Eugene Chen

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Eugene Chen
Chen Youren.jpg
Eugene Chen
Born (1878-07-02)July 2, 1878
San Fernando, Trinidad
Died 1944 (1945)
Shanghai, China
Resting place
Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery, Beijing
Political party
Chinese Nationalist
Religion Raised Catholic

Eugene Chen (陈友仁; Chen Youren) (b. July 2, 1878 in San Fernando, Trinidad[1][bare URL] – d. 1944 in Shanghai), known in his youth as Eugene Bernard Achan, was an overseas Chinese lawyer who in the 1920s became Sun Yat-sen's foreign minister known for his success in promoting Sun's anti-imperialist foreign policies.[2]

Early years[edit]

Chen's father, Chen Guangquan, a member of a Hakka family, was known as Joseph Chen or Achan. After taking part in the Taiping Rebellion against the Manchu dynasty, he fled to the French West Indies where he met his wife, Mary Longchallon (Marie Leong), also a Chinese immigrant. Chen, as well as the Longchallon family, had been required by the French authorities to accept the Catholic faith as a condition of immigration.

Eugene was the oldest of Chen Guangquan and Mary Longchallon's three sons.

Education[edit]

After attending Catholic schools in Trinidad, Chen qualified as a barrister and became known as one of the most highly skilled solicitors in the islands.[3] The family did not speak Chinese at home; and, since there were no Chinese schools, he also did not learn to read Chinese. It was later said of him that his library was filled with Dickens, Shakespeare, Scott, and legal books, that he "spoke English as a scholar"; "except for his color, neither his living nor his habits were Chinese".[4]

Professional life[edit]

Chen eventually left the island to live in London, where he heard Sun Yat-sen speak at a rally against the Manchu government in China. Sun persuaded him to come to China and contribute his legal knowledge to the new Republic in 1912. Chen took the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and shared the journey with Wu Lien-te, a physician born in Malaysia. Learning that Chen had no Chinese name, Wu suggested "Youren" as the equivalent of "Eugene".

After Sun was forced to flee to Japan in 1913, Chen remained in Peking, where he began a second career in journalism. Chen edited the bilingual Peking Gazette 1915-1917, then founded the Shanghai Gazette, the first of what Sun envisioned as a network of newspapers across China.[5] Chen had given up his initial support for Yuan Shikai and became a strong critic of the government, accusing it of "selling China." [6] In 1918, Chen joined Sun in Canton to support the southern government, which he helped to represent at the Paris Peace Conference, where he resisted Japanese and British plans for China. In 1922, Chen became Sun's closest adviser on foreign affairs, and developed a leftist stance of anti-imperialist nationalism and support of Sun's alliance with the Soviet Union.[7]

Chen's revolutionary diplomacy[edit]

Chen's diplomacy led one historian to call him "arguably China's most important diplomat of the 1920s and instrumental in the rights recovery movement." [8] Chen welcomed Sun's alliance with the Soviet Union, and worked harmoniously with Michael Borodin, the chief Soviet advisor in the reorganization of the Nationalist Party at Canton. After Sun's death in 1925, Chen was elected to the Central Executive Committee and appointed Foreign Minister. Over the next two years, Chen lodged vigorous and articulate protests over continued imperialist policies with the American and British governments, as well as negotiating with the British authorities over the massive labor strikes in Hong Kong. When Chiang Kai-shek's Northern Expedition appeared on the verge of unifying the country, Chen joined the rival Nationalist government at Wuhan. In January 1927, the Nationalists at Wuhan forcibly took control over the foreign concession there, and when violent crowds also took the foreign concession at Kiukiang, foreign warships gathered at Shanghai. Chen's negotiations with the British led to confirmation of Chinese control of the two concessions and this success was hailed as the start of a new revolutionary foreign policy. The situation soon reversed. The foreign powers retaliated for the deadly xenophobic attacks on foreigners by elements of the National Revolutionary Army in Nanking, and Chiang Kai-shek launched White Terror attacks on leftists in Shanghai.[9] Chen sent Borodin, his sons Percy Chen and Jack Chen, and the American leftist journalist Anna Louise Strong in an automotive convoy across Central Asia to Moscow. He, his daughters Si-lan and Yolanda,Mme. Sun Yat-sen, and the American journalist Rayna Prohme traveled from Shanghai to Vladivostok, and once again by Trans-Siberian Railway to Moscow.[10]

1927 Chen and Soong Qingling in Moscow

Life in Moscow was not easy, however. After an initial warm public reception, Stalin showed little tolerance for living symbols of the Soviet failure in China. Chen and Mme. Sun were frustrated in their attempts to establish a leftist Chinese front, and soon left Moscow. After a period of exile in Europe and brief service with governments in China which challenged the Nanking government, Chen was finally expelled from the Guomindang for serving as Foreign Minister in the Fukien Rebellion of 1934. He again took refuge in Europe, but returned to Hong Kong after the outbreak of the war with Japan. He was taken to Shanghai in the spring of 1942 in hopes of persuading him to support the Japanese puppet government, but he remained loudly critical of that "pack of liars" until his death in May, 1944, at the age of 66.[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1899, Chen married Agatha Alphosin Ganteaume (1878–1926), known as Aisy, a French Creole whose father owned one of the largest estates in Trinidad. They had eight children, four of whom survived childhood: Percy (1901-1986), a lawyer, worked with his father for many years; (Sylvia) Silan (1905-1996), an internationally known dancer, married the American film historian Jay Leyda; Yolanda (1913- ); and Jack (1908-1995), who made an international reputation as a journalistic cartoonist during the Sino-Japanese War, and who wrote A Year In Upper Felicity, an account of his experience in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.[12] In 1958 Jack married Chen Yuan-tsung.

Aisy died of breast cancer in May 1926. Chen and Chang Li Ying, or Georgette Chen were married in 1930 and remained together until his death in 1944.

Sources[edit]

  • Percy Chen, China called Me: My Life Inside the Chinese Revolution. Boston: Little Brown, 1979. 423p. ISBN 0316138495. A memoir by Eugene Chen's son, including accounts of his father's activities in 1920s politics and the automobile caravan from China to Moscow in 1927.
  • Yuan-Tsung Chen. Return to the Middle Kingdom: One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the Birth of Modern China. New York: Union Square Press, 2008. ISBN 9781402756979. Google Book: [4] A memoir by Jack Chen's wife which intertwines family and national history from the early 1900s to the end of the 20th century.
  • Si-lan Chen Leyda, Footnote to History (New York: Dance Horizons, 1984). A memoir by Eugene Chen's daughter of her life in international dance, including study in the Soviet Union.
  • 钱玉莉 (Yuli Qian), 陈友仁传 (Chen Youren Zhuan) (Shijiazhuang: Hebei ren min chu ban she, 1999 ISBN 7202026716).

References[edit]

  1. ^ Birth Certificate
  2. ^ "Eugene Chen", Howard L. Boorman, Richard C. Howard, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China (New York,: Columbia University Press, 1967) Volume I pp. 180-183
  3. ^ Boorman, p. 180.
  4. ^ Arthur Young, China Weekly Review, 11 May 1929, reprinted in Walton Look Lai, The Chinese in the West Indies, 1806-1995: A Documentary History p. 237 [1]
  5. ^ Rudolf Wagner, "Don't Mind the Gap: Foreign Language Press in Late Qing and Republican China," China Heritage Quarterly Nos 30-31 [2]
  6. ^ Peking Gazette (May 18, 1917
  7. ^ Boorman,p. 181.
  8. ^ Philip C.C. Huang, "Biculturality in Modern China and in Chinese Studies," Modern China 26.1 (2000), p. 13.
  9. ^ Boorman, 182-183
  10. ^ Percy Chen, China Called Me: My Life Inside the Chinese Revolution (Boston: Little Brown, 1979), pp.
  11. ^ Boorman, p. 180-181.
  12. ^ Yuan-Tsung Chen. Return to the Middle Kingdom: One Family, Three Revolutionaries, and the Birth of Modern China. New York: Union Square Press, 2008)pp. 19-21. ISBN 9781402756979 [3]

External links[edit]

  • "Roots and Branches," (website of J. Acham-Chen (Eugene Chen's grandson) Archived June 19, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  • Colonial Office No. 36535/1927 15 February 1927, including: 1) Copy secret despatch of 20 January from Governor of Trinidad furnishing particulars regarding family of Mr. Ch’en who was for a long time resident in the colony; Minutes (i.e. Notes): “This record does not inspire confidence in Mr. Chen, who I should think will prove to be one of the ephemeral phenomena of Chinese politics”; Very much of an adventurer in type. 2) “Report,: H.A. Byatt, Governor [Trinidad]; 3) “Note supplied by Mr. H. Noble Hall, one time correspondent of the Times at Washington on the early career and character of Chen in Trinidad”; 3) Cutting from “Far Eastern Times, by W. Sheldon Ridge; “Life Story of Eugene Chen” (furnished by American Legation, July 1927). [5]