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December 7, 1949 - June 25, 1950


bhchao
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As all of us know, the last remnants of the ROC government on the mainland retreated to Taiwan on December 7, 1949.

Mao wanted to chase after Chiang and remove the latter's threat to his newly formed PRC by arranging a flotilla of boats to transport communist troops across the Strait, and remove Chiang from the picture once and for all.

Mao was already in the process of organizing this flotilla in preparation for an invasion of the island. But one event stopped him: The Korean War. Just six months later on June 25, 1950, the North Koreans invaded South Korea. Truman sent the US Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to protect the southern flank of UN and American forces in Korea. This stopped Mao from going forward with his plans.

So the Korean War most likely saved Chiang Kaishek.

What do you think would have happened had the Korean War not broken out coincidentally six months after December 7, 1949? Do you think Mao would have been successful in his attempt despite lacking a navy? If he succeeded, what kind of impact do you think it would have had on developments in Taiwan society and economy up to the present time?

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Don’t know whether he could succeed if Korean War didn’t happen. But it should be clear that Taiwan would be no more than a backward island as Hainan before the reform. In that case we wouldn’t have the investment and technology from Taiwan in recent years. And China would feel less threatened. Quote the old sayings

福兮,祸之所伏;祸兮,福之所倚。(economy-wise)

生于忧患,死于安乐。(military-wise)

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Bhchao:

You are asking too many "what ifs".

So what if KMT could hold on to Hainan in 1950 like they held on to Taiwan?

My guess is that if KMT could hold on to Hainan, Vietnam War might have never happened. And of course there would be no "Gulf of Tonkin Incident".

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A relevant link: http://www.history.navy.mil/colloquia/cch3c.htm

"...In December 1949, the National Security Council (NSC) affirmed a policy that American forces would not attempt to prevent the Communist seizure of Taiwan. Then, on January 5, 1950, Truman announced to the world that the United States was adopting a "hands off" policy with regard to further political and military support for the Nationalists.

Truman's Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, felt it important to avoid the permanent estrangement of Peking. He took the long view in this regard. He concluded that in twenty year's time China's traditional fear of Russian encroachment on Chinese sovereignty and a continuing need for Western trade would inevitably motivate a Sino-American rapprochement.

Thus, there were clear indications in the first half of 1950 that the United States would not openly oppose Mao's consolidation of power and seizure of all remaining Chinese territory.

The Communists had frequently expressed the intention to complete their victory in the civil war by destroying Chiang's surviving armies and seizing the offshore islands, the Nationalists' last refuges on Chinese soil.

Certainly, Mao's armies had the ability to carry out waterborne invasions, as they demonstrated during the first half of 1950. Possessing large numbers of ground troops and coastal junks, the Communists attacked Nationalist offshore positions from one end of the coast to the other, almost simultaneously. Stretched thin by this tactic, the Nationalist air and naval forces were further hampered by the Communists' use of the night and inclement weather to mask their waterborne invasion and reinforcement movements.

By the late spring of 1950, the Chinese Communist armed forces were prepared to carry out the assault on Taiwan, their most ambitious maritime operation yet. The Communists assembled 5,000 vessels for the invasion by commandeering freighters, motorized junks, and sampans and refloating ships that had been sunk in the Yangtze River during the fight for the mainland. Further, they gathered and trained over 30,000 fishermen and other sailors to man the flotilla.

Since the previous year, General Chen Yi's 3rd Field Army, which was responsible for the assault, had been positioned on the Fukien coast opposite the large island. The Communists trained their troops extensively in amphibious warfare and applied the lessons learned from the Hainan and other island seizures. Despite an outbreak of the Asian blood fluke disease, which reportedly felled thousands of soldiers, preparations proceeded apace for the cross-channel attack. Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson later revealed that between June 10 and June 24, 1950, the strength of the field army swelled from 40,000 to 156,000 men. Also prior to June 25, elements of Lin Piao's 4th Field Army moved from south China to the Shanghai area, where they were positioned to serve as a strategic reserve for Chen Yi. Historian Allen Whiting, author of the seminal work, China Crosses the Yalu, relates that by late June, Peking's exhortations to men in the units stationed opposite the island paralleled in fervor those broadcast to the troops before the Hainan invasion. In short, the Communists were now ready to launch the attack on Taiwan and win final victory in the civil war..."

My hunch is that Mao would have succeeded in landing troops on the island since the Communists showed the determination to win final victory in the civil war. Whether they would have succeeded in defeating troops from the Chiang regime once they landed on the island is another question. Had it not been for the Korean War, the island nation would have been integated with China.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are my thoughts on the KMT legacy in Taiwan:

Negatives.

1. 2/28 - This incident in my opinion is the number one factor contributing to the anti-mainlander sentiments held by many Taiwanese today. When control of Taiwan was passed from the Japanese colonial authorities back to the ROC, many Taiwanese had high hopes for the new mainlander administration after 50 years under Japanese occupation.

2/28 changed all that and drove an irrepairable wedge in Taiwanese society that makes reunification with the mainland a complicated task today. Even after Chiang Kai-shek ordered the execution of the infamous Chen Yi in 1950, Taiwanese secretly harbored deep resentments against the KMT government and mainlanders in general.

2. Prohibiting Taiwanese from speaking 台語 in public. Students who spoke 台語 in schools were severely punished and often humiliated. In one real incident, a student who spoke the language during school session was made by his teacher to wear a sign around his neck that read "I am a dog". The KMT's policy of enforcing Mandarin to be the sole spoken language in Taiwan resembled the Japanese attempt in eradicating the Korean language during their colonial occupation of Korea.

Positives:

1. KMT played an instrumental role in making Taiwan into one of the Four Economic Tigers of Asia. The KMT's successful crackdown on political dissent enabled it to focus on economic development, similar to the trend in South Korea during the Park Chung Hee years. During the 1950's, a successful land reform program was instituted that redistributed public land among small farmers and reduced land rents. Large landowners who lost a chunk of their land to small farmers were given commodities certificates and stock in state-owned industries.

This policy boosted agricultural production in Taiwan since small farmers were allowed to become land-owning entrepreneurs who could sell their fruits and vegetables on the market for profit. As a result, many fruits from Taiwan became huge exports to overseas thereafter.

And the large Taiwanese landowners who were given certificates and stock used this capital to build their own industrial enterprises, helping to aid Taiwan's transition from an agricultural-driven economy into a manufacturing-driven economy.

This successful land reform program highly contrasts with CCP's disastrous Great Leap Forward program in the same period.

2. KMT played a role in the democratization of Taiwan. In 1986, Chiang Ching-kuo lifted martial law and legalized opposition political parties such as the DPP. The DPP for the first time were allowed to hold seats in the legislature. Chiang Ching-kuo also abolished media censorship and promoted native Taiwanese into his administration. Unfortunately, the one stupid move that he did was naming Lee Teng-hui as his successor.

The KMT did a lot of bad things in Taiwan, especially in the pre-1950 years. Their policies though, combined with the efforts by the people of Taiwan, did help shape Taiwan for the better in economic and democratic terms. However the social divisions dating from pre-1950 will take a long time to heal. This along with the political situation in mainland China will have an impact on perceptions of people across the Strait for years to come.

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