George, Red, and Angie Mills in Nanjing

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The path of an empty boat: Zhou Enlai

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In The Burning Forest, a collection of articles and essays by Simon Leys, the chapter with the above title explains the metaphor.

“Twenty-three hundred years ago, Zhuang Zi, in  giving advice to a king, made him observe that when a small boat drifts in the way of a huge barge, the crew of the barge will immediately shout abuse at the stray craft… if they discover that the little boat is empty, they will simply shut up and quietly steer clear of it. He concluded that a leader… should first and foremost learn how to  become an empty boat.

History provides few examples of statesmen who were as successful as Zhou Enlai in mastering this subtle discipline.”

Simon says…

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Simon Leys is the pen name that a Belgian art critic and professor of Chinese literature, Pierre Ryckmans, used when writing about current affairs in China. His books and articles are imaginative, insightful, and heavily spiced with sometimes caustic epigrams: his own and many that he credits to others.

To Zhou Zuoren he attributes the capsule summation related to art: “All that can be spelled out is without importance.”

About Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), an early Jesuit missionary to China, Leyes writes: “Ricci accurately saw-and it remains his most momentous contribution-that the question of how China could become Christian was first the question of how Christianity should become Chinese.”

Writing about Jonathan Spence’s book on the same Ricci, Leyes comments: “The life of Ricci is so gripping a story… It took a very clever man to reduce it to the proportions of a mere literary game… one deplores that he wasted such noble and inspiring material in the fabrication of what is, after all, a rather quaint bibelot.”

In a chapter on Zhou Enlai: “Alone among Maoist leaders he had cosmopolitan sophistication, charm, wit, and style… He was the kind of man who could stick a knife in your back and do it with such disarming grace that you would still feel compelled to thank him for the deed.”

Your Kung Fu is not Gong Fu

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“Wushu is the Chinese word for martial arts… In the West, Chinese martial arts are called ‘kung fu’ or ‘gong fu,’ but the word gong fu actually means skill that transcends mere surface beauty. A martial artist whose technique is decorative but without power ‘has no gong fu,’ whereas, say, a calligrapher whose work is not pretty to look at but reflects a strong, austere taste ‘has gong fu.'”

Iron & Silk, Mark Salzman, 1986

1926 – University of Shanghai and family

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Planning for his successor as president, my grandfather Francis White writes:

Why didn’t you missionaries tell us about coeducation?

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A Very Unbaptistic Procedure

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The Baptist Compound to the North of Shanghai


“To the visitor to China in the year 1926 one of the most interesting and thought-provoking features of the landscape was the physical evidence of the activities of Christian missionaries. If the traveller entered the country by Shanghai, on the outskirts of the city his steamer passed the substantial buildings of an institution which he was informed was Shanghai College, maintained by American Baptists.”

Page 1, A History of Christian Missions in China, Kenneth Scott Latourette, 1929

Who lost China to the Communists?

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Was China ours to lose? Were scapegoats like Owen Lattimore to blame? Or much bigger players like George Marshall?

Who lost the Chinese Communists to the Soviets?

How can you lose what is not yours in the first place?

Perhaps it was “Peanut,” Joe Stilwell’s nickname for the Generalissimo, who lost China. As they say in sports and in politics, the game was his to lose.

“Although Chiang was successful in removing Stilwell, the public relations damage suffered by hisKuomintang regime was irreparable. Right before Stilwell’s departure, New York Times drama critic-turned-war correspondent Brooks Atkinson interviewed him in Chungking and wrote: “The decision to relieve General Stilwell represents the political triumph of a moribund, anti-democratic regime that is more concerned with maintaining its political supremacy than in driving the Japanese out of China. The Chinese Communists… have good armies that they are claiming to be fighting guerrilla warfare against the Japanese in North China—actually they are covertly or even overtly building themselves up to fight Generalissimo’s government forces… TheGeneralissimo naturally regards these armies as the chief threat to the country and his supremacy… has seen no need to make sincere attempt to arrange at least a truce with them for the duration of the war… No diplomatic genius could have overcome the Generalissimo’s basic unwillingness to risk his armies in battle with the Japanese.”[69] Atkinson, who had visited Mao inYenan, saw the Communist Chinese forces as a democratic movement (after Atkinson visited Mao, his article on his visit was titled Yenan: A Chinese Wonderland City), and the Nationalists in turn as hopelessly reactionary and corrupt; this view represented that of many of the U.S. press corps in China at the time.[70] The negative image of the Kuomintang in America played a significant factor in Harry Truman‘s decision to end all U.S. aid to Chiang at the height of theChinese civil war, a war that resulted in the communist revolution in China and Chiang’s retreat to Taiwan.”

“On June 14, 1951, as the Korean War stalemated in heavy fighting between American and Chinese forces, Republican Senator Joe McCarthy attacked. He charged that Marshall was directly responsible for the “loss of China,” as China turned from friend to enemy.[2] McCarthy said the only way to explain why the U.S. “fell from our position as the most powerful Nation on earth at the end of World War II to a position of declared weakness by our leadership” was because of “a conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”[3] McCarthy argued that General Albert Coady Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged; “only in treason can we find why evil genius thwarted and frustrated it. [4] ”


Uncle George and Owen Lattimore

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In February 1952, Lattimore was called to testify before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS), headed by McCarthy’s ally, Senator Pat McCarran. Before Lattimore was called as witness, investigators for the SISS had seized all of the records of the Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR).[citation needed] The twelve days of testimony were marked by shouting matches, which pitted McCarran and McCarthy on one side against Lattimore on the other. Lattimore took three days to deliver his opening statement: the delays were caused by frequent interruptions as McCarran challenged Lattimore point by point. McCarran then used the records from the IPR. to ask questions that often taxed Lattimore’s memory. Budenz again testified, but this time claimed that Lattimore was both a Communist and a Soviet agent.

The Subcommittee also summoned scholars. Nicholas Poppe, a Russian émigré and a scholar of Mongolia and Tibet, resisted the committee’s invitation to label Lattimore a Communist but found some of his writings superficial and uncritical.[citation needed] The most damaging testimony came from Karl August Wittfogel, supported by his colleague from the University of Washington, George Taylor. Wittfogel, a former Communist, said that at the time Lattimore edited the journal Pacific Affairs, Lattimore knew of his Communist background; even though they had not exchanged words on the matter, Lattimore had given Wittfogel a “knowing smile.”

Lattimore acknowledged that Wittfogel’s thought had been tremendously influential but said that if there had been a smile, it was a “non-Communist smile.” Wittfogel and Taylor charged that Lattimore had done “great harm to the free world‘ in disregarding the need to defeat world Communism as a first priority. John Fairbank, in his memoirs, suggests that Wittfogel may have said this because he had been made to leave Germany for having views unacceptable to the powers that be, and he did not want to make the same mistake twice. They also asserted that the influence of Marxism on Lattimore was shown by his use of the word “feudal.” Lattimore replied that he did not think that Marxists had a “patent” on that word.[18]

In 1952, after 17 months of study and hearing, involving 66 witnesses and thousands of documents, the McCarran Committee issued its 226-page, unanimous final report. This report stated that “Owen Lattimore was, from some time beginning in the 1930s, a conscious articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy,” and that on “at least five separate matters,” Lattimore had not told the whole truth. One example: ‘The evidence… shows conclusively that Lattimore knew Frederick V. Field to be a Communist; that he collaborated with Field after he possessed this knowledge; and that he did not tell the truth before the subcommittee about this association with Field….’[19]

In 1952, Lattimore was indicted for perjury on seven counts. Six of the counts related to various discrepancies between Lattimore’s testimony and the IPR records; the seventh accused Lattimore of seeking to deliberately deceive the SISS. Lattimore’s defenders, such as his lawyer Abe Fortas, claimed that the discrepancies were caused by McCarran deliberately asking questions about arcane and obscure matters that took place in the 1930s.

Within three years, federal judge Luther Youngdahl dismissed the charges. Four of the charges were dismissed as insubstantial and not judicable; denying that he was sympathetic to communism was too vague to be fairly answered; and the other counts were matters of little concern, those for which a jury would be unlikely to convict on matters of political judgment.[20] In his book Ordeal by Slander, Lattimore gives his own account of these events up until 1950…

In An Inner Asian Approach to the Historical Geography of China (1947), Lattimore explored the system through which humanity affects the environment and is changed by it, and concluded that civilization is molded by its own impact on the environment. He lists the following pattern:

  1. A primitive society pursues some agricultural activities, but is aware that it has many limitations.
  2. Growing and evolving, the society begins to change the environment. For example, depleting its game supply and wild crops, it begins to domesticate animals and plants. It deforests land to create room for these activities.
  3. The environment changes, offering new opportunities. For example, it becomes grasslands.
  4. Society changes in response, and reacts to the new opportunities as a new society. For example, the once-nomads build permanent settlements and shift from a hunter-gatherermentality to a farming society culture.
  5. The reciprocal process continues, offering new variations.


Robert P. Newman, in his book Owen Lattimore and the “Loss” of China, has a different view of Uncle George’s testimony at the hearings:

“The witnesses following Wittfogel had little to say about Lattimore. Professor George Taylor, of the University of Washington, thought the IPR was infiltrated by Communists, of whom the most pernicious were Fred Field and Lawrence Rosinger. But Taylor thought the IPR could still be purged and serve a useful function. Morris pointedly did not ask Taylor about Lattimore.”

George, Red, and the Reds

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George Taylor married my aunt Roberta White in a ceremony on the campus of the University of Shanghai in 1933. Roberta was called Bobbie or Bob and sometimes Red because of her bright red hair. All the family were redheads in varying shades and quantity.

“George Taylor was born in Coventry, England, on December 13, 1905, and received his bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in history and politics from the University of Birmingham. He received a doctor of letters degree from the University of Birmingham in 1957. Taylor first came to the United States in 1928 on a Commonwealth Fund fellowship to study at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University. Awarded a Harvard-Yenching fellowship to study in China, he studied in Peking from 1930 to 1932. From 1933 to 1936, he was professor of international relations at the Central Political Institute in Nanking under the government of Chiang Kai-shek. He married Roberta Stevens White in 1933.

Taylor lived in London for a year (1936-37) before returning to China to teach at Yenching University near Peking. The Japanese invaded Northern China in the same year, but the university remained independent until after the Pearl Harbor bombing. Taylor spent the summer of 1938 traveling with the Eighth Route Army, a Chinese Communist guerilla force, in the provinces of Hopei and Shansi. He wrote a series of articles about the experience that were later published in the Manchester Guardian. During this period Taylor supported resistance to the Japanese by smuggling medical supplies from Peking to central Hopei, where they were transferred to Chinese guerillas. In the spring of 1939, he accepted an offer to become chair of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Washington. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen on May 11, 1943, in Richmond, Virginia.”

Students, Scholars, Socialists, Bolsheviks

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Francis Johnstone White, 1935

China for the Chinese

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Note that the first use of the expression “China for the Chinese” dates at the latest to the Ming, the dynasty following the Mongolian Yuan.

Higher Education With Chinese Characteristics

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Walter Rauschenbusch and Christian Socialism

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