H. H. Kung

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Kung Hsiang-hsi 孔祥熙
(H. H. Kung)
Premier of the Republic of China
In office
1 January 1938 – 11 December 1939
President Lin Sen
Preceded by Chiang Kai-shek
Succeeded by Chiang Kai-shek
Personal details
Born (1881-09-11)11 September 1881
Taigu, Shanxi, Qing China
Died 16 August 1967(1967-08-16) (aged 85)
Locust Valley, New York, United States
Nationality  Republic of China
Political party Naval Jack of the Republic of China.svg Kuomintang
Spouse(s) Han Yu-mei
Soong Ai-ling
Alma mater Oberlin College
Religion Christianity[1]

Kung Hsiang-hsi (Chinese: 孔祥熙; pinyin: Kǒng Xiángxī; Wade–Giles: K'ung3 Hsiang2-hsi1; September 11, 1881 – August 16, 1967), often known as Dr. H. H. Kung, was a wealthy Chinese banker and politician in the early 20th century. Together with his brother-in-law, T.V. Soong, he was highly influential in determining the economic policies of the Kuomintang (Nationalist) government in the 1930s and 1940s. He was known as the richest man in China at that time.


Early life

The Kung family residence in Taigu County, Shanxi Province

Kung was born into a prosperous banking and trading family in Taigu County, Shanxi province, where he attended a mission school in spite of his family's doubts. He then attended North China Union College in Tungchow, near Beijing, where he took courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry, subjects which were not offered in traditional Chinese schools. Upon hearing of the Boxer attacks, he returned to Taigu, but his family prevented him from leaving the house. After the Taiyuan Massacre, which included members of the Oberlin Band, he carried letters from several of the murdered missionaries to Beijing by hiding them between the layers of his cloth shoes. Returning to Taigu, by using the powers of the Boxer Indemnity, he distributed relief to the families of those killed, buried the dead, and confiscated the estate of a family which had supported the Boxers.[2]

In the summer of 1901, Luella Miner, a missionary and Oberlin graduate, arranged for Kung to travel to Oberlin for further study. Upon landing in San Francisco, however, because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Kung and his companion were locked up for several weeks before the Chinese Consul-General posted bond, and they were then not allowed to go to Oberlin for another year. Their railway passage took them into Canada, but only by strong intervention from an Ohio Congressman were they allowed to re-enter the US. Kung graduated from Oberlin in 1906, then proceeded to take a master's degree in economics from Yale University.[3]

After completing his education abroad, Kung returned to his home province of Shanxi. During the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, Kung mobilized forces in support of Yan Xishan, helping Yan to overthrow the authority of the Qing government in Shanxi. After 1911, Kung became one of Yan's most trusted advisors, and Yan was soon recognized as the military governor of Shanxi by Yuan Shikai, and effectively controlled Shanxi until 1949, when the Communists took control of mainland China. Kung's influence on Yan's thinking from 1911 onward was significant, and was a major factor in Yan's subsequent determination to modernize Shanxi. The reforms that Yan subsequently conducted won Yan widespread acclaim, and Shanxi gained a reputation during the Warlord Era as being the "Model Province".[4]

After 1911, Kung helped to establish Ming Hsien, a complex of Christian schools in Taigu on the land Kung had acquired through the Boxer Indemnity. Kung became principal, and married Han Yu-mei, a fellow graduate of the North China Union College, who died of tuberculosis. In 1913 he met Soong Ai-ling, one of the Soong sisters, and married her the following year. Supporters in Oberlin established the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association to which Kung made regular and substantial contributions.[5]

In 1922 Shanxi experienced a serious famine. Kung worked closely with the American Red Cross and missionary organizations like American Mission Board and the China International Famine Relief Commission to deliver relief supplies and to improve Shanxi's infrastructure to make the delivery of relief easier. According to foreign members of the Famine Relief Commission, the collective efforts of all involved were successful in preventing what otherwise would have been an "appalling calamity", and by 1923 conditions in Shanxi returned to normal.[6]

Minister in the Kuomintang government

Kung was an early supporter of Sun Yat-sen and the Nationalist Party, including early leaders such as Wang Jingwei. He developed close family ties. His wife was a sister of T.V. Soong. Soong Ching-ling, another sister, married Sun Yat-sen in 1919 and Chiang Kai-shek became Kung's brother-in-law in 1930 when he married Soong Mei-ling.[5] The Soong sisters and their husbands had the reputation of being one of the Four Big Families of the time.[5]

Kung began his career in the government of the Republic of China as Minister of Industry, holding this position from 1927-1928[7] in the Wuhan Nationalist Government, led by Wang Jingwei during the Northern Expedition as a leftist rival to Chiang's faction. After the fall of Wang's government, Kung served as the Minister of Industry and Commerce from 1928-1931 in the Nanking Government, and later as the Minister of Finance,[8] from 1933–1944.[9] Kung was Governor of the Central Bank of China from 1933–1945. In 1927 one of his first acts in government was to balance the national budget. To raise the capital required, Kung increased the taxes on cigarettes by 50%. Several Shanghai cigarette factories protested against these taxes with shutdowns. Kung also threatened to increase the salt tax by 28%.[10]

Kung joined the central executive committee of the Kuomintang (KMT) in 1931. He served as Premier of the Republic of China from 1 January 1938 – 20 November 1939. Kung then served as the Vice-Premier of the Executive Yuan, from 1935-1945. Dr. Kung served as China's Chief Delegate to the International Monetary & Financial Conference in 1944, where he signed the Bretton Woods Accord during the Bretton Woods Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel, New Hampshire, in the United States. This conference established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), which today is part of the World Bank Group.

After his move to the central government, Kung continued to advocate for good relations between Chiang Kai-shek and Yan Xishan. Yan's opposition to Chiang during the 1930 Central Plains War caused Yan to formally retire from all positions of leadership in Shanxi, and to flee to the Manchurian city of Dalian. Kung's tireless advocacy for Yan within the central government was successful, as Chiang allowed Yan to return to Shanxi in 1931. Chiang clearly recognized Yan as the de facto ruler of Shanxi by 1934.[11]

In 1934 Kung stated, in response to the American "nationalization of silver", that "We also would like to nationalize silver but for China this is impossible because our Government is hampered by extraterritorial treaties. We do not want the price to skyrocket, for silver is vital to our national life."[12]

Diplomacy with Axis powers

Kung traveled to Germany in 1937, attempting to enlist German aid against the Empire of Japan.

In 1937, as the Minister of Finance of the Republic of China, Kung and two other Chinese KMT officials visited Germany and were received by Adolf Hitler in June 13.[13] Hitler told Kung that "I understand that people in China think the Soviet Union is their friend. But from our talk I understand that you, Herr Doktor, realize the danger of Communist doctrines." Kung also convinced Hitler to cancel a scheduled speech at a Nazi conference by the Japanese Emperor's brother. Kung said, "I was able to make Hitler understand that Japan wanted to dominate the world... I was able to make Hitler think twice before getting too close to Japan."[14] While in Germany Kung stated his "deep satisfaction" with Hitler.[15]

Hitler, Göring and Dr. Schacht bestowed upon Kung an honorary degree, and attempted to open China's market to German exports. Hitler, Göring, and Schacht earmarked for Chinese students 100,000 Reichsmarks for studying in Germany after they persuaded an industrialist to set aside the money for that purpose. Kung, in favor of commercial credits, refused an international loan offer by Hitler.[16]

Kung also met Dr. Hjalmar Schacht while in Germany. Scherr told him that "German-Chinese friendship stemmed in good part from the hard struggle of both for independence." H .H. Kung said, "China considers Germany its best friend...I hope and wish that Germany will participate in supporting the further development of China, the opening up of its sources of raw materials, the upbringing of its industries and [its] means of transportation."[17]

Kung also visited Roosevelt and Mussolini in 1937.[18] Kung said "I thought Mussolini was doing great things for Italy... We got along well. I thought he would be a good ally of our Government."[19]

During the Second Sino-Japanese War

By the time of the Second Sino Japanese War (1937–1945), Kung had achieved a reputation as an exceptionally powerful and manipulative figure within the Nationalist government, sometimes in alliance with his brother-in-law, T.V. Soong and his sister-in-law, Soong Mei-ling, and sometimes in rivalry with them.[5] By the time that the KMT government moved to Chongqing, Kung was running his own secret service. The Communist Zhou Enlai, while serving as the CCP ambassador to Chongqing, was notably successful in gaining the confidence of Kung's advisor, Hu Egong, allowing Zhou to conduct his intelligence work more efficiently.[20]

In January 1938, Kung, a 75th-generation descendant of Confucius, greeted his relative, Duke Kung Te-cheng, who was also a descendant of Confucius, after Kung Te-cheng had fled to Hankou after the Japanese invasion of Shandong. After Kung Te-cheng fled, the Japanese blew up his residence on Mount Tai. TIME magazine addressed Kung Te-cheng by the title "Duke Kung", and referred to his residence as the "ducal seat".[21]

After a string of Japanese mishaps in 1938, Kung gave a radio address in which he stated that "God is helping China!" Kung's radio speech came after reports that a Japanese attempt to seize Hankou had failed; and, with constant Chinese guerrilla activity, Chinese forces had seized territory captured by Japan.[22]

In 1944, Kung gave a speech at China House in New York with one of Mencius's direct descendants, Dr. Meng Chih. Both were alumni of American institutions.[23]

After the retreat of the KMT to Taiwan at the end of the Chinese Civil War, he moved to the United States. Kung died in 1967 in Locust Valley, New York.

Personal life

Kung had a habit of smoking stogies (a type of cigar).[24] TIME magazine claimed that Kung smoked "15 Havana cigars" a day.[25] He was a Christian.[1][12]

Kung was a 75th generation descendant of Confucius, as indicated by the generation name 祥 (Hsiang; pinyin: Xiáng).[26][27] Kung's father was (Chinese: 孔繁慈; pinyin: Kǒng Fáncí; Wade–Giles: K'ung Fan-tsi) (1861–1911), a 74th generation descendant of Confucius, indicated by the generation name fan (繁).

Kung first married Han Yu-mei in 1910, but she died in 1913. In 1914 Kung married his second wife, Soong Ai-ling, the eldest of the Soong sisters.[28] This marriage made Kung the brother-in-law of Soong Mei-ling, the wife of Chiang Kai-shek. The children of Kung and Soong were :

The children all have the generation name Ling (令) in their names to indicate that they are 76th generation descendants of Confucius.

One of Kung's sons went by the English name of David and was fluent in English. He was born in 1917.[29]

The Kung family residential compound, a well-preserved example of mid-Qing Dynasty architecture, can be toured in Taigu County, Shanxi.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "CHINA: Christian Majority" TIME Magazine
  2. Carl Jacobson, “H. H. Kung: Strengthening China through Education and the ‘Oberlin Spirit’” [1]
  3. Jacobson, “H. H. Kung.”
  4. Gillin 22, 45
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 “H.H. Kung,” Howard Boorman, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968) Vol II pp. 264-65.
  6. Gillin 37
  7. "Foreign News: Chiang's Cabinet" TIME Magazine
  8. "U.S. At War: The Mission of Daddy Kung" TIME Magazine
  9. "CHINA: Thirteen Billion Blessings" TIME Magazine
  10. "CHINA: Balance or Bust" TIME Magazine
  11. Gillin 120, 124
  12. 12.0 12.1 "CHINA: Chiang on Lid" TIME Magazine
  13. Hitler and Domarus 903
  14. Pakula 340
  15. Powell 432
  16. "Business: Kung's Credits" TIME Magazine
  17. Buss 405
  18. Wang 166
  19. Pakula 341
  20. Barnoun and Yu 80
  21. "Foreign News: Warlike Confucian" TIME Magazine
  22. "WAR IN CHINA: Stars Mark the Spots" TIME Magazine
  23. "Education: China House" TIME Magazine
  24. "CHINA: Swath to Success" TIME magazine
  25. "CHINA: Soong Out" TIME Magazine
  26. "CHINA: Potent Mrs. Chiang" TIME magazine
  27. "Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek" TIME magazine
  28. Iyler 1
  29. "CHINA: Kung Fu-tze Say" TIME Magazine


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  • Gillin, Donald G. Warlord: Yen Hsi-shan in Shansi Province 1911-1949. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1967.
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  • "Swath to Success". TIME Magazine. July 23, 1934. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Thirteen Billion Blessings". TIME Magazine. Feb 16, 1942. p. 1. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Education: China House". TIME Magazine. Sep 4, 1944. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Foreign News: Chiang's Cabinet". TIME Magazine. Oct 29, 1928. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Foreign News: Warlike Confucian". TIME Magazine. Jan 17, 1938. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Generalissimo and Madame Chiang Kai-Shek". TIME Magazine. Jan 3, 1938. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "Stars Mark the Spots". TIME Magazine. Aug 29, 1938. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • "U.S. At War: The Mission of Daddy Kung". TIME Magazine. Jul 3, 1944. p. 1. Retrieved May 22, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Parks Coble, "H.H. Kung," in (1998). Wang Ke-wen, ed. Modern China: an encyclopedia of history, culture, and nationalism. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-0720-9. Retrieved 2011-05-21. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

Government offices
Preceded by
Chiang Kai-shek
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Chiang Kai-shek