China Emergent

In the midst of World War II, as China's Nationalist leader, Chiang Kai-shek, struggled against Japanese invaders from without and the Communist movement from within, his Wellesley College–educated wife decried the exploitation of China by the West and delineated a vision for a more democratic future.

One of our national characteristics is not to do things without careful deliberation. Those who are privileged to direct the aspirations of a quarter of the world’s population have a wonderful opportunity but a fearful responsibility. This responsibility has grown weightier, now that China has become the leader of Asia. If their program for social and political development is carelessly planned, they will imperil the happiness of hundreds of millions of their fellow countrymen and jeopardize the very core of world society. No instrument devised by human brains can be absolutely perfect. We, however, are recruiting the wisest intelligence available amongst our people in order to ensure that the political and economic machinery which will swing into full operation in China after the war will be as nearly perfect as possible and susceptible of readjustment without causing civil unrest. To my mind democracy means representative government, and by ‘representative’ I mean representative of the steadfast and settled will of the people as opposed to the irresponsible and spellbinding slogans of political hawkers. Furthermore, in a true democracy the minority parties should not be left out of consideration. I am opposed to any system which permanently gives absolute power to a single party. That is the negation of real democracy, to which freedom of thought and progress are essential. A one-party system denies both. Freedom of thought and action should be given to minorities as long as the activities of such groups are not incompatible with the interests and security of the state.

There is no necessity, moreover, for the systems of democracy in our respective countries to be slavish replicas of each other. They must adhere to the fundamental principle, of course, but each democracy should have an order that fits truly its own peculiar requirements. Therefore, our Chinese democracy will not be a colorless imitation of your American democracy, although it will undoubtedly be influenced by the Jeffersonian views of equality of opportunity and the rights of the individual. It will be redolent of our soil and expressive of the native genius of our people. It must meet China’s own needs and be in harmony with our present environment, which is inevitably linked to the best traditions of our past.

Considering what China has already accomplished in the face of heartbreaking obstacles, we confront the future with calmness and confidence. The difficulties before us are stupendous; but with the help, from our sister democracies, of technique and capital, which we have proved we deserve, we have no doubt we can solve our problems. The fortune of war has brought China for the first time abreast of the great powers. We have won our place in the front rank by our prolonged and unyielding resistance to violence. We shall keep it by playing a major part in building a better world.

In the old world that is crumbling to pieces as I write, nations strove with each other to win supremacy in the means of destruction. The defunct League of Nations, whatever its shortcomings, had in its conception of world peace an area of thought which we should do well to cultivate. While lip-service to international equality and justice was not found wanting, signatories of the League Covenant did not have the courage actively to implement the principles enunciated so piously by their representatives round the conference table. China, Abyssinia, Spain, Poland, and other militarily weak nations became the victims of aggression, and the democracies, which should have seen their own fate from the writing on the wall, did little more than make futile protests. It is my hope, therefore, that when victory is ours we shall have learned the lesson that ‘the substance of wisdom is made out of the substance of folly,’ and profit thereby. Cannot we, in the new day whose dawn is nearing, strive together to gain supremacy in the peaceful arts of government and administration that will secure lasting happiness for the people of all races and thus create a world vitalized by new hopes and worshiping a more Christlike ideal?

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