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

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HYDE PARK, Wednesday—As a result of being told on almost every hand how few of us really understand the situation in China, I am inclined to think back to the time when I first began to be interested in a "Chinese situation." Before my marriage I heard very little about politics at home or abroad, and I knew very little about China except what I read in my history and geography books. But I married into a family that had close ties with China. Many of the Delanos had lived for years in China and all of those who knew China loved the Chinese people and had great admiration for the Chinese merchants.

I was introduced to Chinese art. I saw many things that had been made in China, and I heard the country talked about far more than ever before. Then in January, 1919, when I crossed the Atlantic with my husband, who was on his way to Europe to close up the Navy installations, I found on the ship two Chinese delegations. One was from the north and one from the south, and they were journeying to the Paris Peace Conference. For the first time I became conscious of the fact that civil war was going on in China. On board ship the representatives of these fighting areas seemed to get on perfectly well but at home they were at war. However, I supposed once they arrived in Paris they could cooperate because in a broad way the interests of China would be much the same.

That war never really came to an end. When the Japanese invaded China they probably welded together more closely for a time the innumerable factions that always exist there. But I think one never could have called China a nation. There were so many independent rulers, separated by slow communications and transportation.

It seemed for a time that Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek would succeed in forming a coalition government and bring about a unified China, in which reforms of importance to the people could be accomplished. The needs were for sanitation services, improved agriculture, universal elementary education and honest government. I had known James Yen in the United States and knew that he hoped very much to be permitted to try out in one small province these four ideas.

When General Marshall was sent to China it was because the vast sums of money and the great aid in materials sent by us to Chiang did not seem to be bringing about any of these reforms for the people. And no coalition government was materializing. General Marshall was faced with a perplexing problem. If we gave Chiang military aid we would have to take charge not only of the actual maneuvers of the army, but we would have to bring about reforms in government—a government in which for centuries everything obtained was paid for through bribes to many officials. This seemed a hopeless proposition and one which might swallow up a great deal not only of American money but of men. It was obvious that the people of the United States were not prepared at that time to undertake any such commitments.

We shall continue this review tomorrow.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Hyde Park (Dutchess County, N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 4, 1951

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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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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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.