LAW Yuk-Fun

Kong Xiangxi, as brother-in-law of both Republic of China founder Sun Yat-sen and Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, assumed a number of important official posts. Manipulating the posts as the Minister of Finance and Director of the Bank of China, Kong pocketed the nation’s financial resources. This corrupt practice, together with the mismanagement of the economy, resulted in Kong’s fall from power.

Born in Taigu, Shanxi Province, into a poor family, Kong Xiangxi ??? attended a U.S.-run missionary school, where he was converted to Christianity. In 1901, with church sponsorship, Kong went to the United States and studied first at Oberlin College and then at Yale University. During his stay Kong met Sun Yat-sen, who later founded the Republic of China (ROC). In 1907 Kong returned home and founded the Ming Yin School and started a business. In 1913 Kong was invited by Sun to stage the Second Revolution, thereby beginning Kong’s political career. The revolution failed, and Kong followed Sun to Japan. There Kong met and married Soong Ai-ling in 1914. The next year Sun married Soong Ai-ling’s sister Soong Quing-ling, making Kong and Sun brothers-in-law.

In 1915 Kong returned to China and helped Sun’s Guomindang (GMD, Chinese Nationalist Party) to compete against the warlords for national power. Because of Kong’s Western education and exposure, Kong’s role was primarily as liaison officer and diplomat, in which capacity he led a delegation to Moscow to explore Soviet assistance to strengthen the GMD.

After Sun’s death in 1925 Kong worked closely with the new GMD leader, Chiang Kai-shek, to compete for national power against the warlords. In addition to acting as liaison, Kong managed finances and sought donations. Two episodes in 1927 secured Kong’s access to China’s political stage. First, the successful Northern Expedition to unite China ensured Chiang the national leadership. Second, at Kong Xiangxi’s arrangement, Chiang married Soong Meiling, the youngest sister of the Soongs, which consolidated the Kong–Chiang relationship.

In 1928 the expedition ended, and Chiang was recognized as the only Chinese leader. Kong was entrusted with a number of key positions in the government, making him the wealthiest and most powerful financier in China. Kong was named minister of industry and commerce and director of the China Currency Bank, in which capacities he restructured Chinese financial institutions. In 1933, Kong assumed both of these posts, resigning the ministerial post in 1944 and the Bank of China post a year later on V-J Day (Victory in Japan of World War II). During his tenures Kong was responsible for coordinating national and foreign economic resources at Chiang’s proposal and fiscal and monetary policymaking, which contributed much to support Chiang’s anti-Chinese Communist and anti-Japanese efforts throughout the 1930s and the first half of the 1940s.

Concurrently Kong held several important political posts and participated in diplomatic affairs, including being president of the GMD government’s Executive Yuan. As V-J Day approached, Kong was forced to retreat from the front stage of politics because of internal and external pressures, the latter coming primarily from the United States, Chiang’s important ally. First, Kong’s wartime economic measures had resulted in hyperinflation. Second, evidence indicated that Kong had manipulated his official positions in accepting bribes and pocketing national resources. In 1944 Kong resigned his ministerial post and his Bank of China post the next year.

When the Chinese Civil War broke out in 1947 Kong went to the United States, although he intended to return to Chiang’s camp. Kong lived in seclusion until October 1962, when Chiang invited him to Taiwan. Kong was again made a member of the GMD Central Committee. In February 1966 Kong returned to the United States for medical treatment and lived in Long Island, New York, until his death.

Further Reading

Chen Tingyi. (2004). Kong Xiangxi yu Song Ailing [Kong Xiangxi and Soong Ailing]. Beijing: Tuanjie Chubanshe.

Seagrave, S. (1985). The Soong dynasty. New York: Harper & Row.

Strass, J. C. (1998). Strong institutions in weak politics: State building in Republican China, 19271940. Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press.

Wang Song. (2006). Kong Xiangxi Zhuan [Biography of Kong Xiangxi]. Wuhan, China: Hubei Remin Chubanshe.

Never harbor the intent to victimize others; but never let guard down against being victimized.

害人之心不可有, 防人之心不可无

Hài rén zhī xīn bù kě yǒu, fán grén zhī xīn bù kě wú

Source: Law, Yuk-Fun. (2009). KONG Xiangxi. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1243–1244. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

KONG Xiangxi (Kǒng Xiángxī 孔祥熙)|KONG Xiangxi (Kǒng Xiángxī 孔祥熙)

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