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A New Page in China-U.S. Friendship
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A New Page in China-U.S. Friendship

It was June 27, 2022, when about 50 representatives of faculty and students gathered at the Willet Library of Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, the United States. The exhibition, “Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Mme Soong Ching Ling, and the United States,” sponsored by Wesleyan College and China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) was having its opening ceremony. The two people it commemorates established such deep ties with Americans that have endured even to this day. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Communique between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China that paved the way for the resumption of their diplomatic ties. It also coincides with the 40th anniversary of CSCLF. The exhibition in Wesleyan College is a good way of celebrating the occasions.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Mme Soong Ching Ling, and the United States

Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his wife Mme Soong Ching Ling are among the most important figures of modern Chinese history, and they both had deep ties with the United States, where they went to study in their youth. Sun went to Honolulu in 1879, at the age of 13, to study at the Iolani School and then Oahu College, while Wesleyan was Soong’s alma mater. They were both inspired by American culture and fostered amity between the two nations.

Sun’s classmates remembered him as an avid reader of history books, including books on the revolutionary thoughts of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. While his democratic thoughts were deeply rooted in China’s Confucian culture, he also imbibed the essence of Western civilization. In 1894, he revisited Honolulu and founded the Hsing Chung Hui (China Revival Society). He went to the United States several times more, during which he launched revolutionary newspapers, propagated revolutionary ideas, and raised funds for the democratic revolution in China. He set up branches of the Tung Meng Hui (Chinese Revolutionary League) in several American cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and received enthusiastic help from both overseas Chinese and Americans. He was in Denver in 1911, when he learned of the Wuchang Uprising, the armed revolt in central China that sparked a revolution to end the rule of China’s last feudal dynasty. He returned to China and was later elected the first provisional president of the Republic of China.

Mme Soong Ching Ling was equally devoted to the cause of national liberation. Her father Soong Yaoru met Sun Yat-sen in 1892, becoming a follower who provided significant financial support to Sun. Soong Ching Ling, who went to the U.S. at the age of 14 in 1907, graduated from Wesleyan with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She closely followed the developments in China, and the articles she wrote for the college’s literary magazine elaborated the role overseas Chinese students could play for the motherland. In 1913, after graduating from Wesleyan College, she followed in the footsteps of Sun Yat-sen. They got married in 1915 and she became the best assistance of her husband. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925, she carried forward his cause, contacting her American friends, including American journalist Edgar Snow and American doctor Shafick George Hatem, to garner support for Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.

After the United States declared war on Japan and an international anti-fascist united front was established, Soong devoted herself to wartime medical and child care. She received strong support from then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s mother Sara Ann and wife Eleanor, as well as General Joseph Stilwell, Commander of the U.S. Army in the China-Burma-India Theater. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, she worked to improve women’s condition and the healthy development of youth and children. At the same time, she steadfastly promoted friendship between Chinese and Americans for world peace and social progress, which won her widespread respect.

The exhibition spans almost 100 years, beginning with the early revolutionary work of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, and ending with the death of Mme Soong Ching Ling. It focuses a large part on the time they spent in the United States and their connections with their American friends, an epitome of China-U.S. friendly exchanges and communications. The many historical photos and cultural relics include records of Dr. Sun’s activities in Honolulu and other American cities to raise funds for the revolution in China, Soong’s articles published in Wesleyan’s literary magazine, her gifts to many American friends, as well the presents she received from esteemed American visitors, such as the silverware from President Richard Nixon and his wife Pat Nixon during their visit to China in 1972. The over 250 photos are displayed in six segments, ranging from their education in the United States to the support from the U.S. in establishing the Republic of China, and carrying forward Soong Ching Ling’s legacy.

A virtual version of the exhibition can be accessed in China based on the exhibition hall in the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling in Beijing that showcases many cultural relics, and photos of which are on display in the U.S. The virtual version offers viewers an all-round, three-dimensional and immersive experience. While the schedule for offline displays in China is yet to be decided due to the pandemic situation, there are plans to tour the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling in Beijing, the Soong Ching Ling Memorial Residence in Shanghai, and the Museum of Dr. Sun Yan-sen in the city of Zhongshan in Guangdong Province, south China.

Carrying the Legacy Forward

The sponsors of the exhibition,Wesleyan College and CSCLF, have remained dedicated to improving the China-U.S. friendship to carry on the legacy.

Dr. Vivia Fowler, president of Wesleyan, is a member of the foundation’s council and remains engaged in carrying out educational exchanges between China and the United States. She has been to China many times and visited the CSCLF and the Former Residence of Soong Ching Ling. Presiding over the opening ceremony of the exhibition, she congratulated the CSCLF on its 40th anniversary, saying that Wesleyan College has enjoyed a warm relationship with the CSCLF over the last several decades, and she hopes for a bright future of collaboration between the two organizations and the two countries.

In his virtual address at the opening of the exhibition, Hang Yuanxiang, executive vice president of the CSCLF, reminded the audience that the story of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Mme Soong Ching Ling and the United States dates back over a century, showing the friendship between the peoples of China and the United States. He hoped the exhibition would help deepen mutual understanding between the two countries, especially their youth, who can promote China-U.S. friendship in the new era.

The CSCLF was established in 1982 at the initiative of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s reform and opening-up. It has been working both as a people’s organization and a welfare institution, carrying out cultural exchanges. Its successive leaders have made numerous visits to the United States and met with American friends in China, conducting many cultural exchange activities. Hang pledged that the CSCLF would work closely with Wesleyan in a bid to realize further exchanges and make new contributions to enhancing mutual understanding and friendship between people of the two countries.

On its 40th anniversary, the foundation seeks to leverage its unique strength to deepen nongovernmental cooperation between China and the U.S. The exhibition will write a new chapter of China-U.S. friendship in the new era.

China TodayGu Yetao

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