Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chiang Kai-Shek and Andrew Jackson

I have not added to this blog this week until now. I have been busy, my mind is racing, and I have a lot to write about that is going to take up considerable blog space in the future. I know most of my small but loyal band of fans like my ability to connect dots, and are wondering how I am going to connect Chiang Kai-Shek, the leader of Nationalist China in the 20th century, with Andrew Jackson, founder of the Democratic Party and President of the United States in the early 19th century. But first a bit about my life.

This was a week of meetings for me, most of them business meetings in which corporations told their investors how they did in the third quarter of 2007. Most of them did fine; the economy is okay as long as you aren't poor and did not make the mistake in loaning mortgage money to people who can't repay it.

I attended three public interest meetings. The first was a forum of local school board candidates in the Point Arena, California school district. I'm not running after being on the school board for eight years, so mainly I was happy to see that some people even wanted this unpaid job. But the answers to the questions were mostly evasive happy talk. A guy named Jim DeWilder gave some good answers. He has actually been paying attention to the way the schools are governed.

The actual school board meeting this week was pretty exciting for me. Even though we have shown pretty phenomenal improvements in the schools these last six years, there is a group of people who have spent the last year in attack mode against us. It is a long story so I will narrow it to last night's appearance of a lynch mob. This happens from time to time, usually when someone has to be not-rehired. In this case we were pretty far off in our budget for 2006-2007, and Thursday was when we would go over that situation. The thing is, we really did not do anything wrong except we were not conservative enough about our revenues and expenses. Then we had 3 teachers who were very ill and out a lot, pushing up our budget for substitute teachers way beyond the typical unanticipated expenses. In fact we are in no danger of bankruptcy, we just have to tighten our belts a bit more this year and when we prepare next years budget. We managed to explain all this to the public. By the end of it everyone was calm and several people expressed happiness at how we handled the situation.

But Chiang and Jackson. General Chiang and General Jackson. I just happen to be reading two different books for different reasons at more or less the same time. Because I am getting ready to write the China chapter of my U.S. War Against Asia, one book I am reading is Hollington K. Tong's Chiang Kai-Shek. Mr. Tong is a big fan of the Generalisimo. Similarly Marquis James is a big fan of the Hero of New Orleans, as shown in his The Life of Andrew Jackson. When I am likely to be critical of a historic person I like to read someone who has a positive take on their subject; I can provide my own criticism. I am reading up on the Hero to get a better understanding of why so many American voters support such an evil party, which I believe all goes back to Jackson.

Andrew Jackson distinguished himself in the fine arts of genocide and stealing native American Indian lands. He was a gambler who owned and fought dogs and chickens, but as he got wealthier mainly gambled on horses. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and founded the Democratic Party. He was not only a slave owner, but he actively traded slaves for profit. He combined the old-style English predatory trading and lawyering mindset with the Wild West land lust and contempt for weaker humans.

Andrew Jackson was beloved by most (white anyway) Americans of his time and is held in high regard today by most Americans, descendants of former black slaves included.

Chiang Kai-Shek, when you don't know the facts, starts at the opposite end of American opinion. When I was a child in the 1960's he was the ruler of Taiwan and pretended to be the ruler of China. Americans hated the communists who ruled China and of course their leader Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung when I was growing up). Yet we did not like Chiang Kai-Shek because he had lost China to the Communists. When I was exposed to Marxist-Leninist propaganda I learned that Chiang was an American puppet. We don't like it when our puppets lose.

While Chiang was not the founder of the Nationalist Party of China, more properly the Kuomintang, he was its leader for far longer than Andrew Jackson led the Democrats. He was a national hero, like Andrew Jackson, because of his ability to win battles. In fact, all evidence is that he was a far better general than Jackson was.

In reading Chiang's biography I keep making mental notes, "puppet," or "not a puppet." No doubt the Chinese nationalists wanted to modernize their nation. They wanted to emulate the powerful nations of Russia, Germany, France, Japan, Great Britain and the United States. But they started from a difficult position, a position of weakness. The powerful nations were the predators and China was the prey.

Some puppets are willing extensions of the will of their masters. I don't see the Generalisimo that way. But he must have looked that way to many Chinese. His wife was educated in the United States and Chiang converted to Christianity under her influence. But Chiang Kai-Shek's driving passion was to unite China under a single, centralized government. Which was Mao's passion too; they just differed as to who would run that government and how it would be run. In World War II and afterwards Chiang became dependent on the U.S. This was a mistake, because the U.S. was just looking after its own interests and was far more interested in occupying Japan and restoring the economy of Europe than in aiding the Chinese once the Japanese were defeated.

Early in Chiang's career his main problem was subduing various war lords. The communists were a problem, but not his main problem. Then came the invasion by the Japanese. Maoist propaganda holds that Chiang refused to fight the Japanese. Nationalist propaganda is that the Reds only fought the Japanese when they could seize supplies. It looks to me like both sides fought the Japanese, with ebbs and flows in enthusiasm. However, the big battles had to be fought by the nationalists. They lost millions of men and so did the Japanese. Which brings up an important aside.

One you get past the "US defeated the Nazi's in World War II" theory, and realize that the Russians defeated the Nazis and the U.S. only stormed in at the last minute to grab France and most of Germany for the capitalist cause, you feel enlightened and relax. But the same thing happened with the Japanese, if to some lesser degree. The Chinese nationalists lost far more men fighting the Japanese in World War II than the U.S. did. This was part of Roosevelt's strategy to let foreigners die to weaken the enemies, then be strong enough to grab the spoils. If the A-bomb had not worked Roosevelt's plan was to have the Russians invade Manchuria, where the best equipped and trained Japanese armies were stationed. This back fired: Russia invaded Manchuria mostly after the Japanese surrendered. Russia grabbed a lot of industrial equipment and gave the Japanese arms to the Chinese communists, which enabled them to graduate from guerrilla warfare to conventional warfare in their civil war.

So the moment the Japanese surrendered the Chinese Nationalists found themselves in a civil war with the Communists. The great Chiang Kai-Shek lost the civil war and retired in disgrace to Taiwan (taking the gold bullion with him. For the good of the nation).

Andrew Jackson did not live long enough to see the Civil War. If he had, the North might have lost. But here is the difference between the Kuomintang and the Democratic Party. When the Democratic Party lost the Civil War, the Republican Party did not make it illegal. Wise men knew that two parties were needed in the U.S., to trade places in times of public discontent. At first the Democratic Party had trouble winning elections after the Civil War, but fixed that by denying the former slaves the right to vote. Eventually even on a national level Democrats started winning, with Grove Cleveland becoming the first post-civil-war Democratic President.

While neither man scores very high by my standard of ethics or political leadership, I think Chiang was a better (in the ethical sense) man than Andrew Jackson. Of course Chiang Kai-Shek was born over a century after Andrew Jackson, and times had changed. Probably Chiang's worst mistake was setting up an authoritarian regime in Taiwan after he lost the civil war in China. If he had immediately allowed free elections with multiple political parties, he would have looked like what he had claimed to be in China: a genuine democrat. But he was a general first-and-foremost. He preferred to command and be obeyed. So did Andrew Jackson.

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