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The Generalissimo saw other domestic problems ahead, but none that was insurmountable. The return to normal conditions might take three to five years. But his mind was on the long-range question of China's international position.
"To me," he said, "victory means the beginning of real reconstructioneconomic and politicalfree from outside interference." His pride in China's new sovereignty was clear in the emphasis he placed on "outside interference."
Thoughts of Home. China's little people, who had borne the bitter burden of resistance, heard the surrender news with heart-singing happiness. Yet it was hard to believe after so many dark years. A ricksha coolie spelled out the tidings before one of Chungking's wet wall newspapers, then mumbled, "Japan is defeated. Can we go home now?" In the streets, markets, tea houses, Government corridors the refrain echoed and re-echoed: "Japan is defeated. Can we go home now?"
In all the hinterland, from Chungking to Kunming, China's exiles were selling their makeshift furniture, preparing for the long trek home, for the sadly happy task of picking up the old threads again, however tangled and torn. Some gathered on the Yangtze banks, searching for rafts to float downstream. Others pushed carts and trudged by foot along the roads leading from the citadels of resistance. The tide of humanity, some 25,000,000 strong, which had flowed from the coast to the interior over an area half as big as the U.S., was rolling back again.
The prospect of peace was as diverse as the provinces of China (see map). Noodle-eating Northerners, the tall, rugged people of the Yellow River region, were going back to their cool villages and towns. In Peiping they would eat onions again, fondle walnuts in their palms, see the Temple of Heaven and the old lacquered palaces, bring their songbirds to street corners in the afternoons.
Rice-eating Southerners, the slim, shrewd sophisticates of Chekiang and Fukien, would go back to their poems, books and lotus seeds. Canton's markets and midnight snackeries would be abuzz again. The Hangchow people would see their lovely lakes. The Soochow girls would croon their languid songs.
There would be duck dinners in Nanking and picnics among the pines above Sun Yat-sen's mausoleum. Shanghai's famed Bund would start a new life. Centers of industry and tradesome of them, like Shanghai's sprawling textile factories, relatively undamaged by warwould soon be at work. Everywhere outside the cities the largest number of self-respecting farmers in the world would tend their rice paddies, grain fields and vegetable plots, free at last from the alien taskmaster.
For a United Nation. The Government, too, prepared to go home. Home was 750 miles and eight exile years downriver from Chungking. Home was Nanking, chosen capital and symbol of republican China.
Clerks packed up documents for the return. Lights burned late as administrators wrestled with the problems of transport and relief, and with the larger problem of adjusting a nation to a new era. At the top of the pyramid of state moved the alert, taut, indefatigable Generalissimo, the first architect of victory and now the first hope of peace.