One World Away: Kiang’s Great Unity and Pauling’s Press for Peace

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[Ed Note: With the conclusion of the academic year here at Oregon State University, we say goodbye to Student Archivist Ethan Heusser, who has written extensively on the Special Collections and Archives Research Center’s rare book collections at our sister blog, Rare@OSU. Today and over the next three weeks, we will share three Pauling-related posts that Ethan wrote over the course of his tenure working for us.]

Many Americans – and people around the globe – experienced the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s as an age of political uncertainty and social turmoil. It was a powerful time: everywhere the specter of disaster loomed, yet that fear brought with it a unique capacity for change enabled by commonplace desperation. In the United States alone, mounting resistance to the Vietnam War built confidence among grass-roots activist organizations for their efficacy in up-ending the status quo. And while mutually assured destruction terrified the world, the threat of nuclear war also inspired many thinkers and activists to strive for equally bold solutions. In the light of world chaos and potential mass destruction, the idea of building a global government and abolishing nationalism seemed especially promising – far more promising than what the United Nations seemed ultimately able to provide.

It’s no surprise, then, to see a large proliferation in world peace literature in the Cold War era. Some publications were mild and innocuous, but many took the form of bold declarations and manifestos about the urgent need for radical change.

An excellent example of the latter is One World: The Approach to Permanent Peace on Earth and the General Happiness of Mankind by John Kiang. Self-described as “a manifesto of revolution for world union with the evolutionary law of group expansion as a guiding theory,” it examines shifting technologies and living conditions to build a larger argument in favor of a unified humanity. From that perspective, nations and nation-states can only be seen as counter-productive: the deep-seated but fundamentally arbitrary veil of nationalism impedes sincere appeals to common humanity and mutual accountability.

Although the core text is fairly concise, this copy of One World is a scholarly edition from 1984, replete with extensive sources, commentary, and analysis:

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In this work we see the role that cultural context can play in international movements: though not explicitly outlined, One Worldcontains thematic and rhetorical ties to the utopic vision of “Great Unity” in China. Great Unity represents the goal of creating a Chinese society of mutual accountability and selflessness – a cohesive community where people work to help others rather than harm them.

First described in classic Chinese texts going back millennia, Great Unity was popularized by Sun Yat-Sen in the early 20th century. In doing so, it was used to help build a cultural momentum in favor of a shift towards a communist ideal. The Great Unity message was adopted overtly in China’s national anthem in 1937; though later supplanted with another song in the People’s Republic of China during the Chinese Civil War, it remains in use by Taiwan to this day.

John Kiang left China in 1949 in the wake of the earth-shattering Chinese Civil War. It seems fair to suggest that he nevertheless brought the culturally-specific vision of world peace, prosperity, and harmony with him stateside. It’s hard for those of us living in our countries of birth to imagine the inner turmoil he must have felt during that time, working for global peace a world away while his homeland was experiencing such complete upheaval and division. Perhaps that effort helped him, in some way, to bring his home with him and improve the world as a result.

These efforts manifested in One World. Though a relatively obscure book, One World at last found some degree of traction once it found its way into the hands of two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling – surprisingly, Pauling was willing to attach his name to it in the form of a guest introduction.

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As a famous peace activist, Pauling was a prime recipient of unsolicited manuscripts, book ideas, calls for action, and reference requests. But of all of the texts he received and was asked to endorse, why would he choose one such as this?

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A large factor was undoubtedly Kiang’s persistent correspondence with Pauling. He wrote with Pauling repeatedly between 1983-4, praising Pauling’s efforts and experience and asking for an introduction to One World. Pauling consistently refused, citing his lack of expertise in Kiang’s specific subject area. This pseudo-humble approach to refusing unsolicited (and often wacky) manuscripts was trademark for Pauling during his peak social activism years. Then, somehow, everything changed for One World. Somehow, Pauling changed his mind. We have as proof Pauling’s written introduction documented in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Collection, along with letters and cards from the Kiang family thanking him for his collaboration:

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Even when meticulously compiled and researched, correspondence collections can still resist post hoc scrutiny. We hold a substantial set of letters between the two activists, but we lack the connection point between the “before” and “after” of when Pauling agreed to add his name to Kiang’s One World project. Was it a letter that went missing? A phone call? An in-person visit? Kiang later sent Pauling a photo of a meeting between them, but the context for how and when it happened is largely absent.

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Another probable factor is that the content and message of the book aligned well with Pauling’s driving fears for the future. As Pauling writes in his introduction, “[Kiang’s] principal message is that war has now ruled itself out.” For Pauling, the atom bomb meant that “a war in which the existing nuclear weapons were used would with little doubt mean the end of our civilization, and possibly the end of the human race.” Perhaps that in itself built enough common ground between two men of different backgrounds and fields of expertise to collaborate – if only in a minor way – on what must have felt like a higher calling. (Pauling’s endorsement would be used in later work by John Kiang as well, but always from a distanced position.)

On a general level, One World embodies the slippery way that ideas persist, spread, and evolve. Just like how John Kiang built his own vision upon seeds planted by Sun Yat-Sen and many authors before him, it will be fascinating to witness how the Cold War push towards internationally-regulated peace and world government will rear its head again on the world stage in the decades to come.

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A Somber Return to China, 1981

The Paulings in Tianjin, June 1981.

In the summer of 1981, Linus Pauling participated in the First International Conference on Human Nutrition, which took place in Japan and China. The conference lasted from May 31 to June 8, and was sponsored by the China Medical Association and the Foundation for Nutritional Advancement, the latter of which Pauling was president. The conference took place in Tokyo, Japan and Tianjin, China, travels to which would comprise the first part of a trip that would also take the Paulings to Germany and to London. Their daughter Linda and her husband Barclay accompanied Linus and Ava Helen to the Orient.

Pauling made the opening remarks at the beginning of the conference in Tokyo on June 1. After the Tokyo sessions were completed three days later, the Paulings flew to Peking, traveled in an official vehicle to Tianjin (a “red flag limousine,” as recorded by Pauling in his journal) and stayed in the State Guest House in the same suite used by Richard Nixon during his iconic 1972 trip to China.  From June 4-8, Pauling participated in the conference, which was jointly planned by the FNA and Professor Chou Pei-yuan, the President of the University of Beijing. This was the second and last time Pauling was to visit China.

A day after arriving in China, the Paulings toured Tianjin Medical College, Tianjin Hospital and Tianjin Children’s Hospital before attending a formal reception given by Li Xiannian, who eventually became the Chinese Head of State in 1983. The conference in China formally opened on June 6, again with Pauling delivering the opening remarks. In them, he discussed the roots of his interest in the field of nutrition, and also reflected upon the early years of his scientific career beginning with his focus on minerals and later interest in the nature of life, which arose in 1929 largely because of the presence of Thomas Hunt Morgan (who had discovered the concept of the gene) at Caltech.

An unidentified individual, Arthur Sackler, the Chinese Minister of Health and Linus Pauling, June 1981.

In his talk, Pauling explained that he had decided to learn more about organic chemistry in order to understand how molecules are built and how they interact with each other, beginning with hemoglobin. During this time, Pauling also studied antibodies, immunology, sickle cell anemias, and other heretic anemias. In 1954 he decided to look at other groups of diseases to see if they could be classed as molecular diseases, and chose to study mental illness over cancer, because he felt that many people were working on cancer already. After researching mental illness for ten years, he became interested in vitamins.

According to Pauling, his interest in vitamins came about when he learned that the Canadian scientists Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond were treating schizophrenia patients with large amounts of niacin. Simultaneously, Gerald Milner had been giving large amounts of ascorbic acid to mentally ill patients, with positive results. Pauling later observed that vitamin C had value in the control of cancer, so he became involved with cancer. Near the end of his address, Pauling remarked, “As I look back on my life, I see that I have enjoyed myself very much and a good bit of this enjoyment has come from the continued recognition of something new about the universe.”

Other talks given over the course of the Tianjin conference included “Vitamin C and Cancer,” delivered by Pauling; “Extending Life Span of Patients with Terminal Cancer Using High Doses of Vitamin C,” given by Dr. Akira Murata from the Department of Agriculture at Saga University, Japan; and “A Study on Fortified Foods with Ascorbic Acid Phosphate,” given by Professor Chou Deqin, from the Chinese Institute of Military Hygiene.

The conference closed on Monday, June 8. The next day, the Paulings took part in a sight-seeing tour of the Great Wall and the Ming tombs. Later that week, Pauling gave a talk on chemical bonds in transition metals at Peking University, and continued to give lectures and meet with various scientists throughout the rest of his time in China.

Photo of Ava Helen Pauling taken in China, six months prior to her death.

The trip took a dramatic turn for the worse when, in the afternoon of June 19, Ava Helen had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. Though she left the hospital the next day, she remained medicated and too sick to travel for a few days after, causing the Paulings to change their plans. She remained weak for the rest of their time in China, though recovered enough to complete their planned itinerary through Germany and London.

When the couple returned to California and Ava Helen underwent exploratory surgery, it was determined that she was facing a recurrence of stomach cancer, from which she had been suffering for the past five years. Her cancer was deemed inoperable and only a few short months later, on December 7, 1981, Ava Helen would pass away, three weeks shy of her 78th birthday.

Travels in China, 1973

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling at the Great Wall of China, 1973.

In March 1973, little more than one year after Richard Nixon’s historic visit, Linus Pauling received a letter inviting him to travel to China for three weeks in the coming summer. He was invited by Wu Yu-hsun, Vice President of the Scientific and Technical Association of the People’s Republic of China, who informed Pauling that his accommodation and transportation would be provided by the Association. “It is my belief that your visit will contribute to the promotion of the traditional friendship and scientific exchanges between the scholars of China and America,” Wu wrote.

Following Wu’s instructions for obtaining a visa, Pauling wrote to the Embassy of the Chinese People’s Republic in Ottawa, Canada, on April 4, requesting visas for him and Ava Helen. (At that time, there was no Chinese embassy in the United States as diplomatic relations between the two countries had not yet been formalized.) Two months later, he received a reply from the embassy, accompanied by applications for the two visas.  On August 8 Pauling wrote to Vice President Wu to let him know that the trip details had been finalized and informing him that he and Ava Helen would arrive in Hong Kong on Sunday, September 16, and leave Monday, October 8.

In his letter, Pauling mentioned his book Vitamin C and the Common Cold, stating his belief that vitamin C not only decreases the severity and instances of the common cold, but does the same for other diseases. As such, he expressed a desire for both himself and Ava Helen to engage with relevant Chinese medical authorities and members of the Ministry of Public Health about this matter. Pauling also communicated his interest in talking with physicians and scientists about Oxypolygelatin, a blood plasma substitute that he had developed during World War II, as well as his desire that he and Ava Helen see his former student, Chia-si Lu, a chemist and crystallographer, and also their friend Professor Tsien, an authority on rockets whom they knew from Caltech. On August 9, Pauling returned the visa applications along with a letter stating that “I do not travel without my wife, and I have assumed that the invitation includes her also.”

After finally receiving their visas, the Paulings departed San Francisco for Hong Kong on Friday, September 14, 1973. They spent that night in Honolulu, and arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday, September 16.

Much of what we know now about the Paulings’ visit to China comes from Linus’ travel log.  The log is very detail-oriented – so much so that one wonders how much detail is owed to Pauling’s insatiable scientific appetite, and how much to his knowledge that the U. S. government was historically suspicious of his every move, and likely maintained a particular interest in his activities while traveling through communist China.

The Paulings arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday night, stayed an extra day, and went by train to Canton on Tuesday. They spent Tuesday night at a guest house in Canton, where Pauling noted that it was “very hot during the day, very humid, and humid and hot during the night, too.” After visiting Sun Yat Sen University and having lunch, the couple flew to Shanghai, where Pauling judged the humidity to be less oppressive. They visited the Shanghai Industrial Exhibition on the morning of September 20, and the Institute of Biochemistry in the afternoon. In his travel log, Pauling recorded the details of research being conducted by an Institute staff member who was working on nucleotides and nucleosides. One investigation in particular focused on the effectiveness of nucleotides in increasing the yields of different plants such as rice. Pauling also spoke with Mr. Kung who, in 1965. was among the first scientists to synthesize insulin, and a man named Lee, who was conducting work on liver cancer.

Pauling was particularly interested in a screening of 150,000 people in Shanghai that was described to him by Mr. Lee. In the screening, 158 people were found to have an embryonic globulin in their blood which is manufactured in large amounts by people who have liver cancer. All of these 158 subjects either already had cancer or developed it later. Pauling suggested that the people who tested positive for this embryonic globulin be given 10 g of vitamin C per day, in an effort to stave off further development of the cancer.

While in Shanghai, the Paulings frequently saw members of the Philadelphia Philharmonic at mealtimes, since they were staying at the same hotel. Pauling noted that he and Ava Helen had tickets to hear the orchestra on September 21. But before that, in the morning, he visited the Peking Institute of Organic Chemistry of the Academia Sinica, where he saw the laboratories and learned about the Institute’s work on steroids. Meanwhile Ava Helen went shopping and visited the zoo, where, Pauling’s record shows, she saw “three giant pandas and several small ones.”

In the afternoon, the Paulings toured a commune. This commune was likely one of many established by Mao Zedong in the late 1950s with the aim of turning China into an industrialized nation. At the commune, Pauling took note of the work and lifestyle of its 24,000 inhabitants, who mostly made tools or did farm work.

Ava Helen and Linus Pauling with hospital staff members, Shanghai, China. 1973.

On Saturday, September 22, Linus and Ava Helen visited the Shanghai Institute of Pharmacology and later the Shanghai Psychiatric Hospital, where they observed a wide array of treatments being given to patients, including acupuncture. Pauling presented the director of the hospital with a copy of his book Orthomolecular Psychiatry, and discussed megavitamin therapy with the hospital’s staff. Afterwards the Paulings watched an acrobatics performance, and the next day they continued to enjoy China’s culture by visiting the Children’s Palace and the Palace of History.

When the Paulings went on a sightseeing tour down to the banks of the Hwang-ho with Chia-si Lu, Pauling’s former Caltech student, Chia-si told them of the hardship that had existed before China’s “liberation.” By liberation, Pauling’s student was referring to the Chinese Revolution in which Mao Zedong and his supporters took over China’s government and installed communist rule in 1949. According to Chia-si, who had been in the U.S. for five years during the 1940s, only about ten percent of the money that he periodically sent home to his wife and son would actually reach them; the rest was taken by the Bank of China, which, according to Chia-si, was the bank of T.V. Soong at the time. For a few years Chia-si’s wife and son were close to starvation, along with many other people in China. However, after the revolution, the new Maoist government controlled the price and distribution of food and, in Chia-si’s estimation, the quality of life improved. (It is important to note that this perspective is contrary to other more contemporary analyses of Chinese food security under Mao.)

Although a few days are excluded from his travel log, Pauling wrote notes in his diary about activities related to hemoglobin and orthomolecular medicine on September 24, and a trip by train to Hangchow that evening, where he and Ava Helen did some sightseeing. Their tourism included the Ling Yin Temple, the Tiger Spring, the Jade Fountain, a tea ceremony, a boat ride on West Lake and a visit to a brocade factory. They attended another in a long string of banquets, and saw the Dragon Well Spring before leaving by train.

Pauling next wrote in his journal on Friday, September 28, to record his and Ava Helen’s tour of a petroleum refinery. The day before, on Thursday, they had visited the big bridge across the Yangtze, after which Pauling gave a lecture on vitamin C and good health at Nanking University. On Thursday night, the Paulings went to a dancing and singing performance staged by children of the district of Nanking. That weekend, the Paulings attended the National Day banquet in Beijing in the dining room of the Hall of Ten Thousand, to which 1,000 guests were invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Before the banquet, the Paulings had visited the Forbidden City once in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

Linus and Ava Helen Pauling with three unknown individuals at a statue of Mao Zedong. China, 1973.

Pauling’s log does not contain entries any further than September 30, which leaves the next few days until his departure on October 8 unaccounted for. However, other documents indicate that the Paulings did get their desired opportunity to speak with scientists Dr. Ma Hai-teh and Rewi Alley on the subject of oxypolygelatin. Pauling wrote to Dr. Ma a few months later, in February 1974, to tell him about further work being conducted on the substance. In his letter, Pauling intimated that he had the idea that the properties of gelatin as a plasma extender would be improved if the long thin gelatin molecules could be tied together into rosettes using hydrogen peroxide, such that the molecules would not escape into the dilate urine through pores in the glomerular filter. This would improve the substance’s time of retention in the body. Pauling also pointed out that oxypolygelatin is non-antigenic, while other proteins are antigenic, meaning that they cause the body to produce antibodies.

Linus and Ava Helen’s first trip to China was a good experience both culturally and scientifically; one in which they were able to appreciate the historical and artistic aspects of the country while likewise engaging in scientific dialogue with Chinese scientists. While there, Pauling was able to spread the word about the benefits of vitamin C and orthomolecular psychiatry, and also to learn about research being conducted in China, including an unlikely exchange of ideas on oxypolygelatin, a substance that he hadn’t touched in some thirty years.