On Aug. 2, 1949, with the Communists about to seize power in Beijing, the US recalled its ambassador to China, John Leighton Stuart, a respected missionary, educator and diplomat.
Mao Zedong (毛澤東), the Communist leader who would take power two months later, quickly denounced Stuart as a symbol of failed US imperialism. Stuart’s departure effectively ended diplomatic ties between the US and China for a quarter century.
Stuart died in Washington in 1962. He had written in his will that he hoped his remains would someday be buried in China, where he had been born the son of Christian missionaries in 1876 and had helped found a prominent university, but where he was no longer welcome.
For decades, the answer from Beijing seemed to be no.
But on Monday last week, 46 years after his death and after years of negotiations about the political implications of such a burial, Stuart’s ashes were laid to rest at a cemetery near the eastern city of Hangzhou, about two hours south of Shanghai.
Chinese and US officials attended a small ceremony honoring Stuart. Present were the mayor of Hangzhou and US Ambassador Clark Randt Jr as well as several alumni of Yenching University in Beijing, the institution Stuart helped found.
“We tried for years to get this done,” said Major General John Fugh, 74, who has retired from the military and whose father was a close aide to Stuart in China. “Now, after nearly a half century, his wish has finally been carried out.”
China granted the request after Fugh, who now leads the Committee of 100, a Chinese-American advocacy group, appealed to several top officials, including Xi Jinping (習近平), a new member of the Politburo Standing Committee. Xi, whom experts on party affairs expect to succeed President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) as China’s top leader in 2012, had served as the party boss in Shanghai and Zhejiang Province, where Hangzhou is located.
It took decades to resolve the matter in part because of an essay Mao wrote on Aug. 18, 1949, titled Farewell, Leighton Stuart! In it, Mao called Stuart “a symbol of the complete defeat of the US policy of aggression” and chided the US for its support of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who fought the Communists in a civil war before fleeing to Taiwan in 1949 with their leader, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).
The essay was reprinted in Chinese textbooks and is recited by children all over China to this day.
In spite of former US president Richard Nixon’s opening to China in the 1970s, the restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and China and trillions of dollars in trade between the countries, even senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials hesitated to take a clear stand on a matter on which Mao had made such a memorable pronouncement.
While many of Mao’s policies have long since been discarded, the ruling party still promotes him as the father of the modern Chinese nation.
Stuart’s own history is a window into the shifting sands of US-China relations from the later years of the Qing Dynasty to the rise of communism.
He was born in Hangzhou and grew up speaking fluent Chinese. He moved to the US with his parents at the age of 11, eventually earned a degree from Union Theological Seminary and returned to China in 1904.
For the next 45 years, he worked as a missionary and educator in Hangzhou, Beijing and Nanjing. He raised money from wealthy Americans, including Henry Luce, the founder of Time and Life magazines, and in 1919 founded and served as president of Yenching University, a Christian institution whose idyllic campus now is the site of Peking University.
Historians say Stuart pushed for reforms in China and led protests against the Japanese occupation of northern and then eastern China. Because of his stance, he was jailed in Beijing by the Japanese after Pearl Harbor and released in 1945.
A year later, he was named ambassador to China at a time when Washington was supporting the KMT, who were waging a civil war with the Communists.
Stuart was the last US ambassador to China before the CCP seized power. It was not until 1973, after Nixon pushed to re-establish relations, that the US opened a diplomatic liaison office in Beijing.
Stuart returned to Washington in 1949 and suffered a stroke. His wife, who had died in 1926, was buried near Yenching University; his parents are buried in Hangzhou.
Fugh said Stuart lived the last decade of his life in Washington, under the care of Fugh’s father, Philip Fugh. Fugh was Stuart’s longtime assistant.
The effort to have Stuart buried in China goes back to the 1960s. Stuart’s children tried but failed to persuade Beijing to allow his remains to be buried there. They died and left no heirs. And in 1988, Philip Fugh died after unsuccessfully pressing for a burial in China. John Fugh has led the efforts since.
Last year, after meeting Xi, Fugh said he got word that a burial in Hangzhou had been approved.
Stuart’s ashes were brought to Shanghai through US diplomatic channels. And on Monday last week, they were slipped into the ground in Hangzhou. The Yenching alumni played The Star-Spangled Banner and Amazing Grace.
“This is a promise that has been fulfilled after half a century,” Fugh said last Wednesday. “Now, Ambassador Stuart and my father can rest in peace.”
In November last year, a man struck a woman with a steel bar and killed her outside a hospital in China’s Fujian Province. Later, he justified his actions to the police by saying that he attacked her because she was small and alone, and he was venting his anger after a dispute with a colleague. To the casual observer, it could be seen as another case of an angry man gone mad for a moment, but on closer inspection, it reflects the sad side of a society long brutalized by violent political struggles triggered by crude Leninism and Maoism. Starting
If social media interaction is any yardstick, India remained one of the top countries for Taiwan last year. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has on several occasions expressed enthusiasm to strengthen cooperation with India, one of the 18 target nations in her administration’s New Southbound Policy. The past year was instrumental in fostering Taiwan-India ties and will be remembered for accelerated momentum in bilateral relations. However, most of it has been confined to civil society circles. Even though Taiwan launched its southbound policy in 2016, the potential of Taiwan-India engagement remains underutilized. It is crucial to identify what is obstructing greater momentum
In terms of the economic outlook for the semiconductor industry, Taiwan has outperformed the rest of the world for three consecutive years. This is quite rare. In addition, Taiwan has been playing an important role in the US-China technology dispute, and both want Taiwan on their side, reflecting the remaking of the nation’s semiconductor industry. Under the leadership of — above all — Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the industry as a whole has shifted from a focus on capacity to a focus on quality, as companies now have to be able to provide integration of hardware and software, as well as
The US last week took action to remove most of the diplomatic red tape around US-Taiwan relations. While there have been adjustments in State Department “Guidelines on Relations with Taiwan” and other guidance before, no administration has ever so thoroughly dispensed with them. It is a step in the right direction. Of course, when there is a policy of formally recognizing one government (the People’s Republic of China or PRC) and not another (the Republic of China or ROC), officials from the top of government down need a systematic way of operationalizing the distinction. They cannot just make it up as