The USC U.S.-China Institute talks with author David M. Lampton on his new book, which examines China’s effort to create an intercountry railway system connecting China and its seven Southeast Asian neighbors.
Soong Mei-ling, “Addresses to the House of Respresentatives and to the Senate,” February 18, 1943.
Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the United States:
At any time it would be a privilege for me to address Congress, more especially this present august body which will have so much to do in shaping the destiny of the world. In speaking to Congress I am literally speaking to the American people. The Seventy-seventh Congress, as their representatives, fulfilled the obligations and responsibilities of its trust by declaring war on the aggressors. That part of the duty of the people’s representatives was discharged in 1941. The task now confronting you is to help win the war and to create and uphold a lasting peace which will justify the sacrifices and sufferings of the victims of aggression.
Before enlarging on this subject, I should like to tell you a little about my long and vividly interesting trip to your country from my own land which has bled and borne unflinchingly the burden of war for more than 5 1/2 years. I shall not dwell, however, upon the part China has played in our united effort to free mankind from brutality and violence. I shall try to convey to you, however imperfectly, the impressions gained during the trip.
First of all, I want to assure you that the American people have every right to be proud of their fighting men in so many parts of the world. I am particularly thinking of those of your boys in the far-flung, ut-of-the-way stations and areas where life is attended by dreary drabness—this because their duty is not one of spectacular performance and they are not buoyed up by excitement of battle. They are called upon, day after colorless day, to perform routine duties such as safeguarding defenses and preparing for possible enemy action. It has been said, and I find it true from personal experience, that it is easier to risk one’s life on the battlefield than it is to perform customary humble and humdrum duties which, however, are just as necessary to winning the war. Some of your troops are stationed in isolated spots quite out of reach of ordinary communications. Some of your boys have had to fly hundreds of hours over the sea from an improvised airfield in quests often disappointingly fruitless, of enemy submarines.
They, and others, have to stand the monotony of waiting—just waiting. But, as I told them, true patriotism lies in possessing the morale and physical stamina to perform faithfully and conscientiously the daily tasks so that in the sum total the weakest link is the strongest.
Your soldiers have shown conclusively that they are able stoically to endure homesickness, the glaring dryness, and scorching heat of the Tropics, and keep themselves fit and in excellent fighting trim. They are amongst the unsung heroes of this war, and everything possible to lighten their tedium and buoy up their morale should be done. That sacred duty is yours. The American Army is better fed than any army in the world. This does not mean, however, that they can live indefinitely on canned food without having the effects tell on them. These admittedly are the minor hardships of war, especially when we pause to consider that in many parts of the world, starvation prevails. But peculiarly enough, oftentimes it is not the major problems of existence which irk a man’s soul; it is rather the pin pricks, especially those incidental to a life of deadly sameness, with tempers frayed out and nervous systems torn to shreds.
The second impression of my trip is that America is not only the cauldron of democracy, but the incubator of democratic principles. At some of the places I visited, I met the crews of your air bases. There I found first generation Germans, Italians, Frenchmen, Poles, Czechoslovakians, and other nationals. Some of them had accents so thick that, if such a thing were possible, one could not cut them with a butter knife. But there they were—all Americans, all devoted to the same ideals, all working for the same cause and united by the same high purpose. No suspicion or rivalry existed between them. This increased my belief and faith that devotion to common principles eliminates differences in race, and that identity of ideals is the strongest possible solvent of racial dissimilarities.
I have reached your country, therefore, with no misgivings, but with my belief that the American people are building and carrying out a true pattern of the Nation conceived by your forebears, strengthened and confirmed. You, as epresentatives of the American people, have before you the glorious opportunity of carrying on the pioneer work of your ancestors, beyond the frontiers of physical and geographical limitations. Their brawn and thews braved undauntedly almost unbelievable hardships to open up a new continent. The modern world lauds them for their vigor and intensity of purpose, and for their accomplishment. Your have today before you the immeasurably greater opportunity to implement these same ideals and to help bring about the liberation of man’s spirit in every part of the world. In order to accomplish this purpose, we of the United Nations must now so prosecute the war that victory will be ours decisively and with all good speed.
Sun-tse, the well-known Chinese strategist said, “In order to win, know thyself and thy enemy.” We have also the saying: “It takes little effort to watch the other fellow carry the load.”
In spite of these teachings from a wise old past, which are shared by every nation, there has been a tendency to belittle the strength of our opponents.
When Japan thrust total war on China in 1937 military experts of every nation did not give China even a ghost of a chance. But when Japan failed to bring China cringing to her knees as she vaunted, the world took solace in this phenomenon by declaring that they had overestimated Japan’s military might.
Nevertheless, when the greedy flames of war inexorably spread in the Pacific following the perfidious attack on Pearl Harbor, Malaya, and lands in and around the China Sea, and one after another of these places fell, the pendulum swung to the other extreme. Doubts and fears lifted their ugly heads and the world began to think that the Japanese were Nietzschean supermen, superior in intellect and physical prowess, a belief which the Gobineaus and the Houston Chamberlains and their apt pupils, the Nazi racists, had propounded about the Nordics.
Again, now the prevailing opinion seems to consider the defeat of the Japanese as of relative unimportance and that Hitler is our first concern. This is not borne out by actual facts, nor is it to the interests of the United Nations as a whole to allow Japan to continue not only as a vital potential threat but as a waiting sword of Damocles, ready to descend at a moment’s notice.
Let us not forget that Japan in her occupied areas today has greater resources at her command than Germany.
Let us not forget that the longer Japan is left in undisputed possession of these resources, the stronger she must become. Each passing day takes more toll in lives of both Americans and Chinese.
Let us not forget that the Japanese are an intransigent people.
Let us not forget that during the first 4 1/2 years of total aggression China has borne Japan’s sadistic fury unaided and alone.
The victories won by the United Sates Navy at Midway and the Coral Sea are doubtless steps in the right direction—they are merely steps in the right direction—for the magnificent fight that was waged at Guadalcanal during the past 6 months attests to the fact that the defeat of the forces of evil though long and arduous will finally come to pass. For have we not on the side of righteousness and justice staunch allies in Great Britain, Russia, and other brave and indomitable peoples? Meanwhile the peril of the Japanese juggernaut remains. Japanese military might must be decimated as a fighting force before its threat to civilization is removed.
When the Seventy-seventh Congress declared war against Japan, Germany, and Italy, Congress for the moment had done its work. It now remains for you, the present Representatives of the American people, to point the way to win the war, to help construct a world in which all peoples may henceforth live in harmony and peace.
May I not hope that it is the resolve of Congress to devote itself to the creation of the post-war world? To dedicate itself to the preparation for the brighter future that a stricken world so eagerly awaits?
We of this generation who are privileged to help make a better world for ourselves and for posterity should remember that, while we must not be visionary, we must have vision so that peace should not be punitive in spirit and should not be provincial or nationalistic or even continental in concept, but universal in scope and humanitarian in action, for modern science has so annihilated distance that what affects one people must of necessity affect all other peoples.
The term “hands and feet” is often used in China to signify the relationship between brothers. Since international interdependence is now so universally recognized, can we not also say that all nations should become members of one corporate body?
The 160 years of traditional friendship between our two great peoples, China and America,which has never been marred by misunderstandings, is unsurpassed in the annals of the world.
I can also assure you that China is eager and ready to cooperate with you and other peoples to lay a true and lasting foundation for a sane and progressive world society which would make it impossible for any arrogant or predatory neighbor to plunge future generations into another orgy of blood. In the past China has not computed the cost to her manpower in her fight against aggression, although she well realized that manpower is the real wealth of a nation and it takes generations to grow it. She has been soberly conscious of her responsibilities and has not concerned herself with privileges and gains which she might have obtained through compromise of principles. Nor will she demean herself and all she holds dear to the practice of the market place.
We in China, like you, want a better world, not for ourselves alone, but for all mankind, and we must have it. It is not enough, however, to proclaim our ideals or even to be convinced that we have them. In order to preserve, uphold, and maintain them, there are times when we should throw all we cherish into our effort to fulfill these ideals even at the risk of failure.
The teachings drawn from our late leader, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, have given our people the fortitude to carry on. From 5 1/2 years of experience we in China are convinced that it is the better part of wisdom not to accept failure ignominiously, but to risk it gloriously. We shall have faith that, at the writing of peace, American and our other gallant allies will not be obtunded by the mirage of contingent reasons of expediency.
Man’s mettle is tested both in adversity and in success. Twice is this true of the soul of a nation.
The committee appointed by Vice president, preceded by the Secretary of the Senate (Edwin A. Halsey), and the Sergeant at Arms (Wall Doxey), and consisting of Mr. Barkley, Mr. McNary, Mr. Connally, Mr. Capper, And Mrs. Caraway, entered the Chamber at the main door and escorted Mme. Chiang Kai-shek to a seat at the desk immediately in front of the Vice President.
(Mme. Chiang Kai-shek was greeted with prolonged applause, Senators and guests of the Senate rising.)
The VICE PRESIDENT. Senators, distinguished guests, Mme. Chiang Kai-shek, wife of the Generalissimo of the armies of China, will now address you.
ADDRESS BY MME. CHIANG KAI-SHEK
Mr. President, Members of the Senate of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, I am overwhelmed by the warmth and spontaneity of the welcome of the American people, of whom you are the representatives. I did not know that I was to speak to you today at the Senate except to say, “How do you do? I am so very glad to see you,” and to bring the greetings to my people
to the people of America. However, just before coming here, the Vice President told me that he would like to have me say a few words to you.
I am not a very good extemporaneous speaker; in fact, I am no speaker at all; but I am not so very much discouraged, because a few days ago I was at Hyde Park, and went to the President’s library. Something I saw there encouraged me, and made me feel that perhaps you will not expect overmuch of me in speaking to you extemporaneously. What do you think I saw there? I saw
many things. But the one thing which interested me most of all was that in a glass case there was the first draft of tone of the President’s speeches, a second draft, and on and on up to the sixth draft. Yesterday I happened to mention this fact to the President, and told him that I was extremely glad that he had to write so many drafts when he is such a well-known and
acknowledgedly fine speaker. His reply to me was that sometimes he writes 12 drafts of a speech. So, my remarks here today, being extemporaneous, I am sure you will make allowances for me.
The traditional friendship between your country and mine has a history of 160 years. I feel, and I believe that I am now the only one who feels this way, that there are a great many similarities between your people and mine, and that these similarities are the basis of our friendship.
I should like to tell you a little story which will illustrate this belief. When General Doolittle and his men went to bomb Tokyo, on their return some of your boys had to bail out in the interior of China. One of them later told me that he had to mail out of his ship. And that when he landed on Chinese soil and saw the populace running toward him, he just waved his arm and shouted the only Chinese word he knew, “Mei-kuo, Mei-kuo,” which means “America,” [Applause.] Literally translated from the Chinese it means “Beautiful country.” This boy said that our people laughed and almost hugged him, and greeted him like a long lost brother. He further told me that the thought that he had come home when he saw our people; and that was the first time he had ever been to China. [Applause.]
I came to your country as a little girl. I know your people. I have lived with them. I spent the formative years of my life amongst your people. I speak your language, not only the language of your hearts, but also your tongue. So coming here today I feel that I am also coming home. [Applause.]
I believe, however, that it is not only I who am coming home; I feel that if the Chinese people could speak to you in your own tongue, or if you could understand our tongue, they would tell you that basically and fundamentally we are fighting for the same cause [great applause]; that we have identity of ideals’ that the “four freedoms,” which your President proclaimed to the world, resound throughout our vast land as the gong of freedom, the gong of freedom of the United Nations, and the death knell of the aggressors. [Applause.]
I assure you that our people are willing and eager to cooperate with you in the realization of these ideals, because we want to see to it that they do not echo as empty phrases, but become realities for ourselves, for your children, for our children’s children, and for all mankind. [Applause.]
How are we going to realize these ideals? I think I shall tell you a little story which just came to my mind. As you know, China is a very old nation. We have a history of 5,000 years. When we were obliged to evacuate Hankow and go into the hinterland to carry on and continue our resistance against
aggression, the Generalissimo and I passed one of our fronts, the Changsha front. One day we went in to the Heng-yang Mountains, where there are traces of a famous pavilion called “Rub-the-mirror” pavilion, which perhaps interest you to hear the story of that pavilion.
Two thousand years ago near that spot was an old Buddhist temple. One of the young monks went there , and all day long he sat cross-legged, with his hands clasped before him in and attitude of prayer, and murmured “Amita-Buddha! Amita-Buddha! Amita-Buddha!” He murmured and chanted day after day, because he hoped that he would acquire grace.
The Father Prior of that temple took a piece of brick and rubbed it against a stone hour after hour, day after day, and week after week. The little acolyte, being very young, sometimes cast his eyes around to see what the old Father Prior was doing. The old Father Prior just kept on this work of rubbing the brick against the stone. So one day the young acolyte said to him, “Father Prior, what are you doing day after day rubbing this brick of stone?” The Father Prior replied, “I am trying to make a mirror out of this brick.” The young acolyte said, “But it is impossible to make a mirror out of a brick, Father Prior.” “Yes,” said the Father Prior, “and it is just as impossible for you to acquire grace by doing nothing except
murmur ‘Amita-Buddha’ all day long, day in and day out.” [Applause.]
So my friends, I feel that it is necessary for us not only to have ideals and to proclaim that we have them, it is necessary that we act to implement them. [Applause.] And so to you, gentlemen of the Senate, and to you ladies and gentleman in the galleries, I say that without the active help of all of us, our leaders cannot implement these ideals. It’s up to you and to me to take to heart the lesson of “Rub-the-Mirror” pavilion.
I thank you. [Great applause, Senators and their guests rising.]
Following her address, Mme. Chiang Kai-shek and the distinguished visitors accompanying her and the others guests of the Senate were escorted from the Chamber.