OR CHINA OVER-SIMPLIFIED
AN IMAGINARY DIALOG WHEREIN A DISTINGUISHED AMERICAN PLAYWRIGHT
LOOKS DOWN ON THE LAND AND DRAWS SOME WISE CONCLUSIONS
By CLARE BOOTHE
Playwright Clare Boothe, accompanied her husband, LIFE's editor Henry R. Luce, to the Chinese front last May. Her
photographs illustrated his account of that journey published in the June 30 issue of LIFE. Herewith Clare Boothe
sets down some of her own deductions about China made in the course of her visit in which she flew from Hong Kong
to Chungking to the Yellow River front in the North and back again.
"You've been to China -"
"Like a million tabletops" are the terraces of China's great Northwest between Lanchow on the edge of Inner
Mongolia and the Nationalistic center of Sian. Bad erosion has scarified the brown earth and is still washing it
away down the little streams. The Chinese of Kansu and Shensi plant wheat in the terraced lowlands and graze sheep
on the hilltops. A white path winds down the valley and other paths cut up the hill at left, one to a tiny village.
There are other houses up the valley and children play along the stream bed. Adobe ranch houses and forts stand on
the hilltops. The usual drink here is boiled water, with or without tea. A delicacy is hot water, egg and grain
wine for breakfast. Meat and vegetables are very hard to get. The remote inland country is more than 1,000 miles
from Shanghai on the coast and about 400 miles due north of Chungking.
"I flew over a lot of it, in three weeks -"
"Still you must have seen something -"
"The land . . ."
"Oh, well, no Westerner can really understand China anyway: The Orient is so mysterious."
"Chinese say, only what you see with your own eyes, in China, is certain. I say, I saw - the land.
There seems very little mystery about China when you see it over the wing-tips of a Douglas two-motored job. When
you look down on the land the way the Lord must have done, after He made it."
"God must have loved the Chinese people - He made so many of them."
"Perhaps. But even He must have had mixed feelings about the land He gave them. Do you know the
cosmic prescription for the Land called China? Create four million square miles of earth on this planet. Blast that
barren part of it called Mongolia with cold dry arctic winds, with dust storms and blizzards. carpet the West, Sinkiang
and Tibet, with blistering deserts and rive it with topless mountains. Sour its South with evil swamps, pock it with
festering jungles, wash its plains with hot torrential rains and raging black typhoons while the cold is cracking
the stones of the Northern temples. Then slash that whole up with impassable barriers, the soaring, snow-capped
ranges of Tsinling."
"But what of the East, of 'China proper?' There are vast and fertile plains and rich valleys."
"Perilous Paradise! Watered from the roof of the world with the greatest, most treacherous rivers
of the globe. Add to this happy region long deluges, longer droughts. And then people this calamitous macrocosm
with 450,000,000 prolific, vital, efficient microcosms: Mongols, Manchus, Tibetans, Moslems - 'the Chinese people.'"
"That's certainly the prescription for catastrophe."
"Did you read the papers today? What do the headlines say?"
"On the Russian Front, 9,000,000 men have been locked for two months in the most titanic struggle
in history. Not a word about China!"
"Exactly. True history would headline this news: 'In China 450,000,000 people have been locked
for a thousand years in a titanic struggle with Starvation.'"
"Ah ha! I suspect we will now get the well-known Economic Interpretation of History."
"I am asking you to view China from an airplane, not a pulpit. Look down from it on the land of China,
and the Great Mystery of the Orient becomes a Great Question - a question of vast import, for the answer concerns
today, one-fifth of mankind, directly and dreadfully, and indirectly the other three-fourths tomorrow: 'Does the
Good Earth belong to the Sons of Han, or do the Sons of Han belong to the Good Earth?"
"The answer lies below you - look down at these silver, brown, tender green geometrical patterns
below you, shaped like cockleshells, half-moons, shining slivers of quarters, interlocked endlessly. They are the
rice paddies of Szechwan, Kwangsi, Kwangtung, and the South. See how they trickle down the dark sides of the deepest
valley, rise to the smallest jealous crevices of the highest mountain. Soar over the eroded loess terraces of the
West, of Shensi and Shansi, stacked beneath you like a hundred million flat little table tops or a billion erratic
little steps, mounting up and down tirelessly. Roar over all the plains and valleys, plateaus and delta lands of
the East. Is there a yard, a foot, an inch that might grow a tiny green sprig of rice, bean, onion, millet, wheat?
It grows there. Ask what are those millions of little black specks which dot these interminable shapes of earth from
sunrise to sundown, that move and scatter, here, there, everywhere, like purposeful insects?"
"Oh, let me guess. Men."
"You don't have to be a geomancer to divine that for these men-insects, those figures of earth, lines
of fields, plots, acres, have one simple meaning: Survival, Bread, Life."
"Man does not live by bread alone."
"A missionary told me that the most common 'proverb' in China is 'Rest on Heaven, and feed your mouth.'
Ask a Chinese how many there are in his family and he will answer - 'so many mouths . . .'"
"The fabulous Mystery of the Oriental Soul is half solved when you view it as the problem of the
"Alimentary, my dear Watson."
"I infer that you imply that as the matter stands, the Sons of Han belong to the earth?"
"They are seeking their Freedom - "
"From the soil? I read in the papers, it's from the Japs."
"Since you only got around a few months ago to reading about the Japs, who have been in China for
four years now, restrain your interest in them ten minutes longer."
"As you were saying, the Chinese are enslaved by the earth?"
"Rooted in its fields like wheat stalks, in its paddies like rice shoots. tear them from the earth
and they cannot live, they die, they wither. There is nothing but the land in China."
"You must have seen some towns, some villages, some cities?"
"Many. But most of these, too, live on the soil, are rooted in it, or if not rooted, grow on it like
"Oh, you saw that, from the air, did you?"
"In the interior everywhere I saw villages, towns, cities lying like black spiders, in the vast silver
webs of the rice paddies or like muddy hubs in the brassy wheels within wheels of the
wheat lands. Most of the tiny
roads that left them, like spindly spokes stopped at the rims of the circles. Few cities were joined with city by
the great axle rods of highways. In town after town in the interior, I saw no factory chimneys, no rail centers, no
parks and government buildings, none of the signs of a dynamic money or industrial economy. These villages and cities
were all alike in color and structure: gray clusters of roof tops, cellular growths like wasps' nests. And the ancient,
time-fixed walls showed that when a village or city had grown to the limit of the countryside's ability to produce
a surplus above the farmer's daily needs for town barter, the town had to 'stop growing.' Five hundred years before
the West had ever heard of it, Chungking was a walled city of 400,000. It has grown little since then."
"So you saw, from the air, that these towns and cities were nothing but local market places, where
local produce, or the surplus might be exchanged for 'foreign' products. And you saw there wasn't much
surplus - Now how did you see that?"
"There were so few roads cutting across this land from the 'outside world.' That showed no demand
for foreign products. Was this land so precious that men dare not even sacrifice an inch to run roads across it?
It seemed so, from an airplane. Then one thought, even in 'good years' the overburdened soil must be weary of the
plow, the harrow, the thousands of water buffalo feet, the billions of human ones that dig and dredge and prod and
poke about in it endlessly. It must want to be left alone, to be just mud, quiet primordial slime. Like an old mother,
it must be infinitely tired of bearing, hungry to be fed, sick of feeding."
"How is it fed, if it is so endlessly harrowed?"
"With material anima, human dung. 'Nightsoil' is hawked in the towns where there is even a
Nightsoil Market. In the port cities, nightsoil from the 'foreign concessions' brings highest prices. Unearned excrement
is richest . . . But the toiling Son of Han endlessly plows his lovingly hoarded thin excrement back into the
weakening soil. The rice, the millet, the soybean, even the peaches and persimmons he eats become compound of him, he of
them most intimately. The man eats his farm. His farm eats him - so man himself becomes the greatest crop, the
animate crop of the soil of China. Sometimes when the man-crop grows too large, and the soil too weak to bear it, a drought,
even a short drought, touches off a long disaster of famine. Sometimes the floods partially retrieve the disaster
of the droughts. Rising convulsively, the rivers drive the ravenous and surplus crop-man from it, or trap him under
turgid waters by thousands, plowing him under, to fertilize the
good and weary earth, with rich silt and slime,
and with flesh and bones built of rice and peaches. Wisely the Chinese call the flooding Hwang Ho the "Sorrow of
China,' but the flooding Yangtze, 'The River Descended from Heaven.' For no one in China can really say whether floods
are an evil or a good thing."
"In any case, a bitter benevolence."
"Very. For Famine and Flood, Drought and Pestilence leave on the survivors their peculiar stigmata
of violence. The cripples and dwarfs and lepers who infest the cities, the ulcerated blind beggars, cracking the lice
from their own mangy beards in their yellow teeth, the blood-spitting children, eyesore and snot-nosed, verminous and
scabrous, the white-eyed, sunken-eared women, all the fang-toothed idiots were born of the floods and famines, are
the spawn of the catastrophe called China. Chinese farms smell of dung. Chinese cities smell of dung, tears, sweat
and corpses. In Shanghai today, the authorities do not count the bodies. They report, 'so many tons of human
matter gathered up this morning.'"
"What you mean is that they haven't got - a Chinaman's chance."
"That phrase was a thousand tragic years being coined for your amusement."
"I'm not laughing. This is not a very happy picture you are painting of China."
"And I'm not finished. To the Elements, the ancient enemy of The Tortured Sons of Han, add another,
a fiercer, a fouler, more potent."
"Who. Everywhere else on the globe, man's fiercest enemy is - Man. It is the same in China."
THE MODERN WORLD CASTS ITS SHADOW ACROSS THE FACE OF IMMEMORIAL CHINA
THIS is not a military map of modern China. It is a picture map of the history of Old China, the 4,600-year-old
kingdom of the Middle of the World. Fittingly centered on the map, because it represented the unity of China, is the
Altar of Heaven on which the Emperors in Peking used to pray in the center of nine concentric circles of marble to the
God of the Universe, Shang-ti. China's code of human conduct goes back 2,500 years to Confucius, whose tomb is shown.
From India by way of a symbolic White Horse, which gave its name to a temple in the North, came a religion and a
life-after-death from Confucius' contemporary, Buddha. In 762 A.D. China's greatest poet, Li Po, a drunkard, drowned
trying to kiss the sheen of moonlight on water and got a temple dedicated to him. Elsewhere on the map are shown
the route of Marco Polo to the court of Kublai Khan whose great armada notably failed to vanquish the Japanese
seamen. Near Nanking stands the modern tomb of China's "George Washington," revolutionary Sun Yat-sen. China's
real dragon is the flooding Hwang Ho River.
"You didn't see that from the air - "
"From a plane, you can see the Great Wall of China, writhing and coiling like a frozen dragon across
1,500 miles of the North. It was built, thousands of years ago, to stem the hordes of Huns, Tartars, Mongols, Manchus,
and later the Turks, Arabs, Tibetans, barbarians, who beat against China in cruel, never-ending waves, seeking to
pillage the fruits of the fat years, to loot the looters, the Princes and Lords of China, to enslave the enslaved
"But China always absorbed them! The way they will absorb those disgusting Japs."
"You just can't wait to get to the Japs. You are like everybody else, infatuated with ephemeral
"Now, I'm on China's side. I want her to win, even though you make China sound so dismal - and hopeless . . . "
"But we can't help China today, until we know China's yesterday. The Chinese couldn't help
themselves either, until they were willing to face that."
"Carry on, or rather backwards - "
"Well, in between the last of the barbarians, and the blood-stained Sons of Bushido who so fascinate
you, came the Western powers, England, France, Russia, Portugal, Germany. Between 1842 and 1914, England seized Hong Kong,
Kowloon, Burma, Nepal, and Bhutan. Russia grabbed the Maritime Provinces. France gobbled Cochin China, Annam, and Tonkin.
Japan slickly annexed Formosa, the Pescadores Islands, Korea. Portugal had already taken Macao. Germany, late at the
feast, got Kiaochow, and some islands."
"Were all of those places China?"
"The Chinese who had been living there for centuries thought so. And all these Powers wrung additional
'protectorates,' 'leases,' port treaties - with tariff, trade, custom, and 'extra-territorial' concessions from
China. Three times a corrupt and feeble Dragon Throne fought the greedy Powers. First - in 1839 in the Opium Wars - "
"Wouldn't the Western Powers even let them have opium? Considering their sufferings, they might have
been permitted that anodyne."
"The Western Powers forced them to buy it. The Chinese called opium 'this scourge, worse than
a universal deluge, than an invasion of wild beasts.' Bu the Dragon Throne, engrossed in pleasure, wasting the
substances of China to feather its peacock headdresses, lost the Opium Wars with the Western Powers. And then China
fought the English and French again in 1856, the Japanese, for the first time, in 1894. And in 1900, in a frightful
spasm of 'anti-foreignism,' fermented by the Manchu court itself, China fought all the Powers of Europe, in the
bloody Boxer Rebellion."
"All anniversaries in China commemorate humiliations."
"Did the West give them nothing, in exchange for all the West took from them?"
"Knowledge. China learned from the guns, the ways of the guns . . . from the traders, the ways of money . . .
from the machine, the ways of industry. And from the missionaries and educators who came, China learned Western
thought and ideals. More and more Chinese intellectuals, students, merchants, educators began to travel; and they
brought back under their new shaved heads the dynamic ideas by which China might one day hope to redeem itself, protect
itself, and defend, if necessary, its way of life against all aggression from East or West."
"I'm sorry - but the Chinese way of life you have described hardly seems worth defending . . . "
"It wasn't - perhaps for the past four or five centuries. And that's why China couldn't defend it. That's
what thoughtful Chinese like Dr. Sun Yat-sen, China's first great modern leader, began to see, at the turn of the century.
They saw that the great, rich, once potent civilization they had built through thousands of years seemed to have spent
its force, lost its way. They saw that Chinese civilization itself was suffering the fate of all China's conquerors:
it too had bogged down at last in China . . . They saw that, too vast and wild to be conquered totally, China internally
was too sick to kick out the would-be conquerors.
A century ago this was the way the Emperor Tao-Kuang, father-in-law of the infamous Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi,
reviewed his guards in the gold-roofed Forbidden City ("The Great Within") inside Peking. High on his balcony in the
background sits the Emperor.
The tragic Emperor Kuang-Hsu, an absolute prisoner of the Dowager Empress and her palace eunuchs because of
his Reform Edicts of 1898, is carted through streets of Peking in hollow splendor after anti-foreigner Boxer Rebellion.
Empress encouraged the Boxers, disgraced China, fled Peking taking Emperor with her.
Dowager's husband, Emperor Hsien-Feng, had Tzu-Hsi only as a secondary consort, but her son became the child
Emperor Tung-Chih. His mother was regent during most of his reign.
Dowager Empress Tzu-Hsi ("Venerable Buddha") sits among her ladies who wear Manchu court dress and redden
their lips. Her "retirement" as regent made her really a "super-empress."
Little Pu-Yi at 2 became Emperor Hsuan-T'ung when his uncle, the imprisoned Emperor Kuang-Hsu, died in 1908.
His reign lasted three years, until he was deposed by Revolution in 1911.
"But let's go back to 1911, the most important date to remember about modern China. Back to the Land,
and the three-fourths of China's people, the landless peasants, who lived on sampans and junks, the
rickshaw men and
the coolies, and the 'landed peasants' who owned less than five acres to a family.
"In China, in 1911, the other fourth of China's people were craftsmen, shopkeepers, merchants,
priests, mandarins, landlords, government functionaries, and princes. And the Manchus were reigning. Then this
'propertied fourth' never failed, consciously or unconsciously or simply because they now lived in a dog-eat-dog
land economy, to take advantage of the peasant in his hours of greatest duress, to smack him down, with taxes and
fines when he got his head above the flood rivers, or 'take over,' for taxes, his land when he didn't. From those
below the Manchus, all the peoples' complaints were met by passing the buck back to the Manchus. And it is true that
they demanded heavy tribute from those under them, and death to those who resisted them. And there was no political
or legal or military mechanism by which the Manchus could be prevented from doing so."
"The Laws of Confucius?"
"A body of Ethics - preachments on good government. But over a long period of centuries, the Analects
of Confucius had become the Maxims of Confusion. Do you think the rules of Europe could be kept virtuous fellows even
for one year simply by daily invocations of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount?"
"Unfortunately, they couldn't - and haven't."
"In 1911, millions of Chinese, led by the Chinese intellectuals who had sensed that the West had the
formula for Freedom, began to shout, 'Down with the Dragon and up with the flag of the Republic!' Then Dr. Sun Yat-sen,
a mild-faced little man, who had traveled much in our Land of the Free, swiftly returned to China to lead the Revolution,
and in doing so became incontrovertibly 'The George Washington of China.' Let me read you China's Declaration of
CHARGES AGAINST THE MANCHUS
Shanghai, Jan. 5
The following Republican manifesto is issued today.
To all friendly nations, - Greetings! Hitherto irremediable suppression of the individual qualities
and the national aspirations of the people having arrested the intellectual, moral and material development of China,
the aid of revolution was invoked to extirpate the primary cause. We now proclaim the consequent overthrow of the
despotic sway of the Manchu dynasty and the establishment of a Republic. The substitution of a Republic for a Monarchy
is not the fruit of transient passion, but the natural outcome of a long-cherished desire for freedom, contentment and
advancement. We Chinese people, peaceful and law abiding, have not waged war except in self-defense. We have borne
our grievances for 267 years with patience and forbearance. We have endeavored be peaceful means to redress our
wrongs, secure liberty and ensure progress, but we failed. Oppressed beyond human endurance we deemed it our
inalienable right, as well as a sacred duty, to appeal to arms to deliver ourselves and our posterity from the yoke
to which we have for so long been subjected. For the first time in history an inglorious bondage is transformed
into inspiring freedom.
"Did you get that part about 267 years? They bore their grievance with forbearance and patience
for 267 years! And 14 years of the Versailles Injustice was too long for patient
"What China has borne for 267 years, China will refuse to bear again if it takes 267 years of impatience.
Anyway, the Chinese had their Revolution. And within a year millions of coolies cut off their long pigtails, that
ignominious symbol of servitude, that convenient rope for swinging pates from poles, for banging them against the
bloody walls of prisons."
Dowager Empress, as a huge concession to modernism, takes her first ride on a train and thanks French
railway official for her safe trip. Notice her long fingernails and square stilt shoes.
Her prisoner and nephew, Emperor Kuang-Hsu, married to her niece, was obliged to receive foreign diplomas
as though he were the real power. Hidden brick walls shut in throne room.
Reform Emperor Kuang-Hsu before his fall, read about the new marvels of Western civilization, lost a war
to Japan. Later Dowager Empress beheaded his liberal advisers without trial.
Pathetic aftermath of Emperor Hsuan-T'ung's reign was his posing on throne in the Forbidden City after Revolution
of 1911. No real Emperor was ever photographed on his throne.
"Exiled" to his own Forbidden City, deposed Pu-Yi walked the gold dragon roofs of his domain from 1912 until
he was chased out by a war lord in 1924 to the Japanese Legation.
Emperor of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet, since March 1934 is the last state of Pu-Yi, who is now Emperor Kang-Te.
Technically he is as much Emperor of China today as he ever was.
"In China nothing goes to waste. Now what did they do with 200 million pigtails?"
"Why did you ask? That question will always haunt me . . . But after the Revolution, everything was
not all right. It had been all wrong for too many thousands of years to come right, simply because the Manchus had
toppled, and good Dr. Sun Yat-sen had enunciated his People's Three Principles - which were, roughly translated,
Min Tsu - The equality of races; Min chuan - Government of the people by the people and for the people;
and Min sen - The right of every individual to possess the elements necessary to his
subsidence. But even Sun
Yat-sen, himself, knew that, although the New China had been born, the Old China would be a long time a-dying. He
allowed precisely 14 years for the deathbed agony, at the end of which time Young China would bury Old China at last,
peacefully, though without lamentations. he set, in short, three conditions for attainment of the People's Three
Principles: First, a seven-year period of military tutelage - under the Nationalist Revolutionary Army;
Second, a seven-year period of political tutelage - under the 'Kuomintang,' as the Nationalist Revolutionary
Party was called, during which the Party would be backed by the Army, and then (he said) would come the period
of constitutional government, under perhaps a two-party system with the Army relegated to a democratic defense
constabulary, to last apparently world without end, forever. But Young China was impatient. Young China wanted at
once everything to be different. There were still hundreds of thousands of pigtails left in the farthest provinces
(where they had not yet heard of the Revolution) when Young China began to point with scorn and bitterness to the
fact that the flag of the Republic flew over China - but that China still continued to starve under it.
What was wrong? Apparently the Manchus were not the 'primary cause' of China's patiently borne ancient
grievances, of its inglorious bondage. Who, then, was the villain? It must be the Foreigners! between 1911 and 1918,
Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his colleagues transferred (not a difficult matter) their hatred and
abhorrence of the Manchus to
the white devils profiting in their midst, to the Western Powers, to the manifestations of Imperialism exemplified
by the 'Foreign Concessions.' So, after a brief attempt to co-operate with the Democracies during the World War,
Sun Yat-sen and his Revolutionaries went gunning for the Foreign Powers who 'exploited China.' The flames of their
hatred were fed anew by the Versailles Treaty. At Versailles certain elegant, well-educated white-faced gents in
striped pants repaid their Chinese Ally, and the Chinese soldier-coolies who 'loaded on' the ships for the Allies
at Brest and Le Havre, by awarding German-held Shantung - to Japan! To the Japan which, while America was busy making
the world safe for Democracy, had been already invading Shantung. No wonder Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his colleagues
wanted to go 'all out' against the Powers. And they tried to. Strikes on the Shanghai docks, Embargoes at Hong Kong,
Boycotts on Japanese products. Now it is precisely at this point that the eight-year-old Revolution began to get pretty
complicated - and go a little sour. For in the end it appeared that the Chinese mandarins, merchants, bankers, compradors
rather liked the profitable business they did with the white devils (and even yellow devils of Tokyo) and didn't at
all see why, now that they had quite a successful Republican Revolution, they couldn't 'do business as usual.' The
landlords and rich peasants, no longer having the protection of the Manchu authorities to protect them from an
awakened but confused peasantry, turned to the private 'war lords,' China's Capones, who had sprung up tenfold strong
when the Imperial Manchu Dragons' Teeth bit the dust. These gentlemen in turn liked the tribute they were paid for
'protection' as much as they liked the plunder they took from the farmer. By 1925, the scene was overripe for the words
of Lenin. And a Russian called Borodin had brought them to the kindly Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and showed him how they must
be implemented to save China. Dr. Sun Yat-sen must see quite clearly that the primary cause of ancient Chinese grievance
was the Chinese landowners plus Foreign Imperialism. In short: Capitalism everywhere. So up went the cry from Young
China: 'The good earth must belong to the Sons of Han . . . or we shall never know Freedom!' and 'Down with
Foreign Imperialists. World Revolution everywhere!' Sun Yat-sen believed Borodin. Many men around Sun Yat-sen believed him.
One of these men was a great favorite of Borodin. He was head of the nationalist Military School, the Whampoa Academy.
He was young, but he was bold and shrewd, and passionately for China. Borodin made him a general. His name
was Chiang Kai-shek."
Loess land shows erosion much farther advanced than above. This is also Northwest China, not far from Sian.
Loess rock is soft, porous and yellowish, erodes into steep walls and columns suitable for caves. In upper center
is a Chinese village.
"And he was a Communist?"
"Well, perhaps not, but it was with Russian help that in the short space of two years Chiang, the
stripling general, became the most powerful man in China. And then one day in 1927, quite suddenly, Chiang Kai-shek started
a bloody purge of the Communists, killed and shot their military leaders, and sent Borodin back on the long road to Moscow
where he was hung by the Leninists on the gallows for his failure."
"But why did Chiang Kai-shek change like that and betray 'The People's Revolution?' And you
say the Oriental mind isn't mysterious!"
"Well, Senator Wheeler voted for Roosevelt only ten months ago. In Chungking, my Chinese friends find
the Western mind very 'mysterious.' But I have a theory about Chiang Kai-shek's extraordinary volte-face and
his renunciation of his Communist connection. It's nothing, you understand, but a theory. Perhaps even in those days,
Chiang wanted to unify China."
"By civil war?"
"That's the way Abe Lincoln did it here, remember? And China had had its George
Washington, Sun Yat-sen.
Chiang, perhaps, really saw himself as China's Abe Lincoln. How (he may have asked himself) shall I unify this impoverished
and chaotic country of mine? And he may have said, "First I must make it strong, only then may I deal with it
justly . . . ' Perhaps Chiang saw China could never made strong, without the willing support of the rich Western
Powers. Perhaps in the final analysis, Chiang did not sell out to the Western Powers, but bought in
with them in order temporarily to call them off a weak and backward China. God knows, after 267 years of the Manchus,
and ten years of a Republican Revolution, and seven years of incipient Communism, China needed a breather to rally
her material forces. In any case, having made his peace with the Powers, Chiang borrowed money from the Big Banks
with which he built schools, hospitals, railways, factories, highways and equipped armies. And with those armies on
those highways, he tracked down and chased out most of the 'war lords' of China, and the pillagers, bandits, kidnappers,
prowling guerilla bands. He won the support of the propertied classes (which mirabile dictu enabled him to tax
them more effectively), the allegiance of merchants and traders and the millions of China's shopkeepers - for millions
of Chinese are 'traders,' and the love of 'gain' is deep-rooted in the national character, so deeply that it would
forever perhaps be at war with a Russian style of Communism. And so, adroitly using Western money and material, and Western
ideology, and Western guns, Chiang forcefully began to educate, open up, unify China. The price he paid for this
desiderata was, as you say, civil war with the Chinese agrarian revolutionaries . . . "
On Altar of Heaven a 500-year-old marble circle outside Peking, Chinese Emperor used to kneel alone to the
God of the Universe (Shang-ti) on Dec. 22. For at least 4,000 years Chinese Emperors had worshipped an invisible God.
Emperor spoke for all his people.
Fortified villages, mostly crumbling into ruin, dot China. This one has a dry moat as well as wall, parapet
and watchtowers. Road into it leads across foreground through two gates. This is in Northwest, has often fought
Mongol raiders and local bandits.
"But you said - you said, the grave question, the only question in China was: 'Shall
the Sons of Han belong to the earth?'"
"But it was the Communists who wanted to free them."
"Chiang Kai-shek was very fond of flying over China in an airplane. So he may have seen more clearly than
the Communists the answer to that Freedom."
"Now you've got Chiang Kai-shek in your airplane."
"It was in his airplane, which he loaned me, that I saw some of the things this year that he may have
seen - in 1927. He just may have seen, from his plane, that the machine, alone, can rescue the Sons of Han from the
soil - railroads, trucks, mills, radios, foundries, refrigeration cars, lathes, looms, dynamos, machines for building
dikes to stem the floods, roads to carry produce, ditches to irrigate drought lands, bridges to link the rivers - these
alone would siphon off labor from the over-burdened soil, open up China, make it dynamic. Chiang Kai-shek is a dynamic man.
Perhaps he saw, from the air, China's basic needs . . . "
"Your journalists' basic need is a good dynamic word for dynamic."
"Then, in 1932, while Chiang was still in the money-borrowing, Communist-shooting phase of unity, came
Manchukuo. Hot-headed Young China was 21 years old. Many of his young partisans deserted Chiang to join the Communist
Revolutionary Armies, a gallant band, still intact in their faith, if not in their numbers, because they wanted to fight
Japan then, and Chiang didn't. Perhaps Chiang Kai-shek didn't want to send a boy to do a man's work. Call it
'appeasement,' or call it, as Woodrow Wilson once did, 'watchful waiting.' Chiang kept right on building and strengthening
China Proper for the war with Japan that he too knew was inevitable. But when the Japs started 'The China Incident'
by firing on Chinese sentries at the Marco Polo Bridge, in 1937 Chiang felt at last he could trust 26-year-old China
to fight a tough man's war. He made a parlous but practical peace with the Communists. Today, in China, those who see
only the land are still Communists. Those who have seen the vision of the Machine are Chiang Kai-shekists. And both
are Chinese, and both are patriots, however bloody in the past or future, their differences."
The Great Wall of China was the first Maginot Line and in general it worked. Conquests usually came by treason
of generals in command of the Wall. The Manchus were invited into China as allies and merely stayed on as conquerors.
Wall is one of most important words in Chinese. Ch'eng is word for both city and city wall. There was no real
city without a wall. This 2,100-year-old wall runs for 1,500 miles, averages 28 ft. high and has a 12-ft. road on top.
It is made of earth faced with stone or brick.
"Now you didn't see all that you have told me from the air. You had a couple of books, if not Chiang
Kai-shek himself, on the seat beside you."
"I saw most of it from the air. Saw that the economy of China was - rice for its bowls, the politics
of China was - rice for its bowls. Saw that the Machine was the only thing that could fill them to over-flowing and
save tomorrow, as it is helping today, to defend China.
"The plane I flew in from Hong Kong to Chungking sailed easily over those prehistoric impassable
barriers of mountains and unnavigable rivers. It carried serums and medical supplies to China's armies, that would
have been months reaching them by muleback, and I knew (perhaps a poetic impression but a strong one) that those
peasants who unbent theory burdened and sweating backs to lift their faces from the paddies to the silver belly of that plane,
would never again be content to see only birds in the China firmament. I saw the Yellow River Front, I saw Chinese
soldiers manning great guns there. I saw from the air that the Yellow River and the land was not defending the
Chinese. The Chinese (and their guns) were defending the Yellow River! And if you were to fly
over the Burma Road,
you would see trucks crawling endlessly up it from Lashio to Chungking, filled with oil, machine tools, airplane parts,
radio equipment, which make it possible for 'the peasants' to carry on their war against the Japs. To be sure, that
road was built by millions of human hands, bare hands. But it was built willingly, gladly. Would those Chinese coolies
have built such a road for oxcarts? I doubt it. But they, too, had seen the vision of the Liberator coming to them,
the Machine. Eyewitnesses have told me that they built that road under a rain of Jap bombs, singing. East is
East, and West is West, but when you look down on Fighting China, Chiang Kai-shek's China, from an airplane, you see
the twain are meeting never to part. And as the two great halves of the world, East and West are being joined, so is
the great issue before the 'civilized world' being joined, too, never doubt it."
"Shall modern man, freed from the soil by the machine, become again a slave - to the machine itself?
To the 'Liberator?' For that's the way Hitler will have it if he wins, and the Japs will have it if they win - "
"Well everybody knows that without getting in an airplane. Well, thanks for the ride. Though I suspect
that your wings over China is China over-simplified?"
"Obviously. May I tell you something else I saw, too, from the Clippers and Douglases I flew in over
the Pacific and back, and over China?"
"If it's not too long."
"Hemispheres are arbitrary lines drawn by cartographers, debated by Parliaments, revised by Generals.
There are no hemispheres in an air world. When all the world takes to wings, we'll see that. Perhaps then we'll get
the Great Peace, the World Peace - The Peace of Ameurasia."
Chinese village has every mark of a local, agricultural economy. Here the harvested grain is stacked beside
the thatched roofs, ready for threshing. There are no paved roads, railways, factories, telephone lines or highways
to neighboring villages and towns.
"Four hundred million little black specks" labor patiently across the face of China. Here thousands of coolies
level off and fill in land for an airfield. Soil is moved in baskets slung on shoulders. height of total work done so
far can be seen at lower left.
LIFE'S COVER: The pig-tailed miss on this week's cover is Ann Teal of Greenwich, Conn., class of '43, Smith
College. Ann has straight hair which she usually wears in a medium-long bob. On the campus, however, she frequently
braids it in practical pigtails. Ann is one of thousands of college girls who have worked for pay this summer either
as College Shop models or salesgirls.
Adapted by Carl W. Weidenburner
from the September 8, 1941 issue of LIFE.
Portions copyright 1941 Time, Inc.
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