Note from an old “China hand” (Finds from the archive 4)

These extraordinary days when commentaries are prohibited on Chinese micro blogs and the air is full of rumours around the Chinese leadership, I happened to stumble on something in an old book. I was going through the Sam Sköld book collection, and as I opened the second volume of Stanislas Julien’s Syntaxe nouvelle de la langue Chinoise (1869-70) I noticed a thin paper with a typed note in English.

It was a note on postponing the meeting of ”The China Study Group” in Wuhan (武汉), dated 31 May 1934, and it was signed by the secretary of the group, Edmund Clubb. At the next meeting Mr. Clubb would be speaking on ”Authoritarian Government and the Present Situation in China”, a title that could fit any seminar or conference today.

The note from Edmund Clubb

It is not clear who the other members of the ”study group” were, only Sam Sköld and Edmund Clubb (1901-1989) are known. When Mr. Clubb wrote the note in 1934 he was the American consul in Hankou. He is especially interesting because he became a victim of McCarthyism (麦卡锡主义) and one of the ”China hands” (中国通) accused of ”loosing China” after the PRC was established. He was then US Consul General in Beijing, and was the one to close the consulate and haul down the US flag in April 1950. After returning to the USA he became head of the China desk at the US State Department, but was suspended after only a year as a ”security risk”. His testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities is available here.

It would have been very interesting to hear Mr. Clubb talk that day in June 1934 in Hankou, and it is likely he had insights in the events of those days that few other Westerners had. He wrote several books on China, and one of his reports from 1932 was published in its entirety in 1968 as Communism in China: as reported from Hankow in 1932. It was probably the first in-depth diplomatic report about Communism in China to reach the US State Department.

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