Chinese volunteers in the Spanish Civil War
An estimated 100 Chinese volunteers fought in the Spanish Civil War for the Republic, though only one person is thought to have come directly from China to fight, as the rest already found themselves in Europe working.
A book entitled La crida d’Espanya: els voluntaris xinesos a la Guerra Civil [The Call from Spain: Chinese volunteers in the Spanish Civil War] documents for the first time the lives of thirteen Chinese volunteers who fought with the International Brigades.
Chinese brigadiers in Spanish Civil War
In 1988 an American volunteer from the Abraham Lincoln Batallion showed Ni Hwei and Len Y. Tsou, a couple of Taiwanese chemists living in the States, the picture of a Chinese soldier recuperating in the Benicàssim hospital, close to Barcelona. The presence of one of their fellow countrymen in the Spanish Civil War awoke a curiosity within them. After 13 years of research (through which the picture turned out to be fake) their devotion would become a book.
At first glance the situation described in this book, previously only published in Chinese, might seem implausible. But La crida d’Espanya: els voluntaris xinesos a la Guerra Civil espanyola</em>, presented at Casa Àsia to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, tells a real story.
It is based on research carried out by Ni Hwei-ru and Len Y. Tsou, a Taiwanese couple who have devoted over ten years to reconstructing the lives of thirteen Chinese brigaders from more than a hundred estimated to have fought as volunteers in the International Brigades.
It started when the couple saw the photograph of a Chinese soldier in front of Benicàssim Hospital, although that turned out to be a false clue. Ultimately they were to discover they were mainly workers recruited by foreign companies in China to work in Europe in the 1920s.
A struggle for all
These Chinese volunteers were fighting for their own cause since they equated fascism in Spain with Japanese imperialism and, with their homeland so far away, they decided to take on the struggle supporting the International Brigades.
As Ni Hwei-ru explains, “at that time the Chinese were fighting against Japanese fascism in the East and sympathised with Spaniards also fighting against fascism in the West, saying ‘my fight is your fight. It is not a Spanish or Chinese question, it affects all humanity'”.
Among the thirteen combatants who appear in the book, only one came from China and only two were living in Spain but they all fought in the main battles and even ended up in French concentration camps.
According to Len Y. Tsou, these were volunteers who had not gone to school but “understood the significance of internationalism and what was happening in Spain”
This book on Google Books Chinese migrants and internationalism: Forgotten histories, 1917-1945 By Gregor Benton looks absolutely fascinating.
“Professor Benton describes Chinese involvement in the labor movements of Germany and Australia and in the Spanish Civil War, where over a hundred, for the most part formerly factory workers in France, volunteered to fight on the Republican side.”
International involvement in the Spanish Civil War