The fall of Tsinan, capital of Shantung Province in Northern China, brings to a head the military crisis of the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek.
Economic gloom deepens into chronic disaster. Production continues to decline while the rapacious KMT bureaucracy continues to suck the lifeblood out of trade and industry. Meanwhile the $400 million American aid is dissipated in desperate measures to keep the country going. $125 million goes to direct military purposes but this is hardly a trickle.
It is not certain whether the venal “court” around Chiang has given him this picture in toto. Nevertheless even he has heard the rumblings from inside his own National Assembly and elsewhere. That is why, with great fanfare and a gigantic publicity stunt, Chiang inaugurated his latest “new” political movement. With great cunning this move was inaugurated by Chiang’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who spent many years in Moscow denouncing his father and repudiating the KMT. From Stalinist white hope to heir apparent has; proved a short and easy step for this darling of China’s Soong dynasty.
With the prestige of having been a “leftist” and armed with the authority of his father’s name, the young Chiang descended on Shanghai several weeks ago. In this compradore capital he proceeded to arrest 100 leading bankers and other wealthy worthies who had been considered on the KMT protected list of insiders. Several were summarily executed, others threatened. Factory owners were threatened with reprisal if they ceased production. The most violent speeches since 1927 issued from the mouth of this “crusader.”
“Our own economic policy is a socialistic revolutionary movement. The rich man’s enjoyment of worldly comfort is actually drawn from the white bones of the poor who work to their death, oppressed by the city’s colony of rich.” “Shanghai will undergo a thorough change,” he promised when he became economic dictator of the city. He then mobilised the KMT “Youth Army” for his support.
Several days after these dramatic events in Shanghai, Chiang announced his “new” 10–point programme which contains the usual empty verbiage so characteristic of his pronouncements:
“1. Work hard for national reconstruction.
“2. Be punctual and orderly.
“3. Eradicate inefficiency and corruption,” etc. The heart of the programme is a popular mobilisation of all resources for the civil war: “Everything for the front.”
This programme is remarkable in that it does not offer a single relief in the concrete from the multiform oppressions which burden the masses. Not one cent off taxes, no rent reduction, no curb on landlord power or reduction of “requisitioning” of men from the villages for the army, or right to form associations for workers.
It is an appeal to the people. That is something new in KMT policy, but it offers nothing around which a popular response can gather. It is a programme of austerity and greater burdens without relaxation of the dictatorship. No wonder it was answered with apathy.
The younger Chiang’s attacks on the Shanghai compradores lifted the curtain on this call for support. It was meant as an assurance, as a down payment, on the new programme. It is interesting that the KMT and the regime were specifically excluded from arrest and all blame. In the disaster that haunts China important scapegoats had to be found. But the finger was pointed exclusively at the rich while the magic circle retained the immunity of the KMT itself.
This points to one of the new disintegrating tendencies. For the alienation of the bourgeoisie, especially the compradores, grows daily. The rich of the coastal cities no longer have faith in Chiang, his armies, or his currency. They are squeezed by his ubiquitous bureaucracy. Chiang, in desperation, has now deepened this mutual distrust, thereby also weakening his own support. He has gained nothing from the masses in compensation.
October 4, 1948