Chen Bulei

Name in Chinese
Name in Wade-Giles
Ch'en Pu-lei
Related People

Biography in English

Ch'en Pu-lei 陳布雷 Ch'en Pu-lei (26 December 1890 - 13 November 1948) was best known as Chiang Kai-shek's confidential assistant (1935-48), in which position he phrased the policies of the Kuomintang and the National Government. Previously, he had served as the editor of the Shang Pao and of the China Times. In 1939 he became deputy secretary general of the Supreme National Defense Council. In 1948 he committed suicide. A native of Tz'uhsi, Chekiang, Ch'en Pu-lei received his early education from private tutors. He spent the years from 1906 to 1911 in the Chekiang Higher School at Hangchow, where he began to develop an interest in current political affairs. His school days also led to a nickname, "Bread Boy," given him by a classmate in Hangchow who thought Ch'en's round face resembled a loaf of bread. Ch'en continued to use the name "Pu-lei," the Chinese phonetic rendering of the English word "bread," throughout his later career. After graduation from school, Ch'en worked briefly in Shanghai as a journalist on the well known magazine T'ien-to pao, which then was edited by Tai Chi-t'ao. From 1912 to 1920, he taught intermittently at the Hsiao-shih Middle School at Ningpo. After his father's death in 1914, Ch'en Pu-lei, as the eldest son, abandoned his teaching duties for a time to attend to family responsibilities.

In 1920 he went to Shanghai to serve on the editorial staff of the Commercial Press preparing the Chinese edition of Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. After a few months, he again turned to journalism and became chief editor of the Shang Pao [commercial journal]. During the next six years, Ch'en Pu-lei, in cooperation with P'an Kung-chan and others, developed the Shang Pao into one of the leading newspapers of Shanghai. These were years of great political ferment, and Ch'en Pu-lei's articles, which gave vigorous support to the cause of Chinese nationalism and to the revolutionary forces then centered at Canton, drew much attention. Originally intended as an organ for the Shanghai business community, the Shang Pao gained increasing popularity among students and intellectuals because of its close coverage of contemporary events. In a special article, Ch'en Pu-lei mourned the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925, while some other newspapers either ignored or ridiculed Sun's passing. Moreover, the Shang Pao followed the progress of the Northern Expedition with eagerness and reported the Nationalist capture of Wuhan with enthusiasm.

Late in 1926, at the age of about 36, Ch'en Pu-lei began to participate actively in Chinese politics. With his associate, P'an Kung-chan, Ch'en went to Nanchang, capital of Kiangsi province, to report on the National Revolutionary Army. Chiang Kai-shek, whose temporary headquarters was then at Nanchang, knew of Ch'en Pu-lei's lucid editorials and of the Shang Pao's outspoken sympathy for the Nationalists. He invited Ch'en Pu-lei to remain at Nanchang to assist him in drafting political messages and other statements. Ch'en then joined the Kuomintang. In the spring of 1927, Ch'en worked briefly in the Chekiang provincial government, then headed by Chang Jen-chieh. In May of that year Ch'en went to Nanking to join the secretariat of the central headquarters of the Kuomintang, the party organ then supervised by Hu Han-min, Ting Wei-fen, and Ch'en Kuo-fu (qq.v.). After the Nanking-Wuhan schism, Ch'en Pu-lei returned to Shanghai early in 1928 to become chief editor of the Shih-shih hsin-pao (China Times), a post he held for about two years. He continued to render personal assistance to Chiang Kai-shek, accompanying him twice to Peking and drafting state papers for him.

In 1930 Ch'en Pu-lei was appointed vice minister of education in Nanking. In 1931 he was named vice minister of the central propaganda department of the Kuomintang. He served twice during this period as commissioner of education in his native Chekiang, in 1930 and from 1932 to 1934. Ch'en Pu-lei relinquished his post in Chekiang in 1934 to go to Kiangsi, where he entered the personal service of Chiang Kai-shek. He served in Chiang's Nanchang headquarters and in 1935 became director of the second department of the Generalissimo's attendance office, where he served as confidential assistant to Chiang for over a decade. In retrospect, according to Ch'en Pu-lei's own estimate in his memoir, his most productive period was from 1934 to 1940. During these years his writings presented China's case to the nation and to the world, and served to enhance Chiang Kai-shek's political stature as wartime leader of China. As Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated, Ch'en's responsibilities grew, and Chiang Kai-shek made increasing use of Chen's talent for phrasing the policies of the Kuomintang and the National Government. At the beginning of 1935, with a view to warning Japan that its expansionist policies would never conquer China, Ch'en Pu-lei composed a long article, "Enemy or Friend?" This statement was published in the periodical Wai-chiao p'ing-lun [diplomatic review] under the name of Hsu Taolin. (Hsu, then serving on the staff under Ch'en, was the son of Hsu Shu-cheng, a former associate of Tuan Ch'i-jui who was noted for his pro- Japanese sentiments.) The article challenged Japan to make the choice between friendship and emnity, bearing in mind that the National Government of China was more anti-Communist than anti-Japanese and that it would grow stronger in war. The article's argument impressed the civilian government at Tokyo, which favored the idea of dominating but not conquering China through a rapprochement based on resistance to Communism and economic cooperation with Japan. However, the article did not please the Japanese militarists, particularly those in Manchuria, who responded by attempting to establish separatist regimes in both north China and Inner Mongolia.

In 1936 Ch'en Pu-lei became deputy secretary general of the Central Political Council, the body which linked the Kuomintang and the National Government, and he bore heavy responsibilities during the period of the Sian Incident in December of that year. He resigned his post in the Central Political Council, and in May 1937 he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to seek release from his official duties to recuperate at Hangchow. After the outbreak of war in July, however, Ch'en resumed his duties with Chiang Kai-shek and, when the National Military Council was expanded at Hankow in 1938, he became deputy to Chang Ch' tin (q.v.), secretary general of the council. Ch'en also played a major role in composing state papers for Chiang Kai-shek and was active in the planning for the San Min Chu I Youth Corps.

Following the evacuation of the National Government to west China in late 1938, Ch'en continued as confidential secretary to Chiang Kai-shek, drafting important policy statements and messages. In 1939, when the Supreme National Defense Council was established in Chungking to coordinate control of military and civil affairs in China, Ch'en became deputy secretary general, serving first under Chang Ch'ün and later under Wang Ch'ung-hui. He held that position for the duration of the conflict. The demands of the Japanese war period, combined with the deterioration of the Nationalist political position after 1945, drained Ch'en Pu-lei's resources. He was greatly concerned by the expansion of Communist power and by the rising tide of criticism of Chiang Kai-shek, and he increasingly felt that his usefulness was spent. In November 1948 in Nanking he took his own life with an overdose of sleeping drugs, leaving letters of explanation to his family, to Chiang Kai-shek, and to several close friends. He was buried in December 1948 in a scenic spot on the outskirts of Hangchow where he had once planned to live after retiring from political life.

Ch'en Pu-lei's autobiography up to his fiftieth birthday is contained in a volume of memoirs entitled Ch'en Pu-lei hui-i lu [reminiscences of Ch'en Pu-lei], published in Shanghai in 1939. The entries, written in the form of a diary and reproduced in his own calligraphy, also contain a wealth of information and opinion about contemporary events, institutions, and personalities.

Ch'en Pu-lei was well known by contemporary Chinese newsmen as a journalist. His interests were in the realm of journalism, and he often functioned as press secretary, as well as aide and confidant, to Chiang Kai-shek.

Ch'en Pu-lei was conservative, patriotic, loyal, and oriented toward the observance and preservation of traditional virtues. He combined great talent in writing Chinese prose with acute perception of the thoughts and aspirations of his superior, the Generalissimo. These traits, as well as his personal integrity, helped to create for Ch'en Pu-lei a distinctive position in modern Chinese politics.

Biography in Chinese

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