Revolutionary China

Gung Ho, Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CICs) and the WCML

Revolutionary China

Walter Fung, SACU's magazine editor, gives the background to the well known phrase 'gung ho'. The article which first appeared in SACU's China Eye magazine 2012.

For the past 20 years, I drove past or was driven past on the bus, the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) on the 'Crescent' (the broad road leading from the centre of Manchester to northwest Salford). About six months ago I decided to take a look inside. Following a guided tour of the library, I asked what material the library had on Chinese history or Chinese working people in the UK. I was shown six large cardboard boxes containing a miscellany of brochures, magazines, leaflets and booklets mainly on Chinese history in the early part of the 20th century, wartime China (WW2) and on the China Campaign Committee of the 1930s and 1940s.

I was especially interested in one old magazine which contained an article on the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CIC), which were set up in wartime China to manufacture material for the war effort against Japan. Some of the workers in the cooperatives were young men who had been trained as apprentices in special schools set up for them. These schools were called Baillie schools which took them as young orphaned boys for education and training in factory skills.

This article is of special interest to SACU members at this time because next year, 2013 we are planning a trip to China which is to be called, 'In Joseph Needham's Footsteps: Journey to Dunhuang 70 years on.' Please see the reports of Richard Poxton in China Eye Issue 31 (page 31) and Issue 32 (page 31). We hope to visit Shandan, Gansu province where Rewi Alley and George Hogg relocated their Baillie School after Japanese attacks during 1944. The 'long march' of George Hogg leading his 60 orphans 688 miles across a war-ravished region of China was the subject of a film released in 2007, called 'The Children of Huang Shi.' In real life, Hogg, a Britain, virtually unknown outside of China, died of tetanus a year later at the age of 29. He is remembered with affection in Shandan where there is a statue to his memory.

The emblem of the CIC was the two Chinese characters, 'gong' and 'he' (pronounced 'hir' in Mandarin). They translate as 'work together' or sometimes 'work in harmony'. Although it is written differently, the Chinese character for 'harmony' is pronounced the same, 'he' (hir) and so in a way, both translations are correct. The phrase however is better known as 'Gung Ho', which was probably easier to say by Westerners and by American marines who used the phrase during the Second World War. Unfortunately, in recent years, the phrase 'Gung Ho' sometimes implies rash and irresponsible actions - nothing to do with the original meaning!

Not all textbooks on Chinese history of the time even give the Baillie schools a mention, but this particular magazine is of especial importance because the article was written close to the actual time and possibly by someone who had first-hand information. Possibly the author even took the photographs which appear with the article.

The six boxes at the WCML contain other publications dating from the early 1900s and onwards; some articles are written with a more sympathetic attitude towards China and Chinese workers. Possibly this is because they were written from a workers point of view and also because they were written before the start of the 'cold war'. Articles written in the pre-cold war era, i.e. before the late 1940s are an important source of information and probably provide a more balanced view of events, especially about China.

In addition there is a complete set of 'The Socialist Review' in the WCML which contains articles relating to China from time to time. One particular entry written by Bertrand Russell in the 1920s, entitled 'What is happening in China,' contains the sentence, 'In many ways the Chinese are the most civilised nation in the world and it is infinitely shameful that we make it our business to teach them lessons in barbarity.' I will write about Bertrand Russell's paper in more detail in a later issue of China Eye and I intend to do more reading at the WCML and will report any further interesting findings.

The WCML is as the name implies is a collection of material telling the story of working people in the UK. It is built around the collection of Ruth and Edmund Frow and holds tens of thousands of books, pamphlets, posters, banners, newspapers, prints and photographs. It is situated in Salford, M5 4WX. Website www.wcml.org.uk

Note: since writing this short general interest article, further information has been brought to my attention. The founders of the cooperatives' movement in China, Rewi Alley, Edgar and Helen Foster Snow and others called it 'Gung Ho.' To seek international support and to promote the 'Gung Ho' movement, Soong Qingling initiated the founding of the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (ICCIC) was elected honorary chair in 1939. ICCIC suspended services in 1952, but they were resumed in 1987 with opening up of China. The ICCIC International Secretarial office and the ICCIC Training Centre are in Beijing. The military attach? of the US Embassy in China, Evans F Carlson made the phrase 'Gung Ho' the slogan of the Carlson Commandos of the US Marine Corps. (Ref: www.gungho.org.cn )

© Copyright Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 2012 reprinted from SACU's magazine China Eye 33, Spring 2012

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of SACU.
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