CHAPTER XIV

WHAT OF THE FUTURE?

 

 

In August 1945, President Chiang Kai-shek addressed a joint session of the Supreme National Defense Council and the Kuomintang Central Executive Committee on the subject of China's Foreign Policy. Discussing the Kuomintang Principle of Nationalism, he said:

"If frontier racial groups situated in the regions outside the Provinces have the capacity for self-government and a strong determination to attain independence - and are politically and economically ready for both - our Government should, in an friendly spirit, voluntarily help them to realise their freedom and forever treat them as brotherly nations and as equals of China. We should entertain no ill-will or prejudices against them because of their choice to leave the Mother country."

"We should accord the large and small racial groups inside the provinces legal and political equality and unhindered economic and religious freedom, so that a warm community spirit and friendly collaboration may develop among all the groups."

In this extract there are three words, "should", and it is difficult to decide whether the President meant them to express a duty or an intention. However, ultimately to a man of integrity a duty becomes an intention, and there is therefore no reason to split hairs on the meaning. The fact is evident that Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang know what is their duty when racial groups conform to all the "ifs", viz., a capacity for self-government, a determination to attain independence, and are politically and economically ready.

The Formosans have exhibited all these qualifications and have brought them to the notice of Chiang Kai-shek. But, even if they had heard about this speech, they (like anyone else who was familiar with Chinese speeches) would not be impressed by it. They now have a keen appreciation of what that kind of speech is worth from that quarter.

They can see very little evidence of improvements in their conditions brought about by Dr. Wei and his "new deal". So far his promises have not been of much avail. The descent into poverty, squalor, starvation and serfdom is not being arrested, and the reasons are quite evident. They are fundamental in the Chinese system of government.

Much springs from the rapacity of the officials who, operating the system of "squeeze", are able to amass large fortunes. It is true that officials are sometimes punished for "squeezing", but the cynical say that that is because they have not given sufficient to the "higher-ups" as their share. There are, of course, honest officials who endeavour to live without extorting "squeeze", but as those who "squeeze" are so much more numerous, the honest make little difference to the general effect of the system on the economy of the Island. For instance, export and import trade can be carried out within limits, but success or failure is largely determined by the amount of "squeeze" disbursed. Naturally the importer, say, recoups his "squeeze" payments by increasing the selling price of his goods. This, of course, means that the cost of the article to the consumer is increased and the general effect is to increase the cost of living. It is believed that "squeeze" has to be paid out to so many customs and harbour officials, that this is the chief reason why it requires 180-200 yen to buy in the Pescadores what 100 yen will buy on the main island of Formosa. In the Japanese time there was no difference in the purchasing power of money in the two places.

The following true story, although taking place in Shanghai, is not without interest and illustrates the operation of "squeeze". In a hairdressing salon, a girl came in and introduced herself to the proprietor as coming from the Bureau of Internal Affairs, and informed him that he had not paid his income tax. The proprietor said that that was quite correct, but since there were still some days left in which to do so, he was waiting till he was not quite so busy. However, as he had the money he said that he was quite willing to pay it then. The girl then said that her boss was also quite willing to receive a present. When asked what sort of a present, she replied, "Oh, anything above 25,000 dollars CNC." When the proprietor replied that he had no intention of giving a present, the girl pointed out that they would require his business account books for examination, to which the proprietor replied that he was quite willing to let them have the books as they were quite in order. But the girl then explained that there was such a lot of paper in their office that the books were liable to be lost, and then he would be in trouble for not keeping proper books and, of course, his taxation would be much heavier because he could not prove that the returns he made were correct. The proprietor saw the force of the argument but, unfortunately for him, the matter was not settled until he had paid as a present from twenty-five to thirty percent of his gross profit.

Intelligent Formosans are also well aware of the harmful effect the Government monopolies exercise on the industries of the Island. I have already quoted the excessive charges asked for the transport of phosphatic rock by a Government monopoly, the China Steam Navigation Company. Industry is also greatly affected by the system of Nepotism whereby relatives and friends are given lucrative jobs, often with little or no qualifications for the positions. That much damage can be done to an organisation by an incompetent in an important position is readily apparent. Usually the superior who provides the position for the incompetent person has enough influence to maintain him in that position, no matter how much harm is done, and the organisation stumbles along as best it can under the load the incompetent imposes on it. If the incompetent has no responsibility, the good salary (or the results of "squeeze") still imposes an extra charge on industry, for which the consumer has to pay.

Instances have already been given of how "squeeze" prevents justice being done and the Formosans have come to see that they will not receive justice at the hands of the Chinese. I have already pointed out that, harsh as the Japanese regime had been, they lived in comparative security; but now there was no such thing as security and no-one knows when police of some kind or other will make false accusations, and only the payments of "squeeze" will keep them out of jail.

But the greatest difficulty for the Chinese in the future is the bitterness and hatred that they have piled up against themselves owing to the stupid and brutal way they have dealt with many innocent people. The Formosans are an industrious, hardworking race and have shown that they will fight for their rights and justice, and knowing this, some neutral observers have been forecasting another rebellion. The Chinese broke the spiritual link which bound the Formosans to the Motherland directly after the war, and the Formosans will make every effort to break all the other ties that bind them to the mainland.

An interesting point about all this is that China at present is only the "military occupying power", the "Big Four" having decided at the Cairo Conference that, to encourage China to stay in the war against Japan, Formosa should be returned to her. Therefore, by international law, the island does not legally belong to China - yet - not until the Peace Treaty is signed with Japan.

As the Formosans are a highly intelligent people, with a little initial help from the United Nations they would be capable of governing themselves. Some months before the rebellion Formosans were discussing how they could obtain justice at the hands of the United Nations. They knew of the Atlantic Charter and the "Four Freedoms", and they believed that if they could only have their case brought before an international court, the inequities of the Chinese would be exposed to the world, and would demonstrate clearly that the Chinese were unfit to govern Formosa. The Formosans have now been freed from the Japanese yoke and, instead of helping them in their newly-found freedom, their Motherland has imposed on them another yoke too heavy to be borne. Here, then, is a free people wanting to exercise the right of free peoples to self-government. And what are their chances of getting it?

At the present moment the evils which I have shown as being so extensive in Formosa are also undermining China on the mainland. The Army is honey-combed with "squeeze" and graft so that the fighting soldier is underfed, uncared-for and cowed, while his officers grow fat. To make up his shortages, he has to steal and plunder and his morale is so low that frequently when he meets well-trained, disciplined opponents he is beaten almost before he commences fighting; that is, if he has not already run away at the approach of danger.

Similarly their governing, economic and social systems are full of corruption and the operation of these systems in Formosa is really a reflection of the conditions on the mainland. It will be only a matter of time before the sturdy foundations laid by the Japanese will be in the same crumbling conditions as those on the mainland. Chiang Kai-shek's China is collapsing through her own rottenness.

The United States, in its war against communism, is spending much money to bolster up the struggle of Nationalist China against the Chinese Communists. It appears to me that it can save itself the trouble. Nothing short of a revolution in the Nationalist ranks - capable of sweeping away all its evils - would avail. It is significant that there was such delay before General Wedemeyer's report was published, especially seeing he is reputed "to know the score". The United States is on the horns of a dilemma. It is upholding a rotten institution which is more and more losing the support of its own people. Yet to withdraw the kind of support which is now being given would mean victory for the Communists in China. The solution, as I see it, is at the least for the United States to interfere in China to such an extent as to revolutionise the Army and put it on a well-disciplined basis. Another important step would be to insist that in return for assistance, the National Government allow the growth of an opposition party. Recent events have shown that, as soon as a definite opposition party appears, it is declared illegal and its leaders removed. The world is now seeing the democratic United States supporting the totalitarian state of China. Although it is beyond the intended scope of this chapter, I feel that further comments are necessary in support of the above remarks, as China has recently blazoned to the world that she has had her first democratic elections. I have already tried to indicate just how much such statements may be worth, and the following story from a Westerner who saw these elections carried out, illustrates my point. The entrance to a particular polling booth which the Westerner saw was guarded by two soldiers with rifles and fixed bayonets. The "voter", on entering the booth, was handed a voting slip which was taken from him by an official who, without consulting the voter, put a Chinese character in each of three circles printed on the paper, evidently for that purpose. The paper was again handed to the voter, who placed it in a ballot box and thus recorded his vote.

At the moment, paradoxical though it may seem, the Nationalist Army is one of the best agencies for extending the power of the Communists. The Army, of course, "lives off the land", mainly by plundering and robbing but with rape and murder added to these. The more disciplined armies of the Communists also "live off the land" but endeavour not to antagonize the inhabitants. Their agents and fifth-columnists also promise better things in the way of dispossessing absentee landlords and cancelling debts and mortgages. So, naturally, the inhabitants lean towards the Communists. It seems to me that if things continue as they are at present, China under the Kuomintang is doomed. The Formosans recognize this, and some of them think that this may be their opportunity.

The rebellion has frequently been attributed by the Chinese to the work of the Communists. As far as my knowledge extends, Westerners on the Island at the time found no evidence of this, but the way things are now the Island is ripe for communism. Nor would it be difficult for Communists, through for instance, paying sufficient "squeeze" to corrupt officials, to get a useful supply of arms and ammunition into the Island. It is questionable, however, whether the decline has yet gone so far for the Island to give wholehearted support to communism. There are, of course, sections of the population whose possessions would be taken from them under communism, but as they are now in the process of losing them to the Chinese, it will not be long before they have little more to lose, and will therefore become typical candidates for the Communist Party. I believe this is a real danger and cannot be avoided without radical changes taking place in the set-up of Formosa. I feel that the Chinese Government is too corrupt and impotent to bring about the widespread reforms which are necessary. The only gleam of light on the horizon (and it is only a gleam and just on the horizon) is the spread of Christianity. This makes it all the more necessary that the Christian influences at work in Formosa should have the fullest support. To thorough-going Christians I feel apologetic in making such a statement, for I fully realise that there are much more cogent arguments for the spreading of the Kingdom of God in Formosa, but it may help to waken those less aware of the justifiable claims of Christianity, to its possibilities in Formosa. To overcome evil with good would, of course, be in the direct line of Christ's teaching. But, although it is likely to receive assent as a long-term policy, its advantages as a short-term policy may not be generally apparent in this particular situation.

There have been suggestions that the Chinese brand of communism is different from that of Russia. Whether that is so or not does not matter, because just as soon as Russia considers the time is ripe to absorb Chinese communism into her system, then it will be done. Even if the Chinese did have their own brand, they would not be strong enough to withstand Russian pressure.

There is, therefore, a real danger of Formosa becoming a communist stronghold, a situation which would have serious implementations in the Pacific. Japan fully recognized the strategic value of Formosa. With its naval bases at Keelung, Takao and the Pescadores, and its large aerodromes scattered in various parts of the Island, it could dominate the approaches to China and Japan. Few people realise that Formosa is only about fourteen or fifteen flying hours from Australia. In time of war and in peacetime, Formosa could greatly assist the southward infiltration of communism, and it would thus largely nullify any advantage the Philippines and Japan might have as bulwark against communism.

It seems necessary, then, that the future of Formosa should be reconsidered at the conferences about to take place in formulating the Peace Treaty with Japan. Any suggestion that revision of its status was being considered would greatly hearten the Formosans and consequently hold off, or at least slow down, communistic influences. The Formosans are a kindly and generous people at heart who have, through the work of UNRRA and other agencies, formed a very favourable opinion of Western peoples and entertain very friendly feelings towards them. In my movements round the Island I had frequent evidence of this, and is well illustrated by the following incident. Walking with my interpreter to our hotel, we were followed by two schoolgirls about eleven years of age, who walked close behind us. After a few minutes one of them asked, "Are you the men responsible for the UNRRA supplies we have received?"

My interpreter replied, "This man is representing UNRRA," whereupon she spoke to my interpreter, who translated as follows:

"Please express the very deep gratitude of my people to him, to tell to UNRRA for all the good things UNRRA has given us".

We then asked, "What good things?" and received the reply "Fertiliser."

When we inquired if that was all, she said, "No. We have received cloth, and milk for the children", and she again expressed her thanks. My interpreter said that he had never met anyone so openly grateful.

The following notes, dated 29th May 1947, are also taken from my "Work Journal" and, although referring to the East Coast, are in general typical of the whole Island:

"All along the East Coast I am receiving expressions of gratitude and thanks from various prominent men in towns and villages. UNRRA's work has made a deep impression on these people, whom the Japanese had taught were wild barbarians and savages. To find that their former enemies are considerate for their well-being, will play an important influence in the thinking and opinions of these people in the future."

I am convinced we have established in this Island a reservoir of goodwill towards the Western democracies, which, if used rightly, will help to establish, at least, peace in the Pacific. Nevertheless, that reservoir will be quickly emptied if the Formosans feel that the Western democracies are going to abandon them to the suffering and serfdom that they can see will be their lot under the Chinese Government. To see, then, that justice is done to Formosa would entrench the people firmly on the side of the Western democracies and, instead of Formosa being a breach in the wall against communism, we could make it one of our strongest bastions. Exactly what steps should be taken is rather beyond my province, but those steps should ultimately lead to democratic self-government for the Formosans - perhaps within a larger federation. Now is the time when the Western democracies can make an important and helpful friend or a dangerous enemy.

THE END