Eugene Chen


EUGENE CHEN, four times Foreign Minister of Chinese government one of the most dynamic political figures of the twentieth-century, was born of Negro-Chinese-Spanish parentage in British West Indies. His family name was Akam.

Education for the law in England, he returned to Trinidad where but because of minor disagreements with the island he decided to cast his lot with the Chinese and left for where he became legal adviser to the Ministry of Communications 1912.

Two years later he founded The Peking Gazette, and being a polemist and fighter who knew but one tactic, a vigorous and attack, he selected as his chief target the strongest foe possible: the North China Daily News, chief spokesman of British interests in the Far East, the defender of capital, and the prestige and power Britain had built up in that region. At that commerce was centered in Shanghai, then a so-called settlement, but this commerce was chiefly for Britain's to some extent that of Japan, then an ally of Financial power was centered in the British Hong Kong Bank. As a result of his onslaughts, Chen was arrested in 1916 and thrown into a narrow cell with five lice-covered However because he was still a British subject and because extraterritoriality yet existed in China, he asserted that he was being illegally held and was released, apparently because of this, in 1917.

Undaunted, he now entered the enemy's stronghold, Shanghai, where he joined Dr. Sun Yat-sen, founder of Nationalist China, and became his personal adviser and private secretary, a position he held until Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925. He also founded The Shanghai Gazette, in which he renewed his attacks on British interests and was again thrown into prison, but was later freed.

In 1919 he was a delegate to the Versailles Conference where he formulated China's demands in clear, unmistakable terms. He demanded, among other things, the abolition of concession territories, insisting that all such be placed under a mixed Chinese and foreign administration with Chinese predominant. This demand later paved the way for China's victory over the extraterritorial powers formerly held by the white governments.

In 1922 he founded the Ming Pao, or People's Tribune, and became chief adviser to the Southern Government of China. In an effort to build up Chinese commerce, not for the benefit of the whites and the Japanese, but the Chinese, he led a strike and a boycott principally against British interests. He asked the Chinese not to speak English and not to use English ships nor to buy and sell British-made goods. This had such effect that in 1926 the British yielded and asked for a conference in which most of Chen's demands were granted and out of which came the Chen-O'Malley Agreement in which Britain returned to China the rich port of Hankow.

In 1927, while Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in preventing war between China on one hand and Britain and the United States on the other. White people had been mobbed by the Chinese in Nanking and from southern China had come terrible rumors of the violation of white women. The result was a great outcry for military intervention and the world "stood at the eve of a war in which the Russian-Asiatic and the capitalistic-western powers would clash." President Coolidge had already dispatched American marines to the scene, but Chen stepped into the breach and in an eloquent note to the white powers expressed China's willingness for peace. He said that he was willing to have the disturbances thoroughly investigated, asking only that the verdict, whether it be for or against China, be just. This frankness had such an effect on President Coolidge that he recalled the marines and in a public address declared for peace to the great discontent of the interests who wanted war in order to gain greater power in China.

The same year, however, due largely to European intrigue there was a split between the Nanking and the Wuhan governments and Chen retired to France, but returned in 1931 to become Foreign Minister of the Canton Government.

While in China Chen married Miss Chang Tsing-ying, daughter of Chang Chen-kiang, head of the Cheking Provincial Government.

The New York Times in its obituary of Chen (May 21, 1944) says:

Eugene Chen, British-born Chinese publisher and politician, was four times Foreign Minister in various Chinese Governments and twice was a refugee when his political fortunes were at low ebb.

An early member of the Kuomintang and one of the first to support Sun Yat Sen, Mr. Chen was at times a bitter enemy of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and on other occasions was outwardly his ally. However, since 1941 he had been in Shanghai, apparently harbored by the Japanese, with whom he had on several occasions in the Nineteen Twenties and Nineteen Thirties conducted involved negotiations.

When Chiang Kai-shek was friendly with the Soviet Union Mr. Chen was Foreign Minister of the Russian-dominated Hankow Government, unofficially run by Borodin and Bluecher. In 1927, after the collapse of the Hankow Government, Mr. Chen fled to Russia when Borodin staged his famous "retreat across the Gobi Desert," and with him went other Chinese leaders with left-wing tendencies.

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