Sisters and Actresses
The notorious Soong family featured four famous American educated siblings. Ai-Ling was the oldest daughter and money loving mastermind of the family. T.V. said of Ai-Ling; had she been born a man, she would have run China. Next was daughter Ching Ling who married Sun Yat-sen, father of China, in a political marriage. Next was oldest son T.V., Harvard educated financier and diplomat, one of the wealthiest men in China. Next was daughter Mei-ling who, after ten years of being courted by numerous young English speaking men in Shanghai, married Chiang Kai-shek in a political marriage brokered by Ai-Ling. (See Chiang’s Shanghai Residence) Under the deal, T.V. became finance minister in the Nationalist government. The three sisters were portrayed in a recent film by Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung and Vivian Wu: The Soong Sisters
These siblings were the children of a Hakka cabin boy and an aristocratic Christian. Schooled in Georgia as a missionary, Charles returned to Shanghai and married aristocratic Ni Guizhen who traces her ancestry to Xu Guangqi, prime minister during the Ming Dynasty who converted to Catholicism in 1601. Snubbed and discriminated against by fellow missionaries, Soong turned to business where his command of English, education, and understanding of Americans and the West made him a natural go between. He amassed a fortune and began an association with Sun Yat-sen.
Ching Ling (Madame Sun) differentiated herself from her siblings, believing that the Communists were better stewards of her late husband’s three principals than were the Kuomintang. She continued living in Shanghai after the Communist takeover until her death in 1981. Although she never joined the Communist party, she was honored with a period of national mourning and given a full state funeral in Beijing, lying in state for three days in the Great Hall of the People near Tiananmen Square.
FBI Director J.Edgar Hoover depicted the other three Soongs as money mad, engaging in a giant conspiracy to divert Lend-Lease supplies for personal profit. When Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, several large anonymous donations from Hong Kong appeared at U.S. schools attended by the Soongs.
Ai-Ling’s three children, David, Louis, and Jeanette Kung ran the China Lobby, spending large sums to influence American congressmen and administrations. The China Lobby had its “finest” hours during the Joseph McCarthy era, providing money and laying much of the groundwork for the Senator’s charges.
In 1968 Chiang Kai-shek sent a suitcase of unmarked dollars to the Nixon Presidential campaign. This campaign contribution has to rank as the most counterproductive attempts to influence policy in the long and corrupt history of American campaign financing. Nixon’s move to recognize the PRC and remove Taiwan from the U.N. Security Council and ultimately from the U.N., entirely isolated Taiwan from the community of nations. (If only the defense, energy, and pharmaceutical industries could have such an influence on policy with their contributions.)
Eleanor Roosevelt said of Mei-ling; “She can talk beautifully about democracy. But she does not know how to live democracy.”
Mei-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek) was particularly popular among Americans for her command of English. Living in Macon Georgia from the age of nine to fifteen, and in Boston from fifteen to nineteen, gave Mei-ling both a perfect Southern Bell Georgia Peach accent and a perfect clipped Yankee accent. She had an understanding of the racist South and the Puritanical New England Yankee north. Her ten years of various courtships in Shanghai (only with English speakers) perfected her skills of flirtation and coquetry. American men were particularly susceptible to her charms. She may have had affairs with several Westerners and Americans including perennial Presidential candidate Republican Wendell Wilkie.
Mei-ling made two extended trips to the U.S. to attempt to influence policy; first in 1943 at the height of the war with Japan, and again in 1966. On both occasions her lavish lifestyle and imperial manner struck the American public wrong. She traveled with a large entourage of servants, secretaries, public relations personnel, and bodyguards; in 1943 by private train; and in 1966 by chartered jet. She stayed with FDR in the White House but insisted on using her own silk sheets (for a skin condition) at a time when American women were unable to buy silk. Both Mei-ling’s trips coincided with release of story after published story about the actual and horrific conditions in China and Taiwan under the Chiangs and the Nationalists.
Mei-ling managed to snub both the English King and Churchill refusing to meet them. When FDR invited her to a white house dinner with Churchill she turned the invitation down. Even her diplomat brother T.V. could not persuade her to accept.
Mei-ling owned twenty houses in Taiwan and three in New York including a multi-floor 14 room apartment at 10 Gracie Square in Manhattan where she lived with her entourage in the mid 80′s and from the mid 90′s until her death in 2003 (Yes, the chronically ill Mei-ling lived 104-106 years). In 1995 Bob Dole and Paul Simon sponsored a reception for Mei-ling. The reception was ignored by all former Presidents but was tellingly attended by Republicans Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, and Alan Simpson.
For a biography of Mei-ling see Madame Chiang Kai-Shek