Tag Archives: Taiwan

Taiwan’s Unique Moment

The Republic of China on Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China on the mainland are drawing closer. The KMT (Chinese Nationalist) party that governments Taiwan has as its ideal the Three Principles of the People, or

That a government
of the people,
by the people, and
for the people,
shall be established in China

Major agreements such as the Taiwan-Mainland China Free Trade Agreement and smaller agreements, such as December 21’s health care coopeartion agreement take us closer to the day that China’s catastrophic civil war, created by the Imperial-style thinking of Chiang Kaishek and Mao Zedong, can finally end

What is interesting about the present moment is that China has an embarrasingly awful foreign policy which is alienating it from India, Korea, and even European intelligentsia. Until China gets its act together, Taiwan is enjoying its position as the one area where China can profitably engage the world diplomatically. Here’s to the Three Principles of the People!

Review of “The Generalissimo’s Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan” by Jay Taylor

In The Microsoft Way, historian Randall Stross argues that the market for IBM-compatible PC software in the 1980s and 1990s was contested by two competent companies, Microsoft and Inuit, and a train load of incompetent competitors. While most entrants to that market got lucky once or twice, and rode that cash cow as long as it could, Microsoft and Intuit were able to execute short-term tactics and long-term strategies. If such a view can be transplated to Chinese history, the Chinese Civil War was a multi-way battle with a large number of incompetent, violent and lucky competitors, and three factions actually capable of both winning and ruling

The Returned Students

The Whampoa Clique

The Youth Corps

In this view of history, the fight for China was not between Chiang Kaishek and Mao Zedong, two lucky competitors, but by these three interlocking factions which used allegience to Chiang or Mao as a way of deflecting charges of ambition. The first of these three factions, the Returned Students, were those who had earned a Continental education in the west, either from a study-abroad program in France or from Sun Yatsen University in Moscow. The second of these factions, the Whampoa Clique, where those who were faculty or students at the “West Point of China,” the Whampoa Military Academy in Canton City. The third of these factions, the Youth Corp, established as a cannibalizing agent, “in but not of” the KMT.

These three factions overlapped. Zhou Enlai, Mao’s second-in-command, was a Returned Student who taught at Whampoa. Chiang Chingkuo, Chiang’s second-in-command after the relocation to Taiwan, was a Returned student who was the Vice Chairman of the Youth Corps.  These factions even overlap with my own life — my wife’s grandfather studied at Whampoa.

These three factions, like Microsoft and Intuit, shared a focus on a high-quality work force. The active members of these three organizations during their youth were young men who wanted to make a difference and despised corruption. It is easy to forget that Zhou Enlai was only 30 when he met a much younger Chiang Chingkuo in Moscow, and told him to tone down his criticizing   father, because it was unbecoming of a son. It is easy to forget that Lin Biao was only 27 during the Long March. It is even easier not to know that Ching Chungkuo, as director of Taiwan’s security services, warned Zhou Enlai of an upcoming attempt on his life — and that Zhou Enlai seemingly did not inform Mao of this. While most factions in the civil war — the Kwantung Army, the Left KMT, the Chinese Nationalist Army, and others were to varying extents patriots of their cause, only these three were able to generate the high internal cohesion among young men required to revolutionary China.

My first reaction on reading The Generalissimo’s Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan was that the 20th century was simply one long tragedy. So easily, so many things could have gone so much better. What if Chiang had given Zhou Enlai the freedom at Whampoa that he later gave that other Communist, Chiang Ching-kuo? What if General Stillwell, who despised Chiang and helped lead American public opinion against the KMT, and met the up-and-coming Chingkuo (who substantively agreed with him on every important issue)? What if, what if?

But to do so, I think, ignores the utter chaos that befell China twice: after the fall of the Benedict Arnold of China, and after the Japanese Invasion.While a unified front would have been better, the emergence of three competent factions (composing a total of, say 100 able individuals) was a miracle in itself. That the old men of the east were stuck in the poetic worlds of Confucius and the Water Margin, and thus their attempts to modernize China were poisoned by a lethal dose of corruption and internal violence, is perhaps not as notable as the men they had around them.

The difference between Kaishek and Zedong was not their military strategy (both were adherents of the Strategic Retreat), their cosmology (Mao famously scored Zero Points on the mathematics portion of his college entrance exam; Chiang Kaishek famously expressed astonishment that Burma had a rainy season that would interfer with military operations), their management style (“working toward the Chairman,” allowing them to capture all glory and escape all blame), or their willingness to betray their followers. Rather, the difference was this: Chiang was capable of trust, Mao was not. As they reached the age when succession planning became increasingly important: Chiang turned Taiwan over to the men of the Youth Corps.  Mao turned on the Returned Students and the Whampoa Clique in a holocaust of violence.

Sun Yatsen, the (theoretically) Hawaiian-born first President of China, had this has his political motto: That a government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be established in China. Through this Youth Corps, Taiwan finally realized these Three People’s Principles through the integration of the Mainland and Taiwanese political elites, economic development, and last through democracy. A government “by the people” was established on Taiwan in stages, from the lifting of Martial Law in 1987, the legalization of a free press in 1988, the first fair elections to the Legislative Yuan in 1992, the first direct Presidential election in 1996, the first election of an opposition President in 2000, and the democratic return to power of the previously ruling party in 2008. Perhaps China, now firmly ruled by those given positions by the Returned Students and the Whampoa Clique, will soon begin on this last, trickiest path.

Jay Taylor’s The Generalissimo’s Son: Chiang Ching-kuo and the Revolutions in China and Taiwan is an excellent book, and a worthy “prequel” to Taylor’s more recent book, The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the Struggle for Modern China. But just as that book does not stand alone, this does not either. Taylor’s biography of Kaishek should be read with Tuchman’s biography of General Stillwell, as otherwise the public declarations of America’s general in China that, if he were a young man, he would grab a gun and fight for Mao is inexplicable. In the same way, Taylor’s biography of Chingkuo must be read with Gao’s Zhou Enlai: The Last Perfect Revolutionary to understand that the Youth Corps’ true competitors were not the incompetent and lucky, like the Soong Dynasty and the C-C Clique, but those on the other side of the Straits — the Returned Students and the Whampoa Clique.

The Microsoft-Intuit battle very nearly ended in 1995, after the leadership of the Microsoft and Intuit cliques agreed to a cash-and-stock buyout of Intuit by Microsoft. This was only averted through direct U.S. Government actions. The parallels to the possible near future are striking.

China News

United States Taiwan Defense Command has to be the coolest military-related website, ever.

An unclassified DIA report was released last month on the military of the Republic of China on Taiwan. In related news, the USS Nimitz visited Hong Kong, as the Google-China spat blows over.

The formula “The Republic of China on Taiwan” is back in vogue again, following the KMT’s recent election victory. The previous government preferred The Republic of China (Taiwan). Adoption of this change in formula varies by office. The Information Office is “Government Information Office, Republic of China,” while the Diplomatic Missions is “Portal of Republic of China (Taiwan) Diplomatic Missions

Whatever you call it, Taiwan is now a thriving democracy, which means embarrassing Presidential by-elections, critical election movies, and all the other fun of a modern, democratic society.

China News

While a deal on double taxation will wait for another day, China and Taiwan signed three more agreements to bring their economies closer. (More properly, the agreements were made between Taiwan’s “Straits Exchange Foundation” and China’s “Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait,” as China and Taiwan do not recognize each other, and the KMT and the Communists are technically at war). The Taiwan Straits is the one area of the world where a war could do as much damage as World War I. It is important that the Chinese and Taiwanese view each other as business partners, not as enemies. The current warming of relations between Taiwan and China speaks well for the future of peace in the world.

The benefits of this are many. For instance, the Chinese Navy (technically, the People’s Liberation Army Navy) can focus on fighting Somali pirates.

Taiwanese Medium Reveals Secrets

A Taiwanese medium has gone public, announcing that seances with “gods” are in fact… often seances with ghosts. Shocking!

Liu said that by the time she was 26 years old, she had become exhausted with the lifestyle of a medium and decided to change her life path. She revealed that some temple mediums actually communicate the messages of ghosts rather than gods. Liu related one example in which a woman who was ill wanted her to write out a prescription. Liu said she relied on the help of the spirit of Li Bao-yan, a doctor from the Ming dynasty. In this case, she said, she was actually a medium to a doctor, translating his instructions. It was not like she was communicating with a god, she said.

Liu, who is presently 30 years old, said in a frank manner that she is in fact no more than an ordinary student now. “People seemed to have overly high expectations of me in terms of my powers as a medium. It really puts a lot of pressure on me,” Liu said. She added that quite often whether people are able to get the result that they desire largely rests with themselves.

Liu stressed gods are not going to go out of their way to help devotees to achieve what the gods believe are unimportant things, such as making lots of money. She added that they are not going to use mediums to pass along messages of such little importance to them. As for the increasing number of people who desire to be mediums, Liu expressed a few words of caution, saying, “You better be careful about who you are communicating with. If it is a ghost, you could find yourself being tormented quite a bit.”

My original dissertation idea was foiled when my attempt to communicate with the god-beast Shub-Niggurath was found, in fact, merely to be a series of twitter conversations with small-time con artist from the early Merovingian Dynasty. Be careful!

The rest of the article is also interesting, especially the apparent proclivity of both Gods and ghosts to support local fundraising campaigns of the KMT.

Lost to History: Chiang Fang-liang

From 1978 to 1988, the First Lady of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was Chiang Fang-liang, better known to her childhood friends as Faina Ipat’evna Vakhreva.


Faina, a Belarussian, was a Communist Youth League member who Chiang Kaishek’s son, Chiang Chingkuo, met while studying in the Soviet Union.

While Faina and her husband have passed away, her husband’s reforms have made Taiwan a vibrant democracy. His party, the KMT, recently won elections their. One of Faina’s children — Amy Hsiao-Chang, is still alive. While Amy seems to keep a low profile, she was featured in the May 18, 1959, edition of Life magazine.

Before those Nobel Prizes…

If Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (and also President of the People’s Republic of China) Hu Jintao and Chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (and also President of the Republic of China) Ma Ying-jeou can sign a peace agreement between their parties, ending the Chinese Civil War, they should both earn the Nobel Peace Prize.

If such an events happens, the wise leadership of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama on intenrational matters will be contributing factors to that peace.

Currently both the Communists and the Nationalists are acting in ways that are embarrasing to themselves. So, for example

Hopefully, both the Communists and Nationalists can continue to mature, and put peace (and their peoples interests!) first.

The Anti-KMT Taiwanese Movement Goes off the Deep End

It is interesting to watch the anti-KMT, anti-CCP tendency in Taiwanese politics move from a coherent argument for self-determination (when they were in charge) to increasingly belligerent and angry.

In this excerpt, Michael Totten (who is normally great on the subject) has a guest post which, among other things, cites Edward Said:

For the colonizer, the role as a “civilizer” is implicit on defining the objects of their civilizing project Said 1979: 44-45. The resulting definitions must contain two exclusive, yet interrelated parts: A convincing demonstration of the people’s inferiority and the people’s ability to become “civilized” under colonial rule. By providing definitions for peripheral people, the civilizer provides the colonized with a set parameter of comparison with the colonizer and a reason they must become “civilized”Harrell 1996: 8-17.Often, the distance between the periphery and the center is imagined, not simply as physical space, but in terms of time. By projecting the “other” in terms of temporal displacement or “denial of coevalness”, the colonizer distances himself from the colonized Fabian 1983.

via The View from Taiwan: More on the ECFA Cartoons: Guest Post.

From Afghanistan to Taiwan, Chinese and American interests are rapidly converging. This is a good thing for those parties (such as the governments of Afghanistan and Taiwan) able to form friendships with both. For the often scattered and marginalized opposition, however, the Sino-American future presents real problems. As China and America are globalizing countries, it is no surprise that the opposition to Sino-American interests in both Afghanistan and Taiwan take up rhetoric that is skeptical of globalization and the west in general.

The Battle for Taiwan’s Past

Even the question, “Is Taiwan Chinese?,” is deceptive. Does Chinese mean 中国, part of China, or 中华, culturally Chinese?  Recently I noted how the Olympics has dealt with the question. The question is debated in Taiwan, too.


Michael Turton (an anti-KMT, anti-CCP blogger) has two posts which addresses some of the ways the question is coming up nowadays. First, he has a post on The 2/28 Incident, part of the so-called White Terror. According to Taiwanese Nationalists, the 2/28 and the White Terror were part of an invasion of Taiwan by a foreign country at the beginning of the Cold War — an invasion which was then frozen for sixty years. According to the KMT, however, it was a regrettable, sad, but necessary effort to route out Communists and Communist-sympathizers from the last free province of China.  The CCP itself would criticize the KMT for attacking Communists, but note that the KMT’s defense of a  “government of the people” (民族主義) was as patriotic to the Chinese people as the American Civil War was patriotic to the American people.

Likewise, Turton descries naming controversy of the Chiang Kaishek Memorial Hall. Was Chiang a foreigner who grabbed an island occupied by Japan after America liberated it, a hero who kept China’s traditional of Constitutional government alive against impossible odds, or a misguided patriot whose heroic efforts to fight warlordism was undermined by his own paranoia and the corruption of those around him?

These days, the latter two questions both feed into a Chinese nationalist narrative that serves the interests of the KMT (a right-wing, corrupt, pro-market, authoritarian party that rules Taiwan democratically) and the CCP (a right-wing, corrupt, pro-market, authoritarian party that rules China through a collective dictatorship).