Fantasy memories and the lost honor of madame Chiang Kai-shek


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The tale of a sexual tryst between China's first lady Soong Mayling and the 1940 Republican U.S. presidential candidate Wendell Willkie on his visit to China in September and October 1942 has circulated in biographies and in the press. Yet there is no credible evidence of such a liaison. Drew Pearson, a political gossip columnist, probably cooked it up. He embellished an account he had learned from Gardner Cowles, a respected long-time Republican magazine publisher, who then “recovered” a memory based on his reading of Pearson's story about the affair. The popularity of this fantasy suggests that it functions as what Sigmund Freud called a “screen memory” constructed around Soong Mayling as a “Dragon Lady” and covers over a traumatic memory of the American “loss of China” to communism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of American-East Asian Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Memory
  • Soong Mayling
  • Wendell Willkie
  • World War II
  • “Loss of China”


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