The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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NEW YORK, Thursday—I was reported the other day to have made a criticism of Madame Chiang and that leads me to devote this column today to a few thoughts on the Chinese situation and our own relationship to that situation.

Sensational things have been said of late by people in high places. My few words are aimed at something quite different from criticism. I believe we should make an effort to understand a situation which to most Americans is difficult and confusing.

When Madame Chiang was here she spoke of democracy in words which we all applauded. Anyone living in China however knows quite well that there is still a great gulf between those words and the possibility of living in China today in what we would consider a democratic way of life.

We, of all people, should know that democracy requires a literate people. The Chinese people have been divided by different spoken dialects so that a man from one section of the country cannot be understood in another. The educated Chinese are held in high esteem because it takes so long to become educated, and the average Chinese who is for the most part, a peasant or a worker, has only had an opportunity in the very few past years to learn basic Chinese. Only a few million of China's teeming millions can read and write what may someday become a common language and this is the first step in the unification of China.

The Generalissimo's great strength has been his desire to unify China in which Madame Chiang always has helped him. But because this is such a difficult task and those undertaking it, are at times in such precarious positions, there is greater fear of the opposition than there would be, let us say, in our own country, of any movement against our country's democratic form of government. We are not seriously afraid of either fascism or communism because we know that as long as through our democratic form of government, we meet the needs of the people, there will be no threat to democracy.

But the needs of the people are far from being met in China today and so the comparatively small group, known as Communists, do inspire greater fear in the Central Government.

The papers have reported of late, a movement in China under the Democratic League, whose leader is Mr. Sun Fo, son of Sun Yat-Sen. From what one reads it would seem that this might be the middle of the road group which might bridge the gap between the left and the right. One thing seems to me quite certain, according to General Hurley and our State Department, we agreed to support the Generalissimo in his efforts to create a unified government in China, and that is our obligation. But we did not agree to use force against any group in China, and it would be very undemocratic if we tried to settle Chinese internal problems for them.

It is obvious to us as citizens of a democracy that there never can be any unity in any great country unless all parts of that country and all shades of opinion have full expression and representation. That seems to me vital in the solution of Chinese problems today.

E. R.


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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, December 7, 1945

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.