This section emphasizes the national and global backdrop of the time in which Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s visit occurred. In order to best understand the impact of the visit and speech, we must understand the context of the time.[1] In doing so, we encounter a number of conflicting perceptions, which define this era of Chinese American history.[2] Over the course of time, the conflicting nature of these perceptions has created the Chinese American experience as we know it today.  From Sino-American relations, to American political events, to racial tensions in the country, an examination of the “American perspective” is necessary. With the help of both primary and secondary sources, the impact of Madame Chiang’s visit and speech can be contextualized in relation to the trends of the day.

Copyright Los Angeles Public Library - Harry Quillen Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps one of the best ways to obtain a grasp of the time period is to look into newspapers. Newspapers are a time capsule of any given era, as articles are “objectively” (often subjectively, which can also tell the reader something) written on a regular basis.[3] By examining the attitudes expressed by reporters, we can begin to formulate general conceptions of the era, knowing that the press was both a representation of the general public but also of massive influence to its readers.  As can often be done with many other issues, an understanding of the early White American perspective on the Chinese American experience can be constructed by examining local and national newspapers.  From major articles speaking directly of the issue to what are seemingly trivial accounts of small events, many conclusions can be drawn from the ink of the American journalist.

This section will combine knowledge from books and articles written on the period with newspapers to create a realistic perspective on the 1930′s and 40′s in America as relates to the Chinese American experience. In doing so, the Madame Chiang Project will be brought to the national and global contexts, and in turn, be more clearly understood in the context of Los Angeles Chinatown as a part of these larger contexts.

[1] Li, Laura Tyson, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek: China’s Eternal First Lady, New York: Grove Press, 2007.

[2] Ronald Knapp, “China perceived, perceiving China: American myths and realities of the People’s Republic,” in East Asia: Geographical and Historical Approaches to Foreign Area Studies (Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Press, 1982), 157-167.

[3] “Newspapers: Primary source of reliable info,” The Times and Democrat, (accessed November 18, 2010).