean there was the three big powers here China, the United States and England and there is Madame Chiang Kai-Shek sitting right next to the great three leaders as one of the the foreign leaders so that that tells a lot right there how how much she was part of the political scene. This is the famous Joe Stillwell Joe Stillwell in China oh my god. Yeah that's MacCarthur this is the there is another photo, I couldn't get the rights to it, but it's much better than this because she is she has got this shocked look on her face and she is - and he is kissing her hands. So it's hilarious photo. But this made you know, Macarthur of course was very theatrical as was Sheen, melodramatic, and this you know this photo was played across the states in various ways to get one back here. Oh my god this was Okay this cartoon is great this is her block cartoon from December 1948 when she came to the States to try to get $3 billion worth of aid to save her husband's government which was you know, clearly a lost cause at that point. And of course she didn't get any money but here is the - from the very favorable war time depictions of her and there are lots of editorial cartoons then, you have this you know, very stereotyped sort of vamp picture. And this is Nixon and Patricia Nixon, very good friends of the Chiang Kai-Sheks and Nixon was a staunch supporter of them and and they through various channels gave a lot of money to Nixon, we are led to believe, over the years and then the betrayal the great betrayal in 1972. Nixon went to China and they were devastated. Chiang Kai-Shek fell ill few months later and never really recovered from that. This is the her friend Roy Howard, well this is son skip forward a little bit. Oh there is the funeral, she is at the funeral of Chiang Kai-Shek in 1945 with her step sons and then this last picture was her last trip to Taiwan she was 90, approximately 90 years old. She came she made another trip back to Taiwan to see her dying niece, who was in her early 70s. And this niece Jennet Cong has long been rumored to actually be Madame Chiang's daughter. I don't think it's true. But among the Chinese and in Taiwan there were a lot of people who seriously believed that her this niece was her daughter. Well, so I will leave off here and take questions.