All about the Chinese Air Force of the Guomindang (Nationalist) government that resisted Japanese aggression from 1931 to 1945

Looking Back From Ninety



China has a new mission for the Flying Tigers

I long ago realized that the Flying Tigers are better known in China than in the U.S., and I concluded that the People's Republic was using Claire Chennault, the American Volunteer Group, and the US Army squadrons that followed it as propaganda to bring the United States around to its way of thinking. But November was something else entirely. First up was the government's "Edgar Snow Newsroom". (Mr Snow was one of communism's "useful idiots" in the 1930s, an American who whitewashed Mao Zedong and the People's Liberation Army: "Chinese communism," he wrote, "... might more accurately be called rural egalitarnianism". Similarly, in Moscow, Walter Duranty whitewashed Stalin's Russia as bureau chief for the New York Times.)

The "newsroom" anchor is Ian Goodrum, a Texan who joined the Communist Party USA (yes, it still exists, though a shadow of its former self) in 2016 and soon got a job in China. On the air, he's very effective and not nearly as shrill as in his written work. On his Veteran's Day broadcast, he made the usual switch of ignoring the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek, as if Claire Chennault had come to China on behalf of the People's Liberation Army. The Old Man of course was anti-communist to the bone, famously writing of his first meeting with Chiang's wife, Soong Mei-Ling: "Granted an interview by Her Excellency ... who will hereafter be 'The Princess' to me." He was as good as his word: during the Chinese Civil War, his paramilitary airline supported the Chiangs, and he fled with them to Taiwan in 1949.

You can see the interview here -- and how reasonable it is! We meet Bill Peterson, a B-24 gunner in the 14th Air Force, who happily agrees that we must restore American and Chinese relations to what they were in the good old days of the Second World War. Next up is Chennault's granddaughter, Nell Callloway, president of the Chennault Aviation Museum in Monroe, Louisiana. And finally there's Larry Jobe of the Flying Tigers Historical Organization, like the others pleading for Americans to understand and love China.

There was a reprise a few days later, following the virtual summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. The US media loved this bit of propaganda, which again featured Mr Peterson, the B-24 gunner, but reinforced this time by Cynthia Chennault, the Old Man's daughter from his late-life marriage to the formidable (and fiercely anti-communist) Anna Chan. Professor Chennault (she's retired from teaching Chinese history at the University of Florida) hoped that "Americans and Chinese will not be blocked by past failures, but together open new paths of collaboration for the world's well-being." And who can argue with that? The Associated Press story ran in full on the Washington Post and many other newspapers, and even Fox News fell for it.

While these perfumed breezes waft from Beijing, Xi Jinping of course continues to militarize his artifical islands in the South China Sea, weaponize his hypersonic missile, steal American technology, dispatch fighters and bombers into Taiwan's airspace, and annoint himself China's leader-for-life with the goal of replacing the United States as the world's greatest military power and model for how other countries should govern themselves. I do not believe that Mr Peterson, Mr Jobe, Ms Calloway, and Prof Chennault will be very happy with how that turns out. Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford

The CAF files