FOLLOWING the recognition of the mainland regime by France, there has been new concern in Taiwan that the United Nations will vote to seat Communist China. Last autumn ten of the new African nations which had formerly been French colonies voted against Red China; the vote on October 21 was 41 in favor, 57 against, and 12 abstaining. The Taipei government is afraid that a switch of France and eight other countries would provide the necessary majority. This assumes that all countries who recognize Peiping would vote in its favor. There have been some exceptions to this in the past, but they are few.
The latest tabulation shows sixty UN members recognizing Nationalist China and forty-four recognizing Peiping. Eight members recognize neither. One hope embraced in Taipei is that the United States will be able to uphold the contention that a two-thirds majority is necessary for the seating of Communist China. The General Assembly decided two years ago that a two-thirds majority was needed, but the Soviet bloc challenged the ruling. At the time, the question was academic because Communist China had never received a majority. If the question comes up again, the decision could be reversed by a majority vote.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Chinese are continuing their vigorous wooing of possible votes, especially among the new African states. Their campaigning takes the torm of technical assistance and invitations to African leaders to visit Taiwan and the offshore islands Quemoy and Matsu, which have become tourist attractions in their own right.
The Nationalists realized from the outset that they had no chance of competing with the Communist Chinese through cash loans such as the $25 million offered to President Nkrumah of Ghana or the $19 million extended to Sékou Touré of Guinea. They did have technical experience and concentrated on showing the Africans how to grow rice. A model farm project was set up in Liberia and succeeded in growing rice on arid soil that had never before yielded a single crop. These experiments attracted the attention of other Africans, and the Taipei government followed up by initiating an exchange program for agricultural technicians. Since 1960, more than 300 Nationalist Chinese experts have gone to Africa, and an equal number of Africans have come to Formosa. Last year 49 African farm technicians from 19 countries were enrolled in a six-month agricultural seminar in Taichung, a central Formosan town.
The precarious situation in Africa is illustrated by recalling the case of the 1961 vote in the Uinted Nations when the Nationalists almost lost out. That year a quid pro quo deal was arranged in which the Communist bloc agreed to the election of Mauretania if the Western group would allow the membership of Outer Mongolia.
President Chiang Kai-shek, who has always considered Outer Mongolia part of China, was opposed to the idea. However, if he had carried out his threat to veto Mongolia’s admission, the Soviet Union would have barred Mauretania’s entry, and in retaliation the African states would have supported Communist instead of Nationalist China. He was finally persuaded not to object.
The Nationalists have also been given cause to worry in Asia. The Taipei government, already irritated by Japan’s growing trade with the Communists, became bitter late last year because Japan returned a defector to the Communist mainland after he had changed his mind about defecting and said he wished to go home. The issue brought Taipei-Tokyo relations to a near breaking point. There is considerable pressure among opponents of Japanese Prime Minister Havato Ikeda to recognize Communist China, and even elements within his own ruling LiberalDemocratic Party are advocating recognition, especially since France has recognized Peiping.
The problem of Thailand
The snowballing effect of French recognition has caused the Nationalists concern in Thailand. The Nationalists were eased out of Laos when that country became “neutral,” and although it meant a lost vote in the UN the commercial aspects were almost nil. Thailand poses a different problem. With French-backed pressures being exerted in Southeast Asia to neutralize the entire area, Thailand may begin casting about for some sort of accommodation. At the start of World War II the Thais made a deal with the Japanese to avoid getting mixed up in a shooting war. If the United States ever decided to pull out of South Vietnam, the Thais might recognize Communist China as a means of self-defense.
The significance of such a move would be the immediate switching of the several million overseas Chinese population of Thailand from representation by Peiping to that by Taipei. Since the overseas Chinese control much of Thailand’s day-today commerce and the lucrative surplus export crops — rice, tapioca, jute — sales of these would be directed to Communist countries rather than to the free countries of Asia.
Return to the mainland?
Amid all these external political gyrations, life on Taiwan is focused, as it has been for a decade, on returning to the mainland. During the past year, there has been less and less emphasis in government circles on return by direct invasion and more and more on guerrilla operations along the periphery of Red China that might contribute to an uprising by the population.
This does not represent a change in goals by the Nationalist Chinese — their avowed aim is still to regain control of the territory they lost to the Communists in 1949—but rather a change in approach. The change was necessitated in part last year when, in reply to a Communist Chinese charge, the United States said definitely that it was not inspiring or preparing to underwrite such adventures.
Nationalist China is restrained to a considerable degree from precipitate action by terms of the mutual defense pact of 1956, negotiated by Chiang Kai-shek and John Foster Dulles, which provided that “the use of force will be a matter of joint agreement subject to action of an emergency character which is clearly an exercise of the inherent right of self defense.”
The guerrilla program
The plain truth is that the Nationalist Army would have little chance of success against the larger forces of the mainland unless the United States took part or unless the population was disposed to help. The guerrilla actions are designed to begin creating a climate for popular support.
That these raids have been in some degree successful has been admitted by the Communists themselves. The Peiping Review periodically prints photographs and reports on captured Nationalist agents and has warned the population to be on the lookout for other agents still at large. Taipei claims their groups are active in “at least 15” locations on the mainland. Such claims provide a needed morale boost for the admittedly aging Nationalist Army, and this is another reason for the emphasis on the guerrilla program.
American officials debate the real benefits of the guerrilla harassment but reluctantly concede the Nationalist point that it is desirable to keep pressure on the Communists at a time when the mainland is in the midst of economic trials.
Ironically, the most help for the Nationalist cause of creating a weakened mainland susceptible to a counterattack has come from the Soviet Union. The Sino-Soviet dispute has created, among other things, a Chinese Communist military establishment greatly weakened in terms of modern equipment and fuel. Peiping has admitted that the mass pullout of Soviet technicians and the cancellation of assistance projects caused immense damage. The Communist military in general has been weakened, and the Air Force in particular is fast becoming obsolete as well as desperately short of spare parts.
Defectors and other sources have told of Communist plans during 1962-1963 to attempt to establish air superiority in the Taiwan straits, but the cutoff of advanced Russian aircraft and parts has made this impractical. From radar screens on Taiwan and Quemoy, visitors may watch as the Red Chinese Air Force goes through tactical training over the mainland. Such training has been drastically reduced because of a shortage of aviation fuel.
There is no schism between the United States and Nationalist China, like the Sino-Soviet rift, but the U.S. announcement that its aid program to Taiwan will be slashed requires some readjustment in Taiwan. American-aid planners believe that the Formosan economy is at the takeoff stage and that enough growth can be generated in the private sector to maintain the present relative prosperity. They foresee a phasing out of American aid by 1968. This would imply, however, some reduction in military expenditure, and it is on this point that the Nationalist officials disagree with Washington.
The American viewpoint is supported by several economic indicators which show increasing exports and production capacity. But, despite convincing statistics, Nationalist leaders are reluctant to pare the 600,000-man armed forces or reduce its expenditures.
Most outsiders do not fully realize the central role of the military in the economy and in the political structure. In addition to getting a large slice of the budget, the military also receives significant subsidies. The military is sold over 200,000 tons of rice annually by the national food bureau, which makes the sale at lower than cost and writes off the loss. Military factories produce goods for civilian markets with the profits going for military uses. Servicemen get a premium rate on savings deposits and ride public transport at half price. Military freight goes for half price on the railroads, and utility bills of the military are frequently not paid.
This situation constitutes a drain on resources and has resulted in severe inflationary pressures. These pressures would have been more severe and damaging were it not for the economy’s great increases in productivity, which in turn can be attributed in large degree to the over $3 billion in U.S. aid since 1951. Taiwan’s economic progress, despite the burden of an outsized military establishment, is indeed remarkable and provides an example of an American aid program that has been a net success.
Signs of dissatisfaction
Since the Nationalists consider they are still in a state of civil war, they feel that these drawbacks resulting from a large military force are justified. But there are some real problems to be faced. It is no secret that the government is as concerned with political reliability as it is with military efficiency. This is common in Asian nations where the military’s role in politics is woven into the national fabric. This insistence on political reliability most often takes the form of entrusting top jobs and awarding promotions to officers and noncommissioned officers who came from the mainland originally.
Because the bulk of the rank and file troops in the 400,000-man army are Taiwanese, this can be expected to create morale problems. Nationalist spokesmen say this point is exaggerated by critics, as is the whole argument of Taiwanese (7 million) resenting the control of the island by former mainland Chinese (3 million). But it is true that the Nationalist Army has an uncommon number of generals (900) and colonels (5820) and that the middle-officer ranks, which some Taiwanese have reached, are now stagnated with little chance of promotion.
Because of the very real economic upsurge, which has made the Chinese on Taiwan incomparably better off than those on the mainland, political “outs” find little fertile ground for recruitment of followers. There have been, however, some signs of lessened unity in the ruling Kuomintang Party. These include the resignations of Premier Chen Cheng and others. Chen remains as the nominal vice president, but the resignations are indicative of maneuvering within the high echelons.
Behind much of this maneuvering is Chiang’s son Chiang Ching-kuo, an army officer and head of the secret police. He is believed to be the power fulcrum on the island at present and will be the key figure in the question of succession when seventy-six-year-old Chiang Kaishek passes from the scene.
Despite these strains and stresses and a damaging typhoon last September, Taiwan made some notable economic gains during last year. The September typhoon casualties were 239 dead, more than 300 injured, with 8000 houses destroyed and 12,000 damaged. Relief and reconstruction in the wake of the storm, which struck in the northern Taipei-Keelung area, were swift and efficient and testified to the healthy state of the economy. The storm destroyed some vegetable crops but brought enough rain to save the year’s second rice crop, which had been threatened by a long spell of dry weather.
Taiwan’s exports have been growing in volume and variety over the past several years and in 1963 reached record levels. Much of the gain was accounted for by new manufacturing and processing industries, but a sharp rise in world sugar prices and greater export of this commodity added immeasurably to the overall trade jump. According to the Foreign Exchange and Trade Control Commission, Taiwan’s exports for 1963 were $350 million compared with the previous year’s record $240 million.
Since the Nationalists are as adamant in their refusal to accept a “two Chinas” concept as are the Communists, any change must be pegged to the international situation. On Taiwan today, thoughtful citizens seem to agree that most of the questions concerning the future of this rich green island are bound up in a combination of three important factors: the United Nations vote this autumn on the seating of Communist China, United States foreign policy, and the question of the succession of leaders in both Nationalist and Communist China.