China 1939. Foreign friends yes, foreign domination no

Today we feature a rather strange stamp from China  celebrating USA ties at a time when the central struggle was to come out from under foreign domination. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Today’s stamp is big colorful and dramatic. As such, it is aimed at stamp collectors more than postal customers. Indeed it was even printed in the USA. Americans might be surprised to see the American dollar sign on it. The Chinese juan was sometimes called the Chinese dollar then. The stamp was not denominated in United States dollars. Another interesting thing to notice is that the island of Formosa is not included in the map of China. Instead it is shaded as foreign territory. That would change a decade later.

The stamp today is issue A58, a 1 Chinese dollar stamp issued by China on July 4th, 1939. It was part of a four stamp issue celebrating the 150th anniversary of the United States Constitution. According to the Scott Catalog, the stamp is worth $2.25 in it’s cancelled condition. I should note that the only western writing on the stamp is included in the cancellation.

The first half of the twentieth century was a time when China struggled to unite and throw off many years or foreign denomination. Many western nations had been granted concessions in China under duress from the weak Chinese Emperor. The last Emperor had abdicated and a new Chinese government under Sun Yat-sen  was formed but all was not smooth sailing. The German concession in China was awarded to Japan as part of the Versailles treaty. China indeed refused to sign the treaty as it was their aim to end the foreign concessions. Sun Yat-sen’s rule was complicated by rival warlords and a tenuous alliance of his political party  with the Chinese Communist Party.

When Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, he was replaced by Chiang Kai-shek. He even married the sister of Sun’s widow to add to his premotor of power. The alliance with the communist party ended and there was an attempt to start a cult or personality. The foreign concessions continued, including an American one that was backed by US Marines and a naval Yangtze river patrol.

This seems a strange background for a USA-China friendship stamp. Japan had invaded China and though they were not able to conquer it they were able to take much territory and inflict much damage. There was a Japanese 3 all strategy in China. Kill all, Burn all, and Loot all. Given this, it is understandable that China would hold it’s nose and ask for foreign military assistance to fight the Japanese. Military help was received from the USA and surprisingly, Germany.

The defeat of Japan in 1945 lead to a splintering of China with the communist party in power in Peking and Chiang Kai-shek  having to move to the island of Formosa and declare a second Chinese government in Taipei. By this point, his continued existence as a Chinese leader was due to American support. A far cry from the ideals of Sun Yat-sen.

Well my drink is empty and so it is time to open up the conversation in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.