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It is said that Chiang Kai-shek complained bitterly about his allies Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union (the latter admittedly not at war with Japan till the very end).

But when he stated that China's relationship with the other three was like "a weak man meeting a kidnapper, a hooligan and a bully" did he have a specific ally in mind for each role (Britain, for example, perhaps viewed by the Chinese as the "kidnapper" who had stolen Hong Kong) or did he just mean they were all three dangerous and overbearing?

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I'll see if I can find a Chinese version of the original diary entry this came from and see if he goes into any more detail... – kmlawson Jul 11 '13 at 11:05
It is from February 28, 1943 diary entry of Chiang Kai-shek. Answer will require reading rest of that entry or checking with Mitter. I looked at older published selected version of diary but that entry not included. Diaries now housed at the Hoover Institution at Stanford (oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt438nc7np). I'm guessing Rana Mitter saw them there or in a new published version by Academia Historica in Taiwan I don't have access to now. Also no mention in 找寻真实的蒋介石:蒋介石日记解读 by Yang Tianshi (杨天石) on diaries. Also didn't find hits for likely translations of quote in Chinese. – kmlawson Jul 11 '13 at 15:42
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Short Answer

The Kidnapper is the United States/Roosevelt. The Hooligan is Britain/Churchill. The Bully was the Soviet Union/Stalin.

For reference, this is the original passage from Chiang's diary:


Of the four members of the United Nations, we are the weakest; it is dangerous for the weak to be with a kidnapper, a hooligan and a bully. If a person does not strengthen themselves, no one else can help. And if a country does not strengthen itself, then friend or foe both see you as meat on a cutting board.

The Kidnapper

As @TomAu noted, this is a poor translation. The original Chinese phrase Chiang used, 拐子, actually has multiple meanings. There are two relevant definitions, neither of which is really captured by "kidnapper".

  • a person with crippled legs
  • a trickster who steal people or property through fraud.

It is apparent then, that here Chiang Kai-Shek meant Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States.

Note also that by 1943, Chiang had grown wary of the Western Allies. He was deeply dissatisfied with the Allies over their perceived European focus. Around February (a week before this entry), Chiang wrote of his suspicion that Roosevelt intended to use China to soak up the brunt of Japan's military might.

Such trickery would have made the United States a 拐子 in Chiang's eyes, at least at that particular juncture, in the sense of being a fraudulent scammer. Chiang later recycled this insult in a similar sense on Churchill exactly 13 months later. Outraged by what he perceived to be Churchill going back on the Atlantic Charter's promises, Chiang predicted in his 28 March 1944 diary that:


With such a two-faced act, England's deceitful tricks are completely exposed. I predict this kidnapper's end day cannot be far off.

The Hooligan

Hooligan is a pretty good translation. The Chinese word 流氓 is actually somewhat ill-defined, but indicates something along the lines of "a troublemaker without respect for laws or social order".

As the previous section shows, Chiang Kai-Shek harboured an intense dislike of Sir Winston Churchill and Britain because, from his perspective, the British Empire trampled over weaker nations without regard for right or wrong.

Chiang once vehemently wrote that "Today I learnt why Germany and Japan hated and must remove England and America. (乃知日德之所以必欲排除與痛恨英美之道矣)" And more specifically, when Britain backed out of a promise to fight in Burma and spoke of Tibet as an independent nation, a furious Chiang wrote that:


This exposes the true face of imperialism; not only do hooligans look down upon such acts, even the Axis and Japan will think this beneath them.

Hence, it appears that Chiang meant Great Britain and Churchill here.

The Bully

This is also an inadequate translation. The Chinese phrase of 土霸 is actually closer to a local ruffian. This locality distinction separates it from the 流氓 of the previous section.

While Chiang also thought of Churchill and the British Empire as scoundrels and bullies, he nonetheless recognised Britain as a global power with far flung territories. In contrast, although Russia is legitimately massive, it is concentrated in the frozen wastes of northern Eurasia. Moreover, the Soviet Union simply had much smaller of a global presence at the time.

In conclusion, Chiang is likely referring to Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union here.

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fantastic answer, happy to accept this – Tea Drinker Nov 21 '14 at 11:44
Actually, the "Big Four" were the core of the original 26 nations of the UN. There were three other groups: 1) British Commonwealth nations 2) U.S.-aligned Western Hemisphere Nations and 3) occupied nations such as Norway, Poland, and the Benelux countries whose governments in exile supported the Allies. – Tom Au Nov 21 '14 at 15:12
@TomAu Well, you could try telling the Generalissimo that he forgot the other 22 nations, but I don't think he would be very receptive ;P – Semaphore Nov 21 '14 at 15:15
@Semaphore: Actually, the Big 4 represented the UN Security Council ('s permanent members) at the time. France came later. – Tom Au Nov 21 '14 at 15:25

America was the kidnapper, Russia was the hooligan, and Britain was the bully.

Chiang was most afraid of America, because its affluence made it easy to seduce or corrupt Chinese people, particularly "young" people. "Kidnapper" was arguably a bad translation; "Pied Piper" or even "hijacker" would have been better. Russia was the hooligan because of its many years under Mongol rule. Britain, aka John Bull, was the "bully."

Edit: This answer (and its predecessor) was not based on an actual knowledge of Chiang's thoughts, but rather, my (Chinese) family's understanding of "kidnapper," hooligan" and "bully."

Semaphore and I agree that the America was the "kidnapper," although the word I would use is "seducer" (or Verfuhrer in German. I respectfully disagree with him about the other two.

Russia was considered a "two-faced" country, and therefore a "hooligan." For instance, in 1927 (and later), Russia had advisors advising both the Nationalists and Communists (a conflict of interest). Chiang decided to rid himself of this conflict of interest by (almost) destroying the Communists. Then there was the Nazi-SOVIET pact of 1939, which Chinese regarded as a betrayal to the Axis. One anecdote that particularly incenses my mother is that the Soviets promised a certain amount of military aid, then "fulfilled" that promise by delivering obsolete Polish equipment captured in the 1939 invasion.

Churchill and Britain were considered "imperialists," racists, "not a friend of China," "not a real ally," etc. That's why he would be considered a "bully" and not a "hooligan."

Naturally Chiang was hurt by certain amount of "back and forth" on Britain's part. For all that, it was never as hurtful as what the Russians did to him. For instance, he was put off by Britain's pro-Tibet stance, but the Russians did him far more damage (after the war), by infiltrating Mao's troops into Manchuria. And it was the Russians who attempted to control him by infiltrating both the Nationalist and Communist parties in 1927m, something the British never did.

Chiang famously said,"the Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Coummnists are a disease of the heart." I would paraphrase that to say, "the British are a disease of the skin, the Russians are a disease of the heart."

Source: I am the American-born son of Chinese immigrants. My father is the nephew of this man.

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So does that mean this is from your own personal knowledge, or that you asked your father and this was his answer? – T.E.D. Nov 20 '14 at 20:01
@T.E.D.: Let's just say it came through the "family." There are other relatives, but I listed the most prominent one. – Tom Au Nov 20 '14 at 21:02
So "family lore" perhaps? – T.E.D. Nov 20 '14 at 21:54
@TomAu enjoyed your answer, thanks for the personal insights – Tea Drinker Nov 21 '14 at 11:44

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