The Soong Dynasty
Sterling Seagrave initiates his destruction of the more fanciful qualities of Western and Christian virtue claimed by and for the Soong family by recasting the events surrounding the early life and education of Charlie Soong. Considering such basic facts as Soong’s name, youthful employment, and education at Duke University and Vanderbilt University, Seagrave exposes the falsehoods, mis-impressions, and illusions of earlier studies. In fact, Soong’s return to China, his departure from Methodist missionary work, and subsequent business career reflect not Christian virtue, but a web of extortion, deceit, and underworld business transactions.
The story of the second Soong generation emerges essentially in three of Soong’s six offspring: Ching-ling, May-ling, and T.V. Soong. They receive excellent educations in America’s best colleges and exude the image of Western culture and charm. Ching-ling, the noblest of the three, marries Sun Yat-sen under rather unseemly circumstances after his first wife is shunted aside. Ching-ling is portrayed as a consistent supporter of Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionary principles. May-ling marries Chiang Kai-Shek under similarly questionable circumstances and is viewed as wielding the real power in Chiang’s consolidation of Nationalist control. T. V. Soong becomes Chiang’s finance minister, funding Chiang’s war with Mao’s Communists through illicit trade with the Japanese, the opium trade, and embezzlement of American foreign aid.
Seagrave impressively dismantles the noble image of the Soong Dynasty as good Christians acting as stalwart supporters of Chiang’s regime fighting on America’s behalf against the Japanese and the Chinese Communists. His grim narrative is occasionally lightened by amusing vignettes and stories of sexual practices of old Shanghai before the war. In gauging Seagrave’s new interpretive stance, the reader should note Seagrave’s favorable impressions of Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, and his judgment of the foreign service representatives who were unsympathetic to the Communists.