The Red Dragon scheme
 
          Recently, I watched a documentary film about Dr. Sun Yat Sen produced by CCTV Chinese Television. I discovered two interviews, a professor (or scholar) and a relative of Mr. Yung Wing, both proved quite a contrast to what I know. The professor said: "No one in America would like to donate money to Dr. Sun's revolution after so many failed uprisings!" Many Chinese in the United States sympathized with Sun after they found out that Kang Yu Wei was corrupted. The Chinese in the US and Canada flocked to support Sun. Therefore, there were more contributions to him than ever before. It was the turning point, from a suggested peaceful Reform to Revolution. Next, a proud relative of Yung Wing, who was cracking and eating peanuts during the interview, said:" Yung Wing was the first Chinese man to graduate in America from Yale University! He was responsible for 120 students in the Chinese Educational Mission students program." He was right about that! Let us not forget that Homer Lea gave 2,100 Chinese academic and military education. Then he continued:" Yung Wing was Sun's good friend and very much supported Sun's Revolution. He had an in depth discussion with Sun about his plan for revolution while they met on board a ship from Shanghai to Japan in 1900." Yung Wing and Sun's relationship was brief. In Yung's autobiography, My Life in China and America, Yung never mentioned Sun Yat Sen. Was Sun his competitor? Here, I quote Los Angeles Times writer Julian Hart, who wrote about Yung Wing in her 1966 article, the Americans' Plot for Chinese Revolt Revealed - "Yung Wing, a princely exile who married an American woman, engaged in business in Hartford, Conn. He originally saw himself as the new emperor of China, but gradually bowed to diminishing horizons. In the end he sought vainly only for money and the treasury portfolio for his son, B. G. Yung, a New York manufacturer."
 
       In the past, the communication between the United States and China was difficult and often lost in translation. To understand what Julian Hart said about Yung Wing, we must examine the Red Dragon scheme. Son of Charles B. Boothe (see Contacts page) donated a collection of the original letters from Yung Wing, W.W. Allen, including Sun's handwritten notes and carbon copies of Boothe's letters (The Laurence Boothe Collection) to the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, at Stanford University. These documents are an exciting historical discovery that reveals each player’s intentions and their motives.
 
      By late 1908, Kang Yu Wei's business venture was a failure. He bought Street Car in Mexico in his daughter's name, and a large estate in New York. As his other business investments disappeared, Lea had to look into other financial support  for his revolution plan. Boothe had discussed with Lea the possibility of financial support from U.S. bankers and tycoons, like J.P. Morgan, with interest in their share of the large Chinese market. Boothe received help from his best childhood friend, W. W. Allen, a businessman and consulting engineer in New York. Lea knew Yung from Kang and asked Boothe to visit Yung Wing in Hartford for his support and to reestablish the connections with the secret societies in China. Thus the conspiracy of seeking financial support to overthrow the Chinese government was produced by these four men and their code name was Red Dragon.
 
      Yung had drafted his own plot before, and now the opportunity had arrived. In a letter to Lea he praised Lea who had chosen Boothe as the general manager and added, " The first province you take in China, I shall make you a Viceroy, & Boothe a Baron, if I had the power of dubbing you both." Allen often pulled Lea and Boothe back to reality. He requested Yung provide "a list of people, officers, offices & c. of the various societies with the location of their headquarters and general objects which they propose to follow." Yung was unable to comply. He was back in the US for eight years and his only contact was through letters or visits by friends.
 
      In 1908, the death of the Empress Dowager and the Emperor Kuang-hsu signaled the end of Kang's cause and his followers. Kang accused Yuan Shih-kai (a northern military strong man) of assassinating the emperor. Now Yuan emerged in power. Yung wrote to Boothe: "We must eliminate Kang Yu Wei in our reckoning. I shall have nothing to do with him. He is not a safe man to be associated with in a big enterprise." In fact, the whole scheme was to unite revolution and reform leaders based upon Kang as the only leader. Yung and Kang were very good friends. Yung accompanied Kang on a visit to the White House to see president Roosevelt twice. Yung often invited Kang to his house in Hartford. To advance his position, he would denounce Kang's corruption and condemn Kang as "impractical, fantastic, and a paper reformer ..... give us a bad name, & not acceptable to the people of China, nor to the whole civilized world." Now he proposed to change the Red Dragon plan to bring Yuan Shih-kai in. Yung Wing was into his eighties and time was not on his side. With Yuan's support, a quick coup d'etate would bring him into power. Yung Wing no longer wanted a revolution and he was ready to ignore the  help of the secret societies. Yung wrote "I am seriously thinking of winning him (Yuan) over to our cause....... He is worth a thousand Kang Yu Weis. He has gained the respect, & the good opinion of all the foreign representatives in Peking. If he embraces our cause, our battle for the Empire of China is already fought, & won." Boothe and Lea cautioned. Yung Wing underestimated Yuan. In fact, Yuan had his power and wanted to be the emperor himself.
 
      By January, 1909 Yung sent his son to see Allen with another outline of his plan: "Wants of China". It went back to the Red Dragon plan of a revolution in Kwangtung and Kwangsi provinces. He suggested establishing a constitutional monarchy as the form of government. However, he did not explain who would be the monarch. Allen suspected "Our Hartford friend suspects himself to be a shining mark for the imperial lighting and he is not disposed to put up any apparatus to dissipate it. In other words, ' The Imperial Bee is buzzing in his bonnet '." Secretly Allen warned Lea and Boothe that Yung had limited patriotism and pursued his own personal interests for taking part in the conspiracy. Allen disagreed with Yung’s revolution plan "Any idea of beginning in one province and setting up a nationality therein must be abandoned ........ it must be all or none."
 
     Allen's letter first mentions Dr. Sun Yat Sen after he had evaluated various potential leaders," Sun Yat Sen, of Canton, is considered the most reliable of all. Twice he had already taken Canton in his attempts to organize a rebellion. He is considered a tower of strength." Meanwhile, instead of raising money, Yung Wing had a quick money-making scheme about silver mining in Kwangsi, China. He proposed his son to be in charge of the mining operations. Then he had another business plan: "I am providing more than one string on my bow." He had gained knowledge of a method to turn Ramie fiber into silk. Allen warned they would not get the money back unless they had finished their project for revolution. Boothe and Lea did not share their enthusiasm about Yung's proposal.
 
      By then, Lea and Dr. Sun had personal contact, because of Lea's new book The Valor of Ignorance. Sun wrote the letter to praise Lea. Now Sun's popularity had exploded and he planned to visit the U.S. again for support. But Yung knew earlier through his friend that Dr. Sun was coming to America. He said Sun proposed a meeting in New York and invited Lea and Boothe. Boothe replied to Yung that the general had been ill. The meeting never took place and no one knows who made that proposal. There is no evidence that Yung and Sun had contact before his visit to the United States. After Sun arrived at Boothe's house in South Pasadena, it marked the beginning of a new era of Lea's life. Lea knew he was now in the center of battle with Sun. Boothe committed his efforts to help Sun. Yung learned about their meetings. Sun told Boothe that "in regard to Dr. Y. I did inform him of our conference but did not tell him anything particular ...... I leave the matter entirely to your decision." Apparently, Boothe and Lea decided to eliminate Yung Wing. Yung continued to inquire about the progress and even offered to come to meet Sun with his son. Again, Boothe and Lea did not give Yung an indication of an answer. After Sun's departure, Yung submitted to Boothe and Lea another plan of his own. Yung's final letter to Boothe was offering his congratulations to Boothe's daughter's marriage.
 
     Yung Wing accused Kang of buying Street Car in Vera Cruz, Mexico in his daughter's name. Yung "In the end sought vainly only for money and the treasury portfolio for his son." All along, Yung Wing ignored Dr. Sun Yet Sen's republican cause and democratic government for the Chinese people. In this age, his ambition for power and money and "enlightened self-interest" had not halted. Yung Wing is well respected for his leadership in education. Unfortunately, this last chapter of his life may shatter his reputation.
 
Photo: A studio shot of Yung Wing in his eighties. (courtesy of The Parker Publishing Co. China).
For more information about the “ Red Dragon “ caper, please read - Letters at Hoover Tower tell of 1908 conspiracy - Americans’ Plot for Chinese Revolt Revealed, by Julian Hart, Oct 13, 1966; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881-1985). Chapter Seven; Conspiracies, Homer Lea, Sun Yat-sen, and the Chinese revolution - 1984, by Eugene Anschel.
Yung Wing
Thursday, September 4, 2008