IN MANY RESPECTS, Formosa is a living symbol of the great American dilemma. Put in simple and straightforward terms, that dilemma is how to fulfill the awesome responsibilities of being a global power, entrusted with the defense of many societies, and at the same time, remain faithful to the principles that constitute our political-ethical creed. There is no easy answer to this riddle. Indeed, no complete answer is possible, and we should beware of those who peddle simple solutions to enormously complex problems. This does not provide an excuse, however, for ignoring the most crucial challenge confronting American society in our times. Indeed, our success our very survival - may well depend upon finding more adequate answers than have been discovered to date.
Some eleven million people live on the island of Formosa, approximately nine million of, them "native Formosans" who were born on the island and consider it their homeland. The older Formosans grew up under Japanese rule, a fact that has had an impact upon many aspects of their culture. Even the younger Formosans, however, tend to think of themselves as possessed of traditions, values, and a way of life distinct from that of the mainland Chinese. The emergence of a Formosan nationalism is thus a natural development, and despite the many fissures existing in Formosan political circles, that movement strikes a responsive chord, especially among the intellectuals.
Those who believe that economic determinism is the key to all political phenomena will not find Formosa a case study to their liking. In its natural resources, particularly in the fertility of its soil Formosa has been amply blessed. The Japanese legacy and the more recent American largess, moreover, have combined to give the people of Formosa a much higher standard of living than that of most of their Asian neighbors. In enterprise as well as in agriculture, the native Formosan has played an active, dynamic role. Refugees from the mainland, until recent times at least were overwhelmingly engaged in government work, military service, and teaching While not without its economic problems, Formosa is among that small number of non-western societies for which an optimistic economic prognosis is reasonable, particularly if the issue of population can
The problems of Formosa are overwhelmingly political. How long can the Formosans be excluded from any effective voice in their government in a system that purports to be constitutional and democratic? How long can the myth be continued that Formosa is China? How long can the estrangement between Formosan intellectuals and mainland refugees continue without serious political repercussions? Let no one underestimate the degree to which the Communists are seeking to take advantage of the political situation on Formosa. As might be expected, they are playing both ends against the middle. To the Nationalists, they urge a return to the motherland, with all past sins being forgiven. To the Formosans, they promise the rights of "cultural autonomy" and freedom from "the American-Chiang Kai-shek clique." Presumably, they hope that few Formosans know the true Communist record in Tibet and Sinkiang.
Meanwhile the Kuomintang continues to imprison Formosan nationalists and dominate the political life of this island. But as the Nationalist leaders grow older and less certain of the future, political tension slowly mounts. Cleavages within Kuomintang circles are sharp and significant. Some mainland refugees would be prepared to accept and even welcome a truly democratic order. Others would prefer to depend primarily upon the secret police and the army. The situation is pregnant with political hazards --and possibilities. Where should we stand?
Few if any Americans are better equipped to present new perspectives on the Formosa problem than George H. Kerr. For some three decades, he has had both a scholarly and a personal interest in the Formosan people. At various critical periods, be has lived and worked with them, witnessing their few triumphs and their many tragedies. No one who reads this book will be unaware of the fact that the author has a deep sympathy with the cause of Formosan independence. No doubt many of his facts and arguments will be challenged by those who support different solutions. It will be impossible to ignore Kerr's case, however; be has marshalled evidence too well to permit that. I find myself in great sympathy with his basic theme. Self-determination for the Formosan people is one of those causes which happily unites our values and our national interests. But in any case, this work should stimulate some serious thinking about American policy toward Formosa both by those who agree and those who disagree with the author's conclusions.
ROBERT A. SCALAPINO
University of California, Berkeley