One of the great ironies ignored by most people of the left, is that Fidel Castro admired Francisco Franco. What ought to be obvious is that both men were traditional Spanish caudillos, strongmen. What is different about the two is the enemies they had. In Castro's case largely imaginary, but in Franco's well documented to have been allied with Joseph Stalin. Now comes a book published in Spanish and Chinese highlighting the role played by Mao's forces in the Spanish Civil War; Los brigadistas chinos en la guerra civil.
"If not for the fact that we have the Japanese enemy in front of us, we would surely go join your troops," wrote Mao in an open letter to the Spanish people on May 15, 1937. Some Chinese nationals ended up going anyway. Hwei-Ru Tsou and Len Y. Tsou, a Taiwanese couple living in the United States, chanced upon the photograph of an Asian soldier in a book about the 50th anniversary of the International Brigades. They were surprised. Then, deploying all the perseverance of doctors in chemistry, they spent the next 10 years conducting research in three continents, and located around 100 Chinese combatants.Franco actually was beset by foreign enemies, which he managed to defeat. Castro, far more ruthless and totalitarian, opportunistically created his foreign devil because it made him the beneficiary of the Soviet Union's largesse. Both the CIA and the State Dept. were pro-Castro in 1958, even arranging for sympathetic journalists to get to Castro's military camp in the Sierra Maestre. Had Castro been something other than a megalomaniac he could have taken power in Cuba and had a perfectly civil relationship with the USA.
Franco's enemies were not of his own making, as this book makes clear;
Only two Chinese nationals were in Spain when war broke out. One, Zhang Zhangguan, had been a traveling salesman there since 1926. The other one, Zhang Shusheng, spoke fluent Spanish and was thus sent to a fully Spanish army unit, the 195th Brigade of the 50th division. The others trickled in from the United States and Europe, especially France. They were huagong, unskilled workers who had been recruited by Western powers in China to come and work after World War I. Most were Communist party members, like many of the nearly 35,000 individuals from 53 countries who made up the International Brigades, born out of a political decision by the USSR and the Communist International.
The quiet, mysterious Bi Daowen was another example of Asian support for anti-Fascism. An Indonesian doctor born to Chinese parents who kept in touch with Indonesian pro-independence groups back in the Netherlands, where he studied, Bi Daowen arrived in Spain in September 1937, sent by the Communist International, where he worked as a liaison until the 1960s. He came and went and was spotted in China, Russia, Czechoslovakia and his native Indonesia.That was an example for Castro. After consolidating his hold on Cuba he tried exporting his brand too, with his most notable failure being in Chile in the 1970s. A story almost as well hidden as this one about Mao and Spain.