Often stamps are used to promote goodwill between the United States and foreign nations. In the case of China, U.S. stamps have been used to promote the establishment of a republic and reinforce the United States’ support of the Republic once it had been established.
At the height of World War II, China was fighting its own war against Japanese aggression. As a gesture of support, the United States released a stamp in 1942 commemorating the resistance of the Chinese people to Japan in order to preserve a free government in China. The stamp includes the portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the Chinese Republic. Lincoln’s famous phrase “Of the people, by the people, for the people” is written below his portrait and in Chinese characters under the portrait of Sun Yat-sen. The Chinese characters in the middle of the stamp translate as “Fight the War and Build the Country.” The comparison of Sun Yat-sen to President Lincoln, considered not only one of the United States’ greatest presidents but also an icon of freedom, reflects the strong interest of the U.S. government in the establishment of a Chinese Republic.
Sun Yat-sen was again featured on a stamp in 1961 commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of China (ROC). After the communist revolution in 1949 mainland China became the communist People’s Republic of China and the nationalist government of the ROC governed what is now Taiwan. At the time this stamp was issued the western world considered the ROC to be the legitimate government of mainland China. The issuance of this stamp was a political statement demonstrating the United States’ support of the ROC and denunciation of the communist People’s Republic.