Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Song Qingling (1892–1981)

Vice chairwoman of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Born in Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, on 27 January 1892, Song Qingling was educated in the United States and graduated from Wesleyan College in 1913. In 1914, on her way back to China, she stopped in Tokyo, where she met and immediately married Sun Yixian, founder of both the Republic of China (ROC) and the Guomindang (GMD, Nationalists). During her marriage to Sun, which ended with his death in 1925, she developed her own career in revolutionary politics.

As Sun's widow, Song assumed a greater role in politics. She was elected to serve on the GMD's Central Executive Committee until 1945. In 1927, she was also appointed a member of the State Council in the GMD government led by Jiang Jieshi, her brother-in-law as well as Sun's successor. Despite these familial connections, Song grew increasingly resentful of Jiang's hostility toward the Chinese communists, which she perceived as a betrayal of Sun's ideals of national unification. Embittered and frustrated, she left China and traveled to the Soviet Union and Europe in late 1927. She returned to China in 1931 and resisted taking part in politics, focusing instead on social welfare issues.

During the Sino-Japanese War, Song founded the China Defense League to promote the anti-Japanese war drive, an effort that included cooperation with the Chinese communists. Song's anti-Jiang and procommunist stance became even more obvious after the war, when she transformed the league into the China Welfare Fund, which supported communist-oriented organizations during the Chinese Civil War.

Upon the establishment of the PRC in 1949, the Chinese communists paid Song special treatment and great respect, primarily due to her symbolic value as a link between the PRC and Sun's revolutionary movement. Because of her past GMD connections, however, her PRC appointments were largely ceremonial in nature, carrying with them no real power or responsibility. She was, for a time, one of three noncommunist vice chairpersons in the new PRC government, a post she held until 1954, when Mao Zedong reorganized the government. She was also made the vice chairperson of the Sino-Soviet Friendship Association, owing to her earlier contacts with the Soviet Union. In 1959 she became one of the two vice chairpersons of the PRC, a post she retained until 1980. In early 1981, she was named honorary president of the PRC. Song died on 29 May 1981 in Beijing.

Law Yuk-fun


Further Reading
Zhang, Rong. Mme. Sun Yat-sen: Soong Ching-ling. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986.
 

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