Three men who have influenced U.S. –China relations over the years. 

By Mary Warpeha, Co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Peoples Friendship Association

Through a Sept. 6, 2010 invitation by the China Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (Youxie) US-China Peoples Friendship Association members Joyce Cox, Linda Hanley, Rosemary Thompson, Stanley Yon and Mary Warpeha were given a fantastic lesson and moment in history. We were guests of Youxie traveling to Zhijiang, Hunan to celebrate U.S. efforts to protect the people of China during World War II. Our destination city of Zhijiang was a base for air operations against the Japanese and was also the site of Japanese surrender to China following their defeat. This dedication marks the 65th anniversary of the surrender.

 

Three men who have influenced U.S. –China relations over the years. 

By Mary Warpeha, Co-President of the Minnesota Chapter of US-China Peoples Friendship Association

Through a Sept. 6, 2010 invitation by the China Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (Youxie) US-China Peoples Friendship Association members Joyce Cox, Linda Hanley, Rosemary Thompson, Stanley Yon and Mary Warpeha were given a fantastic lesson and moment in history.  We were guests of Youxie traveling to Zhijiang, Hunan to celebrate U.S. efforts to protect the people of China during World War II.  Our destination city of Zhijiang was a base for air operations against the Japanese and was also the site of Japanese surrender to China following their defeat.  This dedication marks the 65th anniversary of the surrender.

Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault

ClaireChennaultU.S. Lieutenant General Claire Lee Chennault had a tumultuous career in the U.S. military and after retiring in 1937 traveled to China to be an air advisor to the Kuomintang Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in the war against the increasingly aggressive Japanese.  The Chinese Air Force was losing its battle in the skies and Soviet bomber and fighter squadrons took over but were not affecting against the strong Japanese air attacks. 

In 1941, Chennault was successful in procuring a promise from the U.S. War Department and President Roosevelt to deliver shipments of P-40C fighters with necessary pilots, mechanics, and aviation supplies. Roosevelt authorized Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks under the American Lend-Lease Program.  Chennault was able to recruit 300 American pilots and ground crew who were notorious as adventurers and/or mercenaries to enlist in what was to become known as the Flying Tigers. 

Under Chennault’s guidance they developed into a crack fighting unit always going against superior Japanese forces.  They were based in Burma, Yunnan and Hunan and became famous for their “defensive pursuit”.  Chennault was also commander of the Chinese air training school.  Following Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Flying Tigers were formally incorporated into the American Army Air Force and given appropriate rank. 

The remainder of the Chennault story is fascinating and can be read in books, magazines and, of course on the internet.  He stayed an advocate of anti-communism, had two marriages and ten children – one wife was a young Chinese reporter who became influential in lobby circles of Washington.  For a brief quick introduction see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claire_Lee_Chennault and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_tigers.

Jimmy_Carter

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Photo credit: Mary Warpeha)

Now on to Carter – that is - Former President Jimmy Carter.  President Carter has had his eye on China since childhood when Baptist Ministers on their return from missions told of the poverty of the people.  He was a naval officer outside the Shanghai harbor prior to the start of World War II.  While in office as the 39th President of the United States, he worked diligently to continue the normalization of relations with China. In 2002 he received the Nobel Peace Prize.  Following his political career, Carter created the Carter Center with its mission of: Waging Peace.  Fighting Disease.  Building Hope. 

On September 6, 2010, Mr. Carter was in Zhijiang, Hunan by the invitation of Ms. Li Xiaolin, Vice Chair of the China Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.  On this day he participated in the 2010 Zhijiang International Peace Festival.  During ceremonies held in the 110 degree September sun, Mr. Carter and Festival officials unveiled a stunning statue of General Claire Lee Chennault and planted trees in a garden at the memorial site.  In the audience were Chinese representatives of the National People’s Congress, Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Beijing Aviators Association, Party Committee of the Hunan Peoples Congress, Information Office of People’s Government of Hunan, Foreign Affairs Office and Friendship offices of Hunan, a huge contingent of media from all over China. 

In addition to the five USCPFA members, the United States was represented by President Jimmy and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter, administration of the Carter Center, U.S. Consul General from Wuhan, scholars of US-China relations, Flying Tigers and their families and Nell Calloway, Chennault’s granddaughter.  The published guest list included 319 names – and that did not include the security guards from both countries.    You can read President Carter’s personal report of his recent trip at http://www.cartercenter.org/news/trip_reports/china-090410.html http://www.cartercenter.org/homepage.html

And then there is Lei – Changsha Master Sculptor Lei Yixin.  Upon entering the Chennault Memorial grounds, one sees this large veiled statue looming 15 feet high against the backdrop of photos of Chennault, the Flying Tigers and Beijing Aviators and the children of China.  When the event programs were distributed and the honors are read over the loud speaker, to my amazement I learned that Master Lei Yixin was the sculptor for this important historic commemoration of American commitment to the Chinese people.  Though Mr. Lei and I had no time to talk as the security guards herded us around, we did have time for a photo.

Minnesotans know Mr. Lei very well. He was the sculptor representing China in the MinnesotaRocks! program sponsored by Public Art St. Paul in 2006.  His creation, “Meditation” stands strong today in Phalen Regional Park in St. Paul.  Mr. Lei Yixin was in St. Paul summer 2010 with a delegation of 15 Hunan officials and artists.  A special exhibition entitled “Harmonious Hunan” was held at the College of Visual Arts in July during the visit.  Mr. Lei will become recognized nationally when the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is installed in the National Mall in Washington.  Mr. Lei was contacted for this commission while working in St. Paul on the Public Art St. Paul project.  Learn about Mr. Lei at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lei_Yixin and view progress on the Memorial at http://www.mlkmemorial.org/.


 

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CHINAINSIGHT (CI) is published monthly ((except July/August and November/December are combined) by China Insight, Inc., an independent, privately owned company started in 2001 and headquartered in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota.

CHINAINSIGHT is the only English-language American newspaper to focus exclusively on connections between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

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