China Today


By C. T. FENG, Chinese Consul-General

At the Convention of the American Association of School Administrators, San Francisco, February 25, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 360-362.

THIS meeting, composed of teachers and, therefore, of leaders of thought—at this critical hour—constitutes a major contribution to a morale essential to success. In this lovely American city, in the wings of the stagewhereon unfolds the drama of war, heedless of all save duties self-imposed, teachers meet to plan a better world in days that lie ahead.

Competent and qualified to better understand, because oftheir knowledge of world affairs, teachers and studentsknow that the world of tomorrow will be unlike anythingas yet revealed to man.

Airplanes have removed boundaries—electric transmission of news has effaced distance and has mastered time. Free passage of ideas means that the world as a whole will henceforth live as one family. Nations, under such conditions, like children of a single family beneath a single roof, early in life learn to get along together. With common access to all information in the world, the total mass of population rapidly approaches discernible trends toward unified thought. Out of such unified thought, it is but a short step to popularly accepted and coordinated unity of action. Such status, in a limited time, inevitably must be the order of the day.

To this pool of knowledge, what will China contribute— from this pool what will China seek, assimilate and set to use.

Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of China, has already made a contribution that is useful to the world as a whole. As the directing head of a nation of 450,000,000 people, his record has repeatedly been cited as an inspiration to those who struggle for justice.

History has recorded that successive commanders, capable of stamping their mark upon the world, were usually equipped with adequate contemporary weapons sufficient to their several tasks. There have been notable exceptions of this historic fact, as in the case of George Washington.

Washington depended as much upon the morale of his people as upon physical arms. That he weathered Valley Forge has remained a national inspiration up to the present time.

The Generalissimo, unequipped with sufficient weapons, depending, as did Washington, upon the morale of his people, has fought four years and seven months and emerges undefeated.

George Washington stands as a world symbol of the perfect statesman, both in domestic fields and in the treacherous seas of international relationships. During formative years of early America, the plans of Washington were so carefully drawn and knowingly carried out that subsequent successes in domestic administration were accepted as commonplace. The continuity of successful international relations, enjoyed by America, has largely been foundationed upon adherence to Washington's insistent demand that all free nations retain their identities.

The similarities, in capacities of leadership, between the directing genius of early America and the current directing head of the free and fighting China, are cited to show the strength of the bond between the peoples of America and China.

George Washington was loved by his people. The Generalissimo is definitely the popularly accepted leader of all of the Chinese people.

A contemporary and collateral contribution to world morale is the work already done and still being done by the Generalissimo's courageous, humanitarian and highly intelligent wife, Madame Chiang Kai-shek.

Tireless in her efforts at relief work—a working machine functioning upon so vast a scale that it is impossible to describe its scope—Madame Chiang's personal ministrations to stricken people of China have endeared her to the kindly world for all time. Having voluntarily assumed the burden of being mother to over 60,000 war orphans of China, Madame Chiang's unselfishness and lavish expenditure of her physical strength have astonished those familiar with the details of such difficult work.

The leaders of China today contribute personal recordstypical of China's individual human side, a type that may be multiplied several million-fold. The patience and courage of individual Chinese is already known to the world.

Such courage was vividly brought to public attention at the time of the Government removal westward, from Nanking, to Hangkow, and then to Chungking.

Faced with the necessity of moving manufacturing plants, as well as government equipment, during this epic migration to mountain areas of the west, machinery was knocked down, cut into small segments and packed on the backs of men and women, who thereafter crossed mountain ranges and a thousand miles of river-laced terrain.

Deeply hidden, in a welter of casual news about warfare, the morale of these struggling people was not then as well understood as it is today. They knew that the machinery had to be saved and that there was but inadequate transportation.

Their spirit had sufficient force to sustain them under such an ordeal.

It is this force, within the China of Today, upon which democracy may greatly depend.

Unity of operations in China, under a plan which allocates all effort to the common good, is a cumulated contribution to world morale.

Unity of effort among allied nations, once fairly under way, will spell ultimate success for present hopes.

China has proved, by domestic solidarity and by oneness of national purpose, that she can fight on indefinitely. She points to her accomplishments as proof of the hardihood of her spirit.

Main objective of all struggle that inspires the hearts of freedom-loving men, is born of a profound eagerness to return peace to the world. To the construction of such an open pathway for the progress of returning peace, China of Today contributes her age-old and unalterable habits of peaceful approach to all of the affairs of man.

It is fortunate for the world that recent material advances in China have not removed, in the smallest degree, a single element of centuries-old knowledge of fine art, of philosophy and of practical understanding of personal ethics. Such priceless elements of substantial virtue in mankind, retained intact and freely contributed to democratic thought, will greatly enrich tomorrow's world and greatly assures a workable and lasting peace.

Forced into warfare to preserve her existence, China has turned to defensive effort with great skill, to war preparedness and, with equal skill to war production. In looking toward the future and in estimating China's value in the world, it, therefore, becomes of great moment to remember that the Chinese motive for war has been defense and not aggression and conquest.

The Chinese people, under the stress of war, have demonstrated their love of peace and their peaceful methods of carrying on daily life.

In caves, dug out of hills surrounding the war Capital at Chungking, under constant and prolonged air attack, faithful people demonstrate their knowledge, their skill and their capacities to win a war. In the distant mountains of western China, in these refuge caves, workers make light bulbs, batteries for flash-lamps and similar complicated articles.

In these caves the schools go on.

Well aware that knowledge is power, China carries on her schools in the face of ever-present death.

When the great exodus to the west began, the teacher and the student went along.

They looked back from hilltops and saw the city where they had been born go up in flames. Then they turned theirfaces to the west and took over the job of modernizing China for all time.

Probably the greatest contribution of all, which China of Today can make to the Allied cause, is full use of her titanic manpower. Such use would surely speed the end of all war.

Throwing in the weight of millions of men, already on the ground, will swiftly turn the tide.

Chinese soldiers have already proved that they are superbly loyal fighting men and that their knowledge of Asiatic terrain can never be surpassed by imported manpower.

Facility of use of local manpower, as compared with expeditionary effort, is militarily quite apparent. Arms can be moved more readily than men. One of the problems of the Far East is manpower. Facing this need is the task of mastering transportation requirements. A handful of ships, loaded with war supplies, will equip a waiting army already on the firing line. One such ship is equal now to many ships loaded with men.

The unselfishness of such a tender is understandable because America and China have as a common cause the eternal defense of individual liberty.

To have had America as a friend has long been a heartening asset to China. To have America now as a war ally provides the world with a great new moral force. As well as enlarging avenues of military cooperation, such alliance, at the same moment, creates a human force, made of more than half a billion people, each motivated by similar ideals.

During warfare, more than in peaceful times, when intangible ideals are transformed into tangible personal heroism, this combined new force possesses untold potentialities.

To educate and direct such a power is one of the most inspiring challenges ever made to the art of teaching.

Teaching courses have been sometimes plotted toward the future, with greater chance of successful outcome, when they have been illuminated by beacons lighted during crucial periods of past experience.

This is a crucial period and it throws much light on what is needed in the world. People are concerned with stopping war. In each great advance of civilization, the cause of an evil had to be discovered before the cure came.

Through the ages, unmindful of what lay ahead, men have fought their wars and never sought the cause of any given war.

Confronting teachers is the mandatory task, which cannot be escaped in an enlightened world, of plotting some course toward increased knowledge concerning causes of war.

What can China of Today contribute to such an end?

China did not build her Great Wall to keep out men. Peaceful men have always been welcome in China. This remarkable structure was erected to keep out strife.

The Chinese Wall is not a monument to fear. It is an enduring monument to love of peace.

Peace departed from China only when the thesis of might constituting right arrived.

In a search for the cause of war China contributes the thought that people of a country are not to be considered as natural resources of the land, and, as such, therefore subject to man-made laws applied to mineral, agricultural and other resources. China looks upon free citizens as an asset and something beyond the play of external law. Substituting improvement of its people for exploitation of their effort, China has already laid a sound foundation under her domestic economy.

Inside her Great Wall, in years long past, China tried to work out her own destiny. If this wall must now comedown, China still insists upon the right of men to work out their lives as free men.

Upon this basis she joins with those who would attain and then retain individual liberty and upon this basis China is prepared to continue her resistance to anything that puts liberty in jeopardy.

To the Chinese people there is nothing novel about their traditional love of peace. Wherever individuals have gone abroad they have left a good record of successful business effort and they have left no record of attempts at disturbance of the local peace.

If China is to be woven into the fabric of the new world, now on the Loom of Time, the bright thread of her individual will, like rainbow colors of her Golden Age, will beautify the final pattern.

I cannot close without expressing my deep appreciation for what America has done in the way of peaceful teaching in my land.

There is so much of good in this world that is common to America and to China that I always feel I am with old friends while here.

Both countries love peace. Both countries respect schools. Both countries respect the individual. Neither country desires the property of another nation. Neither country has gone abroad to make war upon a neighbor.

In San Francisco, in our local Chinatown, live thousands of my people. Their grandfathers and grandmothers came here during the Gold Rush. Some of the Chinese firms here are as old as California, the unchanged property of a single family for almost a hundred years.

Chinese in America helped to build its transcontinental railroad, linking California and the already settled east. Chinese here mined for early gold. Many raised the food crops that fed pioneer cities along the Pacific Coast.

All the while, a peaceful record of silent, patient and understanding cooperation with their neighbors in a distant and adopted land.

Now, through world events and from necessities of war, America and China join forces to bring peace back to the world.

Military wars come and go. Teacher-soldiers are in a war that never ends. They fight against darkness and ignorance and prejudice, against disease and helplessness, against poverty and neglect of the aged. At times, as in the medical profession and in other exploratory work, many brave men and women have willingly laid down their lives.

Today the world is thinking in military terms about all that occupies its anxious hours of uncertainty.

Speaking in military terms, I commend the soldier-teachers of the world. I commend them to the thoughtful consideration of all who look for a better world, when the present conflict and confusion of thought comes to an end.

The Battle of Learning has never been lost.

China, of all the nations of the earth, is deeply in debt to the powers of the peaceful teacher. Her students stand about her today, protecting, as her ancient Wall protected in the past—guardians against ignorance, predatory thought and selfish will.

China Today is a country completely committed to the principle that teaching must go on.

China Today submits her history as evidence of her respect for peaceful methods of advance as against violent efforts to change the world about her.

In such a Congress as this, at such an hour in the history of the world, lies much of the hope of the future.

The world owes all it knows of freedom of person and freedom of thought to teachers unafraid to speak the truth.