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Soong Dynasty Paperback – March 19, 1986
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"Fast-paced and jammed with racy details.""-- New York Times Book Review"
From the Back Cover
Descendants of a Chinese runaway who grew to in America under the protection of the Methodist church and who returned to his homeland to make a fortune selling Western Bibles, the Soong family became the principal rulers of China during the first half of the 20th century and won the support of the American government and press for many decades.
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The only criticism I have is that he occasionally gets overly poetic in his descriptions of certain places, people and events. Fortunately, these episodes are few and far between
This book details Chiang's cruelty. When his sister-in-law begged for the life of a friend and political associate, he let her plead for an hour before telling her that the man had already been put to death. Some of Chiang's prisoners were garrotted by an executioner who was skilled at prolonging death for half an hour.
The American public was not allowed to know what kind of monster they were supporting with money and arms. The publisher Henry Luce, for instance, dedicated his magazine to lavish and incessant praise of Chiang and his wife.
Mme. Chiang's ambition had no limits. She was a monstrous woman who did not deserve to live as long as she did. She died in the Waldorf-Astoria where she occupied several floors.
A truly sickening history, when Japan occupied much of China during the thirties and Chiang and his wife battled the Chinese communists instead of the foreign invaders of their country.
History is told in a smooth and readable fashion by this author.
Chiang's hagiography, as touted by the Mandarins in Taiwan is an example of the amazing curative powers of propaganda. (That is why you should turn off CNN if you want to be able to think.)
This book is not just about Chiang, but about the Soong's, the family he married into. The story of Madame Chiang growing up as a young girl in Georgia, and learning to speak English with a southern accent is fascinating. The Soongs were bicultural and bilingual. They were also fantastically wealthy, and that combination helped them find their way to the top in the USA. Mrs. Chiang had unprecedented access to FDR during the time that the US was helping the Chinese fight Japan. The Chiangs used that access to extort huge sums of money from the Americans and they used it to enrich themselves while letting Mao and Cho carry the war.
Madame Chiang's sister was married to Dr. Sun Yat Sen, about whom Seagrave has little good to say, but who has been considered the father of the republican revolution in China. Whether he was or not is a question that Seagrave discusses at length in the book.
Another great book about Chinese history from a man who has spent much of his life in Asia. A great read.
If this book sparks your interest, definitely try out an even better read--George Kerr's Formosa Betrayed. Kerr's book focuses on the early history of the Taiwan-China conflict: the turnover from Japanese Imperial rule, the subsequent and tumultuous Nationalist/KMT government, the 2-28 Incident and March Massacre, and the U.S.'s part throughout it all. Kerr's book is all-encompassing, but as regards the Soongs, it reminds you that beneath the glamour and wealth of people like the Soongs was the unscrupulous trading that bankrupted millions while feeding personal family fortunes. (Specifically look for allusions to T.V. Soong's influence on the then-impending economic collapse of Taiwan, and you'll never again be dazzled by the Soongs' bright lights and propaganda show.) Read it, not because you dare, but because you CAN.