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ROC heavyweights


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Several distinguished individuals whom I admire have served for China in different capacities. Besides the well-known diplomats 胡适 (Hu Shih) and Wellington Koo; both of whom served as the ROC's ambassador to the United States; there are the generals Zhang Xueliang, 李宗仁, and 孫立人; and finally 葉公超.

Hu Shih and Wellington Koo were known for their liberal attitudes and open-mindedness. (Both graduated from Columbia University, Koo got his BA, MA, and Ph.D there, while Hu Shih received his Ph.D). Hu served as the ROC ambassador to the UN in 1957.

Koo was China's signatory of the United Nations charter and was instrumental in the development of the organization. His mind was ahead of his time. During the forming of the UN, he raised issues of the right of all individuals to equality and non-discrimination, and the need to secure social welfare in the future world order. What is interesting about Koo's proposal is that he did not justify the equality of all individuals in Western terms, although he clearly understood the Western mindset. Instead he mentioned that the concept of human rights and universal equality has been rooted in ancient Chinese traditions, and he spoke about the influence of Confucius, Mozi, and Sun Yat-sen on universal brotherhood. However his proposal for racial equality was not included in the Dumbarton Oaks conference document in 1944, the precursor to the UN charter signed at San Francisco, because the Soviet Union and Britain rejected it.

The reason I admire 李宗仁 is because he criticized Guomindang policies in pre-1949 China that he felt violated moral principles. That was a rarity among the KMT-aligned warlords. Li was one of Chiang's most talented generals. At the Battle of Taierzhuang, he conceived of a plan to lure the Japanese into a trap through city streets using a bait army. As the Japanese pursue the retreating force through the streets, a division coming northwards from the south would move towards the flank of the Japanese, cornering them on two sides. This plan would only work if the two Chinese divisions did not scatter or flee. To eliminate this possibility, Li demanded that all soldiers were to fight to the death. If any soldier retreats during fighting after the trap is set, his commanding officer was to be shot on the spot. The strategy worked and the Japanese suffered 30,000 casualties that day, proving to the world that with the right leadership and weapons, the Chinese can hold their own. Li stayed on in China after 1949.

Finally 葉公超 was another KMT diplomat who was not afraid to do things differently than what his superiors wanted him to do. He was not a yes-man and was not afraid to speak out independently against the established norm. As head of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later ambassador to the US, he had an independent streak and was not someone who would do everything that Chiang wanted him to do. In other words Yeh was a maverick. Yeh even dared oppose Chiang over the entry of Outer Mongolia into the UN. Chiang opposed its entry into the UN, claiming that his rule extended over Mongolia. Of course everyone knows that Chiang was dreaming, and Yeh knew that. Chiang wanted to veto Mongolia's application despite US pressure to drop the veto. After intensive consultations between the US and Taipei, Chiang had to make the difficult decision to yield. As a result, he lost face tremendously in front of the world. He figured that someone would have to take the blame for his loss of face. In his usual vindictive fashion, he called Yeh into his office and recalled the ambassador of all his duties in Washington. Actually Yeh wasn't really responsible. But everyone knows that going against Chiang and making him lose face, even in the slightest manner, meant political suicide.

My grandfather told me an issue that Yeh handled as head of the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the 1950's. There was a highly attractive female worker in the Ministry who often walked inside the halls while moving her hips in a highly seductive manner. When I first heard this, I thought that this was just a habit and not some kind of intentionally provocative behavior. One day as she was walking in this style, a co-worker walking behind her got aroused and grabbed the "rear". She filed a complaint with Mr. Yeh, claiming inappropriate behavior by her co-worker. Yeh, who knew that the woman intentionally provoked the action and had deliberately walked in this manner before, looked at what she wrote on the complaint regarding what her fellow co-worker did, grabbed a pen, and in response wrote "Why not?", and returned to his usual no-nonsense way of directing the ministry's daily functions.

葉公超 was the one responsible for moving the imperial collections (from Western Zhou to Qing) from Beijing to Taipei in 1949 to prevent it from falling into communist hands.

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