This article is to commemorate the 113th birthday (Dec.26) of Mao Tse-tung, the founder of New China, and the 114th birthday (Jan. 27) of Soong Ching Ling.
From "Madame" to "Dear Sister"
---The Friendship between Mao Tse-tung and Soong Ching Ling
By Liu Wenjin
Mao Tse-Tung and Soong Ching Ling both were born in 1893. In Jan. 1956, Mao Tse-tung received a New Year greeting card from Soong. In delight, he wrote back a warm and humorous letter, in which Mao addressed Soong Ching Ling "Dear sister". He wrote, "How are you doing? I wish you sleep well. I am still the same. I sleep a lot and eat even more than before. I guess I will probably not go to see 'God' in the next few years, but my health is declining. I wish you a good health." Short but witty, it reflected the deep feeling between sister and brother. Prior to this, in all his letters to Soong, Mao had always addressed Soong Ching Ling as "Madame Ching Ling" with much respect. This change not only showed that they had got to know each other well but also built up a sincere and deep friendship between them. By then, they had known each other for 30 years.
Mao met Soong Ching Ling at the Second National Congress of the Kuomintang (KMT) in January, 1926 (Soong did not attend the first session in January, 1924). They both approved of the cooperation between KMT and the Communist Party of China (CPC). During the congress they denounced KMT right-wing's reactionary words and actions. Soong Ching Ling delivered a speech at the General Assembly and was elected as a member of the Executive Committee, mainly in charge of women's work. Mao was reappointed as an alternate member of the Executive Committee. He was also the acting minister of the KMT Central Publicity Department in Guangzhou and the chief editor of "Political Weekly" and hosted the sixth workshop of the peasant movement. In 1927, Chiang Kai-shek launched the "April 12 Incident" and slaughtered many communists. Soong Ching Ling came forward, and together with Mao Tse-tung and other 40 KMT Central Executive Committee members, KMT government members published the "Censure of Chiang Kai-shek", condemning his atrocities. In the article, they called on "all people and comrades, especially armed comrades, in accordance with the order from the central leadership, to get rid of the renegade of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the scum of the Party and the political pests to the people". On August 1st the same year, "Nanchang Uprising" broke out. Although Soong Ching Ling was not present, she was still elected as the first one among seven members of the Nanchang Uprising Revolutionary Committee. She openly supported Mao Tse-tung's revolutionary strategy of "encircling cities from rural areas and seizing state power by armed forces". Her fearless spirit was greatly admired. On the same day, 22 people including Mao and Soong jointly signed "Declaration of Central Committee Members of KMT", denouncing Chiang Kai-shek and Wang Jingwei as "sinners of the national revolution" and declaring to fight for Dr. Sun Yat-sen's "Three Major Policies" to the end.
Through working with Mao and other communists, Soong Ching Ling had a very good impression of the Communist Party, which further toughened her determination to carry on Dr. Sun Yat-sen's policy of cooperation with the CPC. In order to accelerate the realization of the second KMT-CPC cooperation, Soong attended the Third Plenary Session of KMT's Fifth Central Committee in February, 1937, after 10 years of absence from attending any KMT's activities. During the meeting, she engaged in a fierce battle with the pro-Japanese and capitulatory forces. She, united with other 14 members of the Central Executive Committee and Central Supervision Committee, including He Xiangning, proposed the "Restoration of the Three Major Policies Set by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, i.e. Alliance with the Soviet Union, Cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party and Assistance to Peasants and Workers". On February 18, Soong Ching Ling delivered the speech "Implementing Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Will" at the plenary session. She severely criticized KMT government's compromising attitude to the Japanese and their fear of Japan. Soong strongly demanded the KMT to change its policy of opposing the CPC and the suppression of Communist-led forces. In every conference she attended, Soong would quote the will of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, strongly appeal for the establishment of a united front, and denounce the state leaders who opposed the cease of the civil war.
On August 13, 1937, Japanese troops invaded Shanghai and took over the city on November 12. Concession areas became isolated islands. Mao and other leaders of the CPC Central Committee were very concerned of Soong's safety. They telegraphed her in October and November, suggesting that Soong leave Shanghai for Hong Kong (the first telegram was delivered by Pan Hannian, the second by Li Yun.) After careful consideration, Soong took the advice and chose Hong Kong as the base to continue her anti-Japanese activities. On December 23, secretly accompanied by Li Yun, who was assigned by the CPC, Soong Ching Ling arrived in Hong Kong safely on the 25th. Soon, she established the "China Defense League" (CDL) in Hong Kong. In early 1938, the league raised money and donated communication equipments to the New Fourth Army. As a result, all its detachments and independent regiments were equipped with radios and telephones to ensure smooth transfer of information from the central government and the military. In the winter of 1938, hundreds of wounded soldiers of the New Fourth Army died from the coldness. Soong Ching Ling immediately launched the campaign---"Donation of 20,000 Pieces of Blanket-Movement" at home and abroad when she learned of it in Hong Kong, before the winter of 1939, she supplied 50,000 pieces of blankets and about to 40,000 pieces of overcoats to the New Fourth Army. On July 15, 1944, journalist Israel Epstein, a central committee member of the CDL, came to Yan'an with a visiting group of Chinese and foreign reporters after breaking through Chiang Kai-shek's blockades. Mao met with Epstein privately and the first thing he asked was about how Madame Soong was doing. And followed he asked Epstein to pass on his appreciations to Madame Ching Ling and her CDL for all the help and support to the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army. In December 1941, six hours prior to the fall of Hong Kong, Soong Ching Ling took the last flight and left for Chongqing, where she continued the work of the CDL. Following the victory of the War Against Japanese Invasion in 1945, Mao flew to Chongqing to negotiate with the KMT to seek national peace. Soong Ching Ling then was living in Chongqing and was very happy to learn about Mao's arrival. Despite the stalking of KMT agents, she visited Mao, invited him for dinner and also attended receptions held by Mao and Zhou Enlai four times in merely 10 days from August 30 to September 8. Mao told Soong Ching Ling, "People in the revolutionary base asked me to convey to you their greetings and gratitude. In the most difficult times during the war against Japanese aggression, you provided the most needed materials and medicine to the revolutionary base, the Eighth Route Army and the New Fourth Army. I can't tell you in words how much importance your help to us!" When Soong Ching Ling stood up to leave, Mao insisted to see her off at the gate and saw her into the car.
This letter brought great joy and inspiration to Soong. Despite her physical weakness, she gladly agreed to come to Beijing. On August 26, accompanied by Deng Yingchao and Liao Mengxing, she took the train and left Shanghai for Beijing. At 16:15 on August 28, when the train just arrived at Beijing station, Mao Tse-tung, who had been waiting at the platform for some time, stepped forward from the welcoming team and got on the train and surprised everyone present. Mao held Soong's hands tightly and said, "We are expecting you to come for building our new country. And we have a lot to learn from you." Soong Ching Ling smiled and replied, "You have done a great job. I am willing to contribute my efforts to the great cause of the founding of New China."
In September 1956, the Communist Party of China held the Eighth National Congress. CPC Central Committee and Mao Tse-tung invited Soong Ching Ling, leaders from each Democratic Party and non-party representatives to attend the Congress. Mao's action fully reflected CPC's sincerity in the policy of "long-term co-existence and mutual supervision" between the CPC and other democratic parties put forward at the Eighth National Congress. In November 1957, Mao headed the Chinese delegation to attend the 40th anniversary celebration of the October Revolution of the Soviet Union and the representative congress of Communist Parties and Workers Parties of Socialist Countries. He invited Soong Ching Ling to join him as the deputy head of the delegation and introduced her to the Party leaders of Soviet Union, saying, "Although Soong Ching Ling is not a Party member now, we treat her as a Party member." On the trip back from Moscow, Mao and Soong Ching Ling took the same plane and Mao asked Soong to sit in the first class while he himself sat in business class. Soong said, "You are the chairman. You should sit in the first class." Mao responded humbly, "You are the 'Mother of the Nation' and you have the honor to take the seat."
Caring for Each Other as Family Members
In 1950, before Soong Ching Ling left for Shanghai for a short stay, she paid a farewell visit to Mao Tse-tung. Mao invited her to stay for dinner of his hometown food. Later, when Soong came back from Shanghai, Mao once again invited her to dinner. Mao this time treated her with Western food as he had noticed last time that Soong was not accustomed to the spicy food from his hometown.
During the 1950s and 1960s, there were many occasions for Soong Ching Ling and Mao Tse-tung to discuss national affairs together, such as during the CPPCC, the National People's Congress, the Supreme State Council meeting and Tian'anmen celebrations for important occasions. Mao's car would usually arrive earlier but he always waited for Soong Ching Ling, who would arrive a little later. Every time when Mao went up onto the Tian'anmen Gate, he would take the west gateway at the back and then take the elevator to the top of the Gate. Once, Mao came to the elevator but not in hurry to get in and stood by. Nobody knew whom he was waiting for. Why not get into the elevator? In a moment, Soong Ching Ling came over. Mao smiled and went up to take her arm and both walked into the elevator. All these minor details showed Mao's respect for Soong Ching Ling.
Mao had full respect for Soong Ching Ling and Soong Ching Ling also took a great care for Mao Zedong. In the early 1960s, China was plagued with internal and external problems. The national economy was in deep trouble. Even Mao, who loved braised pork, had not eaten meat for a long time. He even had dropsy from hunger. Soong Ching Ling kept reminding him repeatedly to take care of himself and pay attention to nutrition when she learned of it. And when she got to know Mao had a habit of working while sitting in bed, she bought him a goose down cushion and asked her staff to send it to him. Mao did not have the habit of receiving gifts, so he kindly refused. But in the second thought, he immediately sent his man to call the gift-deliverer back and accepted it. In 1957, as the winter approaching, people in Beijing began to store up vegetables for the winter, Mao sent a batch of Shandong cabbage to Soong Ching Ling. Mao was the Party's chairman and Soong Ching Ling was the vice president of the country (in 1957, Soong was the vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee) but their gifts sent to each other were only Chinese cabbages and a cushion. This was rare among national leaders in history, not only in China but in other countries. This truly reflected the mutual concern between Mao and Soong. Mao had noticed that Soong's living room was on the first floor while the bedroom on the second floor when he visited Soong in her Shanghai residence. For the concern of her safety, Mao bought her a red carpet for the stair-case. Soong Ching Ling always kept a copy of "Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung" in her suitcase that had accompanied her for decades. The book was a gift signed by Mao personally, published at Jin-Cha-Ji Anti-Japanese Invasion Base Area in 1944, and it was the earliest works of Mao' in the history of the Chinese Communist Party. Soong even quoted from Mao's poetry as a motto for herself and her staffs, which says "Many deeds cry out to be done, always urgent; Ten thousand years are too long; seize the day, seize the hour!"
From "Madame" to "a big sister", people can see that Mao Tse-tung has always cherished his special respect for Soong Ching Ling. And in addition, the friendly relations between them have been deeply strengthened after the founding of New China as brothers and sisters.