David D. BUCK

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, a group of advisors, and China’s minister of foreign affairs, Soong Ziwen (known to Westerners as T. V. Soong) in Washington D.C., 25 September 1942. NATIONAL ARCHIVES.

A member of a wealthy Shanghai Christian family prominent in the Chinese Nationalist Party, Soong Ziwen served in major financial and diplomatic posts under the two pre-1949 leaders of the Nationalist Party. The two men, President Sun Yat-sen and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, each married sisters of Soong Ziwen. Soong and his family were key figures in U.S.-Chinese relations before 1949.

Soong Ziwen was the eldest son of Charlie Soong (Song Jiashu, 1866–1918), a Chinese Christian minister who rose from obscurity to head a wealthy Shanghai family. Like his father, Soong Ziwen was educated in the United States, and his career was closely tied to support for the leader of the Nationalist Movement, Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan, 1866–1925). Equally important were the marriages of his three elder sisters. The eldest, Soong Ai-ling (1889/1890–1973), married Kong Xiangxi (usually called “H. H. Kung,” 1881–1967), a financier who also served in the top echelon of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang, GMD) administrations. His second-elder sister, Soong Qing-ling (1893–1981), married Sun Yat-sen in 1915, and his third-elder sister, Soong Mei-ling (1898–2003), married the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975) in 1927.

After graduating from Harvard in 1915 Soong Ziwen worked in international banking in New York before returning to China as a financial manager. In 1923 his brother-in-law Sun Yat-sen called him to Guangzhou (Canton) to reform the Nationalist movement’s finances. Soong Ziwen remained after Sun’s death in 1925, and when his other brother-in-law Chiang Kai-shek established a Nationalist government in Nanjing in 1928, Soong became minister of finance.

Soong Ziwen and his third brother-in-law, Kong Xiangxi, emerged as decisive figures in Chiang Kai-shek’s efforts to centralize economic and financial power in the 1930s. Their efforts threatened the interests of many Chinese and foreign capitalists who resented their statist, dirigist (relating to economic planning and control by the state) policies. Chiang Kai-shek, however, needed their skills to provide a stable currency, taxes, and loans on which to expand Nationalist power.

In 1928 Soong Ziwen’s career became dependent on his close ties to his sister Soong Mei-ling and her husband, Chiang Kai-shek. In the 1930s Soong achieved the first successes in the recovery of Chinese sovereign rights from the nineteenth-century unequal treaties. Soong Ziwen also established a number of state-owned modern factories that were intended to produce revenue for the Nationalist government and improve its defense capacity. These factories became key elements in the Nationalist government’s program of state-controlled capitalism and were condemned later as “bureaucratic capitalism.”

After the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945, referred to as the Second Sino-Japanese War outside of China) broke out Chiang Kai-shek called on Soong Ziwen’s connections with the United States to help secure U.S. loans and support. He and his sister Soong Mei-ling played critical roles in this effort. From 1942 to 1945 Soong held the post of foreign minister. Accusations circulated widely, both in China and the United States, that members of the Soong family, including Soong Ziwen, enriched themselves personally from U.S. aid.

At the end of World War II Soong Ziwen became head of the Executive Yuan, which managed civil government. He also continued performing important diplomatic tasks. Chinese critics, including many Chinese Nationalist leaders, disliked Soong Ziwen for his close identification with U.S. interests.

When the Nationalist government fell in 1949 and fled to Taiwan, Soong was serving as governor of Guangdong Province. Subsequently he moved with his wife and three daughters to an estate on Long Island in New York but continued to serve as an advisor to Chiang Kai-shek. He died after suffering a stroke in 1971.

Further Reading

Boorman, H. L. (Ed.). (1970). Biographical dictionary of Republican China (Vol. 3). New York: Columbia University Press.

Coble P. M., Jr. (1980). The Shanghai capitalists and the Nationalist government, 1927–1937. Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asian Monographs.

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

Source: Buck, David D.. (2009). SOONG Ziwen. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 2051–2052. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Photograph of Soong Ziwen, a prominent Harvard-trained financier who was devoted to modernizing China’s fiscal system.

SOONG Ziwen (Sòng Z?wén ???)|Sòng Z?wén ??? (SOONG Ziwen)

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