Biography in English

Ch'en Li-fu 陳立夫 Ch'en Li-fu (1900-) directed the investigation division of the Kuomintang for about a decade after 1928. He served as secretary general of the Kuomintang central headquarters (1929-31), head of the organization department (1932-36; 1938-39; 1944-48), and minister of education (1938-44). He and his brother, Ch'en Kuo-fu, were known as the leaders of the so-called CC clique. In 1948 he became vice president of the Legislative Yuan and then minister without portfolio. In 1950 he left China and later went to live in the United States.

Wuhsing hsien, Chekiang province, was the birthplace of Ch'en Li-fu. He was a nephew of Ch'en Ch'i-mei (q.v.), an early supporter of Sun Yat-sen who became military governor of Shanghai after the 1911 revolution, and he was the younger brother of Ch'en Kuo-fu. He received his early education in the traditional curriculum in Wuhsing and then attended the Nan-yang lu-k'uang School in Shanghai. At that time Gh'en Kuo-fu was in Shanghai and was associated with Ch'en Ch'i-mei, Chiang Kai-shek, and others in political activities directed against Yuan Shih-k'ai.

In 1917 Ch'en Li-fu went to north China to enter Peiyang College at Tientsin, where he studied mining engineering. Ch'en Kuo-fu provided funds to enable him to gain a modern education. Ch'en Li-fu graduated from Peiyang College in 1923 and then went to the United States for advanced study. He was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a B.S. degree in 1924 and an M.S. degree in mining engineering in 1925. To gain practical experience, he then worked as a coal miner in Pittsburgh and Scranton and joined the United Mine Workers. An observant and conscientious student, Ch'en Li-fu during his student years in China and the United States, focused his attention upon scientific and technological development as the key to the modernization of China. When he returned to China in the winter of 1925, he was offered a position in the Chunghsing Coal Mines in Shantung province. That offer came from the Shanghai banker and industrialist Ch'ien Yung-ming (q.v.), also a native of Wuhsing, who had interests in the mines and who had heard of the abilities and training of the young mining engineer. However, Ch'en Kuo-fu by then was involved in recruiting cadets for the Whampoa Military Academy, and he persuaded Ch'en Li-fu to abandon his engineering career to devote himself to the Nationalist revolution. At Canton, Chiang Kai-shek became commander in chief of the National Revolutionary Army in the summer of 1926. Ch'en Li-fu, through his brother's introduction, entered Chiang's service as a confidential secretary. His immediate superior was Shao Li-tzu (q.v.), then chief secretary of the Whampoa Military Academy. Ch'en Li-fu served in Chiang Kaishek's personal entourage during the Northern Expedition, which moved Nationalist power to the Yangtze valley. The young aide quickly won Chiang's confidence by his devotion to duty and his competence in handling correspondence and in coding and decoding important messages. In 1928, Ch'en Li-fu was assigned as director of the investigation division of the central headquarters of the reorganized Kuomintang at Nanking. He also became head of the confidential section of the National Military Council and secretary general of the National Reconstruction Commission. The investigation division of the Kuomintang department of organization was responsible for identifying and removing from the Kuomintang Communists or persons suspected of Communist sympathies or connections. During the decade after 1928 when the division was headed by Ch'en Li-fu, it was composed of three sections devoted to confidential investigations of civilian personnel, military personnel, and other matters. These sections were headed, respectively by Hsu En-tseng, Tai Li (q.v.), and Ting Mo-ts'un. That division was the primary organ of the Kuomintang responsible for internal security and for extirpating Communists in the National Government and the military forces, as well as in the party. Its director was criticized not only by the Communists but also by other Chinese who distrusted the tactics and the privileged political position of the department.

Ch'en Li-fu's control of the investigation apparatus enabled him to gain a powerful position in the inner core of the Kuomintang after 1928. In March 1929, when the Third National Congress convened at Nanking, the meeting, thanks to the careful preparatory work of Ch'en Kuo-fu, was dominated by supporters of Chiang Kai-shek. Ch'en Li-fu, known to enjoy the complete personal confidence of Chiang, was elected to membership on the Central Executive Committee, a position he held until 1950. From 1929 to 1931 Ch'en Li-fu was secretary general of the central headquarters of the Kuomintang at Nanking. In December 1931 he was named deputy director of the organization department of the party. In 1932, when Ch'en Kuo-fu was named acting chairman of the Hwai River Conservation Commission, Ch'en Li-fu succeeded him as director of the organization department of the Kuomintang. His primary political mission was to consolidate and strengthen the political position of Chiang Kai-shek. At that time, such men as Hu Han-min and Wang Ching-wei (qq.v.) possessed greater prestige in the Kuomintang than did Chiang. Ch'en Li-fu handled his task with notable industry and conspicuous success. Until 1935 the major organs of the Kuomintang, the Central Executive Committee and the Central Supervisory Committee, were self-perpetuating groups in which many critics and opponents of Chiang Kai-shek had position and influence. At the Fifth National Congress in 1935, through judicious control of the party machine and of the methods of nomination, Ch'en Li-fu succeeded in expanding the membership of these committees to ensure substantial majority support for Chiang Kai-shek. Ch'en Li-fu's personal prestige was enhanced in 1935, when he was elected to the nine-man standing committee of the Central Executive Committee. The political organization developed at Nanking through the efforts of Ch'en Kuo-fu and Ch'en Li-fu attracted attention both for its consistent loyalty to Chiang Kai-shek and for its stubborn opposition to the Communists. Essentially, the so-called CC clique of the Kuomintang (see Ch'en Kuo-fu) was a close-knit, if informal, group of conservatives who were regarded as being influential in the administration of party affairs. Ch'en Li-fu founded and edited the Ching Pao [capital newspaper], a daily paper published at Nanking. He also directed the publication of the Shih-shih yueh-pao [current events monthly], which was modeled on the American magazine Current History. He was also founder of the National Cultural Reconstruction Association, an organization devoted to study and implementation of the principles set forth by Sun Yat-sen, and was one of the promoters of the New Life Movement, launched by the Kuomintang to combat Communism. He was the founder and director general of the Cheng-chung Book Company, a publishing enterprise established by the Kuomintang to produce books incorporating the official Kuomintang interpretation of political doctrine and current events. Ch'en outlined his personal program in an article in the Tung-fang tsa-chih [eastern miscellany] in 1935. As stated in the article, his aims were: to make the youth of China appreciate the past glories of Chinese culture and gain a new spirit of national self confidence; to popularize scientific developments which would enable China to catch up with the Western countries; to spur the development of such communications devices as a Chinese typewriter, telegraph decoding machine and type-setting machine; and to encourage the study of the doctrines of Sun Yat-sen. Through this program Ch'en hoped to bring about a renaissance in China.

Ch'en Li-fu's philosophical views were incorporated in a book entitled Wei-sheng lun, which propounded his theory of vitalism. Vitalism, allegedly based on the ancient Chinese I-ching [book of changes], attempted to recapture the essence of China's cultural tradition 2nd to provide a philosophical basis for the political and social theories of Sun Yat-sen. In effect, the Wei-sheng lun argued that Ch'en's neo-orthodox interpretation of Sun's views was superior to the imported doctrine of Marxism- Leninism. The book was translated into English by Jen T'ai and was published in New York in 1948 as Philosophy of Life, with a foreword by Dean Roscoe Pound of the Harvard Law School. As a confidential and trusted supporter of Chiang Kai-shek, Ch'en Li-fu played an important role in national and international politics. In 1935, as Japan's pressure on north China increased, Ch'en took up with Soviet Ambassador Bogmolov the question of Russian military aid to China in the event of war between China and Japan and explored the possibility of negotiating a Sino-Soviet nonaggression pact. Bogmolov reportedly suggested that personal discussions between Ch'en Li-fu and Stalin might be in order. Ch'en thus left for Europe on 25 December 1935, traveling under the name of Li Yung-ch'ing. He sailed on the same ship with Ch'eng T'ien-fang, who had just been appointed China's envoy to Germany, but the two refrained from public meetings on the voyage in order not to betray Ch'en Li-fu's identity. Ch'en Li-fu remained in Berlin for some weeks awaiting further communications from Moscow. No message came from Stalin, however, and in April 1936 Ch'en returned to China.

During 1936 Chiang Kai-shek, despite the Japanese threat, made renewed plans to launch an offensive against the Chinese Communists, who by then had retreated from Kiangsi to northwest China. The Communists, on the basis of the united-front strategy which had been outlined at the Seventh Congress of the Comintern in the summer of 1935, were pressing for a cessation of the civil war in China and for the development of a program of unified national resistance against Japan. In December 1936 Chiang Kai-shek was seized by Chang Hsueh-liang and Yang Hu-ch'eng (qq.v.) at Sian and was confronted with demands that reflected the Communist program. Ch'en Li-fu, who was in Nanking when the Sian Incident took place, was aware of the direct Communist interest in the affair. He therefore made contact with the Communist P'an Han-nien at Shanghai with the aim of prevailing upon the Communists to exercise a moderating influence on the rebellious Kuomintang generals. When Chou En-lai went to Sian, he did counsel moderation. Ch'en Li-fu was to have accompanied T. V. Soong on his trip to Sian to conclude the negotiations, but was prevented from going by illness. Chiang Kai-shek was released on 25 December. The Sian Incident, as Ch'en Li-fu himself later observed, greatly affected the course of recent Chinese history and led to the outbreak of Sino-Japanese hostilities in the summer of 1937. The National Government and the Kuomintang soon were reorganized on a wartime basis, and Ch'en Li-fu was named to a senior post on the National Military Council. In January 1938, he was appointed minister of education, succeeding Wang Shih-chieh (q.v.). In the spring of 1938, the Extraordinary Conference of the Kuomintang, meeting at Hankow, elected Chiang Kai-shek to the post of tsungts'ai [party leader], the top-ranking position in the Kuomintang to which Chiang had long aspired and which only Sun Yat-sen had held before him. Chiang's election reflected Ch'en Li-fu's assiduous organizational planning during the pre-war years. He resumed direction of the organization department of the Kuomintang in January 1938, succeeding Chang Li-sheng, and remained in that position until the end of December 1939, when he was succeeded by Chu Chia-hua. Ch'en then assumed direction of the social affairs department of the Kuomintang, a new unit in the central party structure. Ch'en Li-fu's 1938 appointment as minister of education in the National Government was intended as a tribute not only to his organizational skills but also to his personal concern with the doctrinal training and political behavior of China's youth. Ch'en's term of office lasted for nearly seven years during a difficult period in the evolution of modern Chinese education. Ch'en himself took considerable pride in his service as minister of education, though his administration of that post evoked stormy controversy. His principal aides were Ku Yu-hsiu, former dean of Tsinghua University, and Lai Lien, former president of Northwest University. Ch'en gave his undivided attention to his administrative tasks and made frequent visits to universities and other institutions to speak on his personal philosophy of vitalism, on broader aspects of the cultural tradition of China, or on the principles of Sun Yat-sen. Ch'en Li-fu viewed the tasks of education within the framework of his desire to inculcate proper political principles and to combat the intellectual and psychological appeals of Communism to the youth of the nation. In theory, his aim was to counter these deleterious trends by providing appropriate leadership and government assistance to education. In practice, his zealous anti-Communism tended to antagonize many Chinese students and professors. Ch'en Li-fu was also known in wartime Chungking as the founder and vice president of the Chinese- American Institute of Cultural Relations. Its head was H. H. K'ung (q.v.), vice president of the Executive Yuan.

In November 1944, Chu Chia-hua became minister of education and Ch'en resumed the direction of the organization department of the Kuomintang. His primary mission was to make preparations for the party's Sixth National Congress, scheduled for May 1945. The Sixth Congress, the last held by the Kuomintang on the mainland of China, adopted a party platform in preparation for the introduction of constitutional government and set the framework for Kuomintang operations. It elected a total of 460 members to the two central committees of the Kuomintang, some 200 more than the previous congress had elected, in a meeting which again left the central apparatus of the party controlled by partisans of Chiang Kai-shek. The Japanese surrender in 1945 found the basic political differences between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists unresolved. In the autumn of that year, Mao Tse-tung, the chairman of the Chinese Communist party, arrived at Chungking to discuss matters of state with Chiang Kai-shek. While there, Mao called on Ch'en Li-fu. In that memorable encounter, the sole meeting between Mao and one of the Kuomintang's most dedicated anti-Communists, Ch'en stated that only the Three People's Principles of Sun Yat-sen offered China a path to national salvation and informed Mao that, if the Nationalist cause won, China would become strong and independent, while the success of Mao's cause would make China a vassal of the Kremlin. In January 1946 Ch'en Li-fu was a member of the Kuomintang delegation sent to the Political Consultative Conference at Chungking to discuss the postwar political order in China. The meeting was inconclusive, and that faction of the Kuomintang which opposed compromise with the Communists soon adopted decisions in March 1946 which vitiated the preliminary agreements. After the appointment of J. Leighton Stuart as American ambassador to China in July 1946, Ch'en Li-fu on two occasions called on Stuart to express his point of view regarding "the Communist and related problems." Ch'en held that there was no middle road possible between Communism and anti- Communism. But China was weary of war, and strong sentiment existed in favor of ending the single-party dictatorship of the Kuomintang and of settling the Communist problem through political compromise. The Kuomintang, having resolved to settle the issue by force, thus had an initial political disadvantage. The stubborn insistence of Ch'en Li-fu and others on strict Kuomintang orthodoxy alienated many moderates. In his final appraisal of his mission, the American mediator, General George C. Marshall, held the Kuomintang "reactionaries" and the Communists equally responsible for the failure of his efforts.

During the postwar years, Ch'en Li-fu and his associates were discouraged by the increasing deterioration of the mi
itary, political, and economic situation in China. In November 1946 Ch'en attended the National Assembly at Nanking. The Kuomintang dominated that meeting, since both the Communists and the China Democratic League boycotted the gathering, and the new national constitution adopted there reflected the political predilections of the top party command around Chiang Kai-shek. Ch'en Li-fu resigned from the directorship of the organization department of the Kuomintang in 1948. For more than 20 years that key post in the party structure had been held by only four men, Ch'en Kuo-fu, Chang Li-sheng, Chu Chia-hua, and Ch'en Li-fu. During 1947 and 1948 Ch'en Li-fu was secretary general of the Central Political Committee of the Kuomintang. In the elections for president and vice president held in the spring of 1948 to inaugurate constitutional government in China, Ch'en gave his support to the officially approved candidacies of Chiang Kai-shek and Sun Fo (q.v.). Official plans were upset when Li Tsung-jen (q.v.) defeated Sun Fo for the vice presidency. Sun Fo then was elected president of the Legislative Yuan, and Ch'en Li-fu was elected its vice president. In June 1948 Ch'en Li-fu accepted an invitation from the Moral Rearmament Movement to attend a conference in the United States. The Chinese civil war was going badly for the Nationalists, and they counted heavily on an increase in American military assistance. It was a presidential election year in the United States, and many top Kuomintang officials at Nanking hoped that the Republicans, whose victory was anticipated, would aid their cause against the Communists. While in the United States, Ch'en delivered a personal letter from Chiang Kai-shek to Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican presidential candidate. On his return to China in September, he was quoted as stating that Dewey, if elected, would take special measures to grant new military aid to the Nationalists. However, Dewey lost the American election in November 1948—at the same time that the Nationalist armies lost all Manchuria to the Communists. At the end of 1948, when Sun Fo was named president of the Executive Yuan, Ch'en Li-fu was named minister without portfolio in his cabinet. The steady accumulation of Nationalist military and political setbacks forced Chiang Kai-shek to retire from the office of President in January 1949. After unsuccessful peace negotiations with the Communists, Sun Fo resigned. Ho Ying-ch'in (q.v.) succeeded him as president of the Executive Yuan, and Ch'en remained in the cabinet as minister without portfolio. He moved with the National Government to Canton after the fall of Nanking in April 1949. An officer of the American embassy reported that Ch'en still believed that the Kuomintang would be able to unify national resistance and gather support, pending further external assistance. When Yen Hsi-shan (q.v.) organized a new cabinet in June, Ch'en remained in his post. In September he went with the National Government to Chungking. The situation in Szechwan province soon became untenable, and on 8 December 1949 Ch'en Li-fu, Yen Hsi-shan, and other senior officials of the Kuomintang left Chengtu and flew to Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek also arrived in Taiwan in December 1949 and began the work of building a new political base. He re-assumed the presidency in March 1950. In July of that year the standing committee of the Kuomintang, meeting in Taipei to rehabilitate the party structure, established a new 16-member Central Reform Committee. Ch'en Li-fu, who for more than two decades had been intimately identified with the central nucleus of the Kuomintang, was not a member of the new body. In August 1950, he and his family left Taiwan for Europe, where he attended another conference of the Moral Rearmament Movement. From Europe, they went to the United States.

Ch'en settled down to a quiet life of farming in Lakewood, New Jersey. He did not attend the funeral of Ch'en Kuo-fu in Taiwan in November 1951. Ten years later, Chiang Kaishek summoned Ch'en Li-fu to Taiwan because of the critical illness of his father, Ch'en Ch'iyeh. His father died in March 1961, and Ch'en Li-fu went to Taiwan to attend his funeral. More than 1,000 personal friends and former colleagues greeted him at the Taipei airport. Despite the welcome, Ch'en left Taiwan promptly after the funeral rites and returned to his adopted home in New Jersey.

Ch'en Li-fu was married at Shanghai in the winter of 1926. His wife was Sun Lu-ch'ing, a talented artist from his native district of Wuhsing. They had three sons, all of whom received their advanced education in the United States, and one daughter.

During his active career in China, Ch'en Li-fu was as controversial as he was influential. He was respected by many who worked with him in the Kuomintang, execrated by the Communists, and regarded by some as the most dangerous man in China. All observers agreed that his political influence was considerable; many paid tribute to his shrewdness, diligence, and zealous devotion to what he considered his duty; probably none could offer an adequate summary of his philosophy of vitalism. Ch'en Li-fu was incorruptibly loyal to his party and his leader and was relentless in his opposition to Communism. Ironically, many of the political techniques that he employed within the Kuomintang were similar to those advocated by Lenin and brought to China by Soviet advisers in the 1920's.

Biography in Chinese

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