Japan invaded China in 1931. The ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT) in China, led by Chiang Kai-shek, initially adopted a nonresistance policy toward the Japanese. Many overseas Chinese, including members of New York City’s Chinese Hand Laundry Alliance (CHLA), opposed the KMT’s passive position and organized “Save China” campaigns to raise money for a strong China. The CHLA sent letters and telegrams to American politicians urging them to adopt policies to support China against Japan. But the CHLA’s main strategy was to appeal directly to the American public by approaching their customers, residents of New York City. The CHLA’s flyers, which were enclosed in clean laundry packages, detailed Japanese aggression and called on Americans to urge their government to sanction Japan and support China. This 1938 editorial in the Chinese Vanguard praised their organizational energy.
Ever since the beginning of the War of Resistance, overseas Chinese have actively contributed to assist our fatherland. Speaking only of the American continents, one sees that from the American West Coast and San Francisco area five million dollars have been raised, and various sums in the millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars have been collected from each of the regions of Chicago, New York, Canada, and Latin and Central America. Not only did the brilliant success of this patriotic work give material assistance to soldiers at home, and heighten their morale, it also elicited solemn respect from the peoples of the countries friendly to us, and increased both the sympathy and the desire to assist us. It is clear from these results that the effectiveness of our patriotic work depends on how closely we are able to link our work to provide material assistance to our country to that of inspiring the friendship of westerners for our country. On this question, the New York HLA has made a very valuable contribution that can serve as an example to all overseas Chinese.
Not only was the HLA the first organization in New York to advocate raising funds to assist Chinese military resistance against Japan after the occurrence of the Marco Polo Bridge incident, the Alliance also initiated the movement to collect donations from westerners by placing relief boxes in hand laundries. At the same times, the Alliance distributed English-language leaflets calling on westerners to aid China. The HLA used the money it collected to buy ambulances. Bringing together Chinese and western associations, the Alliance organized—in support of the “Resist Japan and Save China” campaign—a demonstration which paraded at its head the ambulances purchased by the Alliance, and which was followed by a mass rally. What is the significance of these mass gatherings?
First, most Americans sympathize with our country and are willing to help us, but many do not know how. The sight of the ambulances reminded Americans of the bestial acts committed by Japanese thieves who cruelly murdered our women and children, and these Americans reacted in anger against such acts. The ambulances also reminded them of how desperately our refugees and brave soldiers needed material assistance, a reminder that caused them to think about how they could emulate the actions of the HLA. When they saw the orderly manner in which the demonstration and rally proceeded, and the excitement of all the participants, they understood that the unyielding spirit and organizational capacity of the Chinese people guaranteed that the final victory will belong to China. When the ambulances were displayed before the headquarters of the HLA, many western spectators were moved to tears. Some said, “I put money into the donation box of the HLA, I have to see the ambulances.” From this reaction one can see the HLA’s campaign allowed westerners to feel themselves included in the movement to save China, and encouraged them to assist us with still greater enthusiasm.
It was especially significant that the dignitaries who attended the rally that day included the American Congressman, Mr. Scott, and the representatives of such organizations as the Committee to Assist China—of the Peace and Democracy Alliance, which speaks for millions of people—and the Society for the Friends of Chinese People, which was the first organization to campaign for the boycott of Japanese goods. Mr. Scott spoke on behalf of some forty American Congressmen who opposed American “isolationism,” and both the Peace and Democracy Alliance, and the Society for the Friends of Chinese People are an important part of the American peace movement. These representatives of the American people were deeply moved when they witnessed the fervor expressed by the Chinese at the rally who came together to save China. And it is particularly important that Congressman Scott solemnly declared at the rally that he would continue to fight in Congress for an active policy of assisting China.
It can therefore be seen that the movement organized by the HLA has made an indelible contribution to the process of motivating our western friends to help China. At the same time, the eagerness shown by the Chinese at the rally in donating money for medical supplies proved that if we could make use of innovative and appropriate methods for mobilizing overseas Chinese, our enthusiasm and our capacity to save our country could be fully expressed.
Lastly, the fact that the HLA was able to obtain such good results—not only through the endeavors of the members of the Alliance, but also through the unified support and assistance of all sectors of Chinese-American society—is a source of pride for all Chinese in New York. We hope that Chinese organizations in New York and other areas will profit from the experience of the HLA and help to broaden the scope of all forms of material and spiritual aid to our fatherland. We also hope through our own actions to unite dignitaries and peace associations in the United States behind the causes of raising many more millions and tens of millions of dollars of relief fund from overseas, and of transforming American foreign policy from passive “ neutrality” to active assistance for China.
Source: Chinese Vanguard, 3 March, 1938, 1. (Translation by Chia Yin Hsu.)