My parents rested in Taipei for a time after the excitement of our reunion, but on Father’s return to Kaohsiung his condition grew steadily worse. It was as if he had held on to life with an unshakable will until he had seen me again and then gave up. As autumn and winter passed, he entered a painful period in which his heart condition made it extremely difficult to breathe and impossible to move about. We visited him as often as possible.
Our trips back and forth between Taipei and Kaohsiung, through the principal towns, the rice-producing lowlands and the sugar plantations, gave me glimpses of the great change that had been overtaking Formosa’s economy during my long absence. Hundreds of millions of American dollars’ worth of subsidies were pouring into our small island each year. New industries had appeared, factories were springing up, and transportation and communications systems were returning to the prewar standards of operation we had known under the Japanese. Soon these standards would be surpassed. Perhaps a billion dollars’ worth of U.S. aid to Chang had been supplied, and the dominating influence of the military was evident everywhere. We were living under martial law.
We talked very little about these things with my father now, and little was said of polities. I had plunged into an extremely busy program at the university and could not visit the south as often as I wished. One day early in May 1955, a telephone call summoned my sister, my second brother, and me to Kaohsiung. We drove all the way in great haste. My father was still conscious, but his struggles to keep alive were unbearable to watch. Then suddenly on May 12 he exclaimed, “I feel fine!”, insisted on getting up, and came to the table with us for the first time in many months. This was such a marked change that we thought it very strange. On the next day he died. He was sixty-five years old.
That academic year at the university had already been rather difficult. On my return from France I entered a complicated situation and was, in a sense, the victim of my own academic successes overseas. International praise for my highly specialized publications generated jealousy on my own campus. I had enjoyed a degree of preferential treatment at Taita from the days we students were inaugurating our own departmental programs. When I left the campus to study abroad, I was in the lowest faculty rank, and I had been absent for three years. Throughout that period my family had received full pay, causing critics to say, “The university is too kind to Peng.”
In the normal course of university affairs, promotions led form the beginner’s rank to a lectureship, and after three years of satisfactory scholastic achievement, to an associate professorship. I was only thirty-one, and therefore by traditional Chinese standards, much too young for my sudden elevation now to an associate professor’s rank. This caused a local uproar. Continental refugees in my own department led the attack and were joined by others in the law school. Some who had no real interest in me used the appointment as an excuse to attack the dean and the president in a regrettable play of academic politics. The fact that I was a Formosan may have contributed something to the controversy the prejudices exposed. At the first formal faculty meeting after my appointment was made, Dean Sah introduced me with a show of pride and flattering comment, whereupon the retired diplomat Lei Sung-shen, a professor in the same field of international law, abruptly rose and left the room. This unnecessary display of professional jealousy created an awkward moment and a foretaste of others to follow. A question was raised in the Legislative Yuan, which controls appropriations for the university. There critics of the university administration used my promotion to charge favoritism, collusion, or worse.
The university president supported me in these embarrassing disputes, and Dean Sah took every opportunity to refute the critics, sometimes going so far as to declare boldly that the traditional Chinese university system could not have produced such a young scholar. Sometimes my advocates seemed to consider me a prodigy, and I now realize I was developing a degree of intellectual arrogance that cannot have pleased the older scholars on the Taita staff. After serving the usual three years as an associate professor, I became, at thirty-four years of age, the youngest full professor in the history of the postwar institution.
In these years politics as such held no interest for me. I was concerned only with my own career and my writing. My lecture course became one of the most popular in the entire university and continued to be until the day I was arrested in 1964. Slowly I was compelled to recognize that the immediate problems of Formosa’s insecure international position were quite as important as academic theories and special case-studies drawn from the past and from elsewhere in the world. We were living in an era of complicated and confusing change in Formosa’s relations with continental China and with China’s friends and foes overseas. It was the era of John Foster Dulles, of the American confrontation with Communist China across the straits, and of Peking’s angry claims to sovereignty in the island. Mr. Dulles’ grandfather had come to Formosa in 1895 on Peking’s behalf to assist in delivering the island to the Japanese and Mr. Dulles himself had contrived to leave Formosa’s sovereignty and international status undefined during and after the Japanese Peace Conference in 1951. He had excluded the Chinese, Nationalist and Communist alike, from the Conference at San Francisco, and although the San Francisco Treaty specified that Japan give up all claims to Formosa and the Pescadores, it did not provide for a transfer of sovereignty to China. The Generalissimo angrily declared that it was not binding upon the government of China, which he claimed to represent. Under Washington’s pressure and Mr. Dulles’ persuasive argument, Taipei then signed a separate bilateral treaty with Japan in 1952. Technically speaking, the international status of Formosa and its people was not defined. Even the United States-Nationalist Mutual Defense Treaty of December, 1954, avoided the issue.
Although for all students of international law Formosa’s legal position was clearly one of first importance, it was soon apparent that I could not discuss the question freely in the classroom. I could not touch upon it at all. When we talked of elements constituting the essential character of the modern nation-state, I could only say,
The foundations are not formed on the basis of biologic origin, culture, religion, or language, but rather on a sense of common destiny and a belief in shared interests. These subjective feelings, which rise out of a common history, are not necessarily related to the objective criteria of biology, religion, and language. Modern history holds many examples in which peoples of similar background and heritage constitute separate political entities. For example, the Anglo-Saxon tradition has produced countries as diverse as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; all share a common tradition of blood, language, religion, and in large part, of laws, but each exhibits a separate political constitution and forms a separate nation. On the other hand, there are cases in which peoples of different origin and background now constitute a single state based upon feelings of common interest. Belgium and Switzerland are examples, and a hundred years ago Italy was a peninsula crowded with diverse states and principalities, warring among themselves, speaking diverse dialects, and based on diverse economies.
Even as we considered these problems, Singapore moved from a colonial status to independence as a self-governing member of the British Commonwealth, an association of Indians, Malays, and overseas Chinese, obliged and bound by common interest to form a political union and a nation-state.
My lectures and comments at this time reflected my earlier interest in Ernest Renan’s essay on the question, “What is a nation?” Renan, touring Italy at the age of twenty-six, had traveled about among the warring Italian states, asking himself the question I was now asking my students to consider. I quoted him before Chinese and Formosan students alike. No Formosan dared pursue the subject openly in the classroom, but some always smiled when I touched upon the topic.
My own intellectual interest in the subject grew steadily in these years. In my grandfather’s day Peking had ceded our island to Japan in order to preserve China’s interests on the continent and to prevent a Japanese advance upon Peking. At that time, perhaps for the first time, the factions and clans and villages throughout Formosa began to be aware of themselves as an island people. They were developing an identity of interest. For fifty years thereafter Tokyo vigorously pursued a policy intended to make Formosans over into good Japanese subjects. By reorganizing the economy, binding the island together with a modern communications system, and extending a common primary school educational program into every community, the Japanese had strengthened the sense of common interest without making us over into the good Japanese they desired. On the contrary, our younger Formosan leaders, representing an emergent middle class, had sharpened our self-consciousness as Formosans through the home rule movement. This developed during World War I and grew steadily more important until 1945. Now, under Chiang Kai-shek’s administration, I saw myself, my contemporaries, and our children subjected to an extraordinary effort to make all Formosans over once again into good Chinese, Nationalist Chinese. Where in truth lay the “common interest” and what was our destiny?
This was a period of intense intellectual activity. I was publishing constantly and prepared a long textbook on international law, a volume of over 600 pages which is still considered one of the best on the subject to be found in the Chinese language and remains in use at Taipei. I do not know what its reception has been at the universities in Peking.
As my academic credentials grew stronger, my name was becoming known on every campus. Every college offering courses in international law asked me to lecture from time to time, and even some of the military schools near Taipei sought me out. This moonlighting was a practice to which a majority of professors had to resort in order to supplement meager salaries. I encountered envy and jealousy here and there, for I was monopolizing these extracurricular opportunities in the field of international law, and my colleagues were losing opportunities for outside engagements and additional income. Another cause for trouble within the Taita faculty was the evidence of my growing popularity with the students, reflected in requests that I become their counselor despite my rather strict grading in the classroom and on examinations. It was the student’s privilege to select his faculty advisor, and soon the situation was grotesque and had to be corrected. Whereas most faculty members were counseling no more than ten students, nearly a hundred had applied to me and large numbers sought me out at my home as well as at my office. The situation was getting out of hand.
In 1956, Dr. Henry Kissinger invited me to attend the annual international seminar at the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University.
It was refreshing to be in the Western world again and once more a member of an intellectual, cosmopolitan group. Some thirty or forty participants joined in this two-month session, a varied group that included a British parliamentarian, a judge from Ceylon, a German journalist, and an Indian writer. Of the three Japanese present, one was a woman lawyer and one a scientist. We worked together through the summer months under Dr. Kissinger’s overall direction, meeting in general conference or in groups each morning, and making scheduled afternoon visits to schools, prisons, courts, and institutions of many kinds. The political discussion groups were chaired by Professor Earl Latham of Amherst College who especially delighted us with an extraordinary wit and humor. We heard distinguished speakers and had opportunities to talk with them, although no conclusions were drawn and no paper published. It was an opportunity to exchange ideas freely on current problems. Since we were passing through a series of crises and military confrontations in the Formosan Straits, the threatened resumption of a general war in Asia meant that the Formosan question was a frequent topic of conversation.
When these Harvard sessions ended, I flew to Paris. On this brief visit I discovered that my friend and former classmate Tabuchi was becoming a success. One gallery was buying all the pictures he produced, he had divorced his Japanese wife, married his Norwegian girlfriend, and was settling down to rear a second family in a small chateau in the French countryside. I also managed to spend a few days with friends at Goteborg, Sweden, before flying back to Formosa.
Soon after this, in 1957, my second child, a daughter whom I adored and spoiled with attention, was born.
Teaching, lecturing off campus, advisory work with students, and constant research crowded the years after my summer at Harvard and the brief visit to Europe. I published papers in professional journals, and in 1958 I published in French a volume based principally upon my doctoral dissertation. I still did not consider myself a man of action but only as a member of an academic elite, removed from active political affairs. This was the last such year of my life.
IN 1960 I WAS INVITED again by Dr. Kissinger to attend a conference in Tokyo at which he was the leading figure. Concurrently I was named one of Taipei’s delegates to a “Sino-American Conference on Intellectual Cooperation” to be held at the Far Eastern Institute of the University of Washington in Seattle.
My presence at the Tokyo seminar was of little interest to the Taipei government. However, it attached great importance to the Seattle gathering. This was to be managed by Professor George Taylor, then director of the Far Eastern Institute. Several American institutions would be represented, affording opportunities for intensive lobbying within the American academic community and for securing funds from American foundations.
Dr. Hu Shih was made chief delegate, and there were about forty other academicians from Taipei. All were to travel on official passports, and as if to confirm beyond doubt the importance of the enterprise, the Generalissimo and Madame Chiang invited the entire group to a farewell party at their Shih-lin mansion. I was one of two Formosans in the group and the youngest member. When disgruntled colleagues demanded to know why I had been selected, Dr. Hu spoke out on my behalf and left no doubt that he considered me his protege. Until this point in my career I am sure he had favored me because of my academic attainments at McGill and in Paris. I am convinced that he had been quite sincere in pressing the Taita administration to consider me and a few other Formosans as the men who should be cultivated and brought forward for the future interest of the university. Here, however, I believe his enthusiasm began to be exploited by party and government functionaries with other and less admirable ends in view. For the first time I had an intimation that perhaps I was being brought forward by the Nationalists to prove to the world that Formosans were being given their proper place in Nationalist Chinese affairs.
This farewell party brought me face to face with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for the first time. When we were assembled in his presence, Dr. Hu himself seized me by the arm to conduct me to the president and leader of the party. I was detained for a prolonged conversation, rather longer than he usually permitted on first social introduction. My instinctive reaction was not good. His remarks were set phrases such as “How are your family?” “How many children have you?”, “Have you any difficulties”, “What can I do to help you?” My answers and Dr. Hu’s remarks were interspersed with the Generalissimo’s dry and meaningless interjections “Hao, hao, hao!” (“Good, good, good!”) There was no depth of feeling or genuine interest here, but rather the overtones of imperial condescension or a royal prompting for me to ask favors which, if granted, would place me under personal obligation to him. Madame Chiang appeared only at lunch.
With the Generalissimo’s blessing we completed our preparations and flew to Seattle. Dr. Hu made the keynote speech. Some ardent traditionalists felt that he was too critical of traditional Chinese culture and showed himself too eager to modify ancient Chinese values. That debate was carried on later at Taipei and became a major issue. At one session, one of the participants, Dr. Tsiang Ting-fu, then the Chinese Nationalist ambassador to the U.N., startled everyone by proposing a study on how to liberalize the Nationalist government . He had been noted as one of the most enlightened and liberal officers in the government, and once even openly advocated the formation of a genuine opposition party. However, no one expected him to make such a proposal at this conference. Dr. Hu Shih, visibly embarrassed, cut him off by suggesting that this conference was not an appropriate place to discuss this matter, and that it should be considered on another occasion.
At the conclusion of our five-day Seattle meeting, I went briefly to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to see old friends before I returned to the Pacific and to Japan. I had some weeks to spare before taking my place at the conference to be held at the International House, and this interlude gave me opportunity for a sentimental journey to Western Japan, to Kyoto and Kobe, but not to Nagasaki. In Kyoto I went back to my old lodgings of high school days. Twenty years had passed since I had been cramming my rooms full of books, and my head full of thoughts of France. My surprised old landlord welcomed me with enthusiasm and assured me that he had always known I would be a professor some day. This was my longest stay in Japan after World War II, and what I saw deeply impressed me. Japan had been totally defeated and in ruins, and now, freed of the burden of arms, the nation was making spectacular progress. I thought of Formosa, where the defeated Generalissimo, after fleeing China, continued to maintain a huge army and a military program which absorbed eighty percent of our Formosan budget. What could we do if we were freed of that burden as Japan had been freed in 1945?
On my return to the Harvard-Tokyo conference, I was happy to renew my acquaintance with several participants who had also been with me at the Harvard seminar in 1956. Again for two months we met together each day and the atmosphere was decidedly unlike that I had known at Seattle. Here was a genuine attempt to examine major problems of the day and to exchange ideas on a wide variety of subjects. Dr. Hu would have been happier here, for these participants were not necessarily interested in preserving the status quo and the classic past, but rather urgently seeking reasonable solutions to the developing complexities of international life. It was a genuine attempt to examine major issues.
During the conference I made a speech in which I developed a new line of political thought. For the first time I noted publicly that the legal status of Formosa had not yet been settled by formal action, and suggested that the Formosan people should have something to say about their future. It was a guarded statement, but the implications were clear. I was beginning to think about the real day-to-day problems of my own people and my homeland. Several scholars sought me out privately to raise the question of Formosa’s status. I began to think in political terms and to come slowly down to earth from the realms of abstract theory and consideration of the past as merely a body of case histories. From time to time, Formosan residents in Tokyo came to see me, always with questions about the future. Sooner or later I would have to come to grips with the issue.
The summer of 1960 gave me much to reflect upon. In retrospect we see that the end of an era of relative liberalism in Formosa came then with a serious attack upon freedom of speech and of the press, and upon all Chinese and Formosans alike who had dared suggest that Chiang’s reconquest of the mainland was a hopeless dream. After a decade of isolation from the continent, many thoughtful persons believed a more positive effort should be made to bring the exiled Chinese and the Formosans together. The aging refugees were dwindling in numbers and sending their children and money abroad. A majority of the armed forces were now Formosan conscripts. The Formosan population was rapidly increasing, outnumbering the refugees by five to one. The time had come for the refugees and the Formosans to learn to work together in the common interest.
A few days before I left for the Seattle conference, a journalist named Fu Chung-mei had come to see me privately and in great agitation. He had at one time been a secretary to Chiang Ching-kuo and was now associated with the influential liberal editor Lei Chen, publisher of The Free China Fortnightly. Lei had been urging the government to permit formation of a loyal opposition party, a liberalization of the Nationalist party program within Formosa, and a more realistic appraisal of Formosa’s true military and political situation. He most particularly advocated genuine cooperation between the continental refugees and the Formosan people. According to Fu, Lei’s journal was being subjected to increasing pressure by the Nationalist secret police. “Something may happen any day,” he had said. Now it had happened. Word reached us in Tokyo that Lei Chen had been arrested, together with a number of associates. Among them was Fu Chung-mei. It was chilling news and marked the beginning of a drive to suppress all talk or thought of cooperation between Formosans and continental Chinese exiles interested in forming a new political party. Lei, an elderly man, was eventually sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. Some of his associates were sent off to Green Island, the Devil’s Island of the Nationalist regime. One of my friends involved in this was placed in solitary confinement, and remained there cut off from the rest of the world for many years.
While in Tokyo I received a cablegram from Taipei notifying me that I had been appointed to a state chair by the National Committee for Scientific Development of which Dr. Hu Shih was chairman. This was a marked distinction, for there were no more than twelve men so honored at any time. The grant of 5000 Taiwan dollars per month was intended to supplement my regular monthly salary of 2000 dollars and to make it unnecessary for me to moonlight. I had been teaching for a year at the Tunghai University, a private institution near Taichung founded by mission funds. Each Thursday I made the hundred-mile trip southward and took the bus to the campus in the hills. I enjoyed these lectures, for the Tunghai campus, away from crowded Taipei, was less formal. The student body was more relaxed but no less serious. The school was not Americanized to any marked degree, but it undoubtedly reflected something of its wider international associations. The position paid very well and I was reluctant to give it up. The administration at Tunghai proposed that I take a year 5 leave of absence from Taita, join the Tunghai faculty full time, and move to Taichung. This I had to decline.
On returning from Tokyo I took up my new work as a National Research Fellow, proposing to make a study of “Technological Development and International Law,” a subject of considerable international interest. The Formosan press gave my new appointment great publicity. In retrospect I am certain that there were no concerted actions behind the scene, although Dr. Hu sometimes seemed to be associated somewhere with these appointments and distinctions. One could imagine, at least, that he and his like-minded liberal associates were happy to have it demonstrated that Formosans were quite capable of taking a place in the island’s intellectual life at the highest levels, and should therefore be cultivated in the national interest.
This appointment was a true academic distinction and I was pleased to accept it, but soon there were other distinctions less to my taste, favors and notices that placed me often in a false position and gave me the appearance of being used by the regime not unlike the “Professional Formosans” so often the subject of Formosan sarcasm.
At about this time a comparatively liberal group within the Nationalist party promised to sponsor a large conference that would bring together representatives of all noncommunist Chinese communities around the world. Pragmatic overseas Chinese everywhere were beginning to assess Chiang’s chances of survival, weighing them against evidence that Mao Tse-tung and his men controlled the whole of mainland China and showed growing strength. Taipei had soon to offer some convincing evidence that the Nationalist party and government still had vitality. The plan for a great conference at Taipei was opposed by hard-core reactionaries within the party elite. The Generalissimo was not prepared to take the risks of an open international conference, sponsored by the government, which might generate criticism of the party and of his own leadership.
Out of this came a compromise, a consultative conference, in which carefully selected representatives of overseas Chinese communities were invited to participate. There would be meetings of an economics group and an education and culture group. Participants would be shown Formosa’s great progress under Nationalist leadership, although it was a foregone conclusion that little would be said about the volume of American dollar subsidy, the extent of American technical and military assistance, or of the Japanese base firmly laid down in the fifty years preceding the Nationalist occupation. Economic statistics, graphs and charts, could be made to speak for themselves, and they were impressive. Any attempt to discuss education and culture must touch on very sensitive issues, however, for the current overseas propaganda and the local realities would be difficult to reconcile.
The conference would be held in the hot-spring resort area on nearby Yang Ming Mountain, and was therefore called the Yang Ming Shan Conference. An intensive publicity campaign was undertaken to persuade the public that this was the biggest event of the year. It was announced that the Generalissimo himself would attend the meeting and entertain the delegates at dinner, thereby giving the conference his blessing.
A majority of the overseas Chinese guests invited to attend the conference were older men, senior leaders in their respective businesses and professions. They were not likely to ask embarrassing questions or to misrepresent the party’s interests on returning to their homes. The senior members of the Taipei government were scheduled to be present, cabinet members and party officials groomed to make reports. On the eve of the conference, I learned through the press that I was expected to attend. Long debate must have preceded the decision to include me as a member of the education and culture group. It came as the greater surprise because I was then merely a thirty-six-year-old professor, and hence very junior in the ranks represented here.
All the reports made by the senior government and party officers strictly followed the party line. They predicted the inevitable collapse of the Communist regime in Peking and speedy recovery of China by the Nationalist government. The participants were supposed to accept this line. If questions were asked by the audience, they were concerned with trivialities. The basic position and policy of the government could not be questioned. Chiang received one small group at a time for lunch. The conference ended with a formal dinner to which all participants and government officials were invited.
Soon after this the Ministry of Education sponsored a National Education Conference to examine policies and the structure of the educational system. The president and deans of the National Taiwan University were conference members ex officio. I was also invited. Both the university president and the deans took pains to introduce me at the meetings although this was hardly necessary. Thanks to attentions given me in the press, I had become something of a celebrity within Formosa’s small academic world.
The Taiwan Junior Chamber of Commerce, patterned after the American organization, decided to elect the “Ten Outstanding Young Men of Taiwan.” Local branches of the Junior Chamber of Commerce sent in nominations, and less than twenty-four hours before the choices were made public, and too late to forgo the “honor,” I learned that I was one of the ten young men chosen. I was nearly forty years old at that time.
The whole matter was a commercial promotion enterprise throughout. There was radio and television coverage and also interviews and articles in the press. To cap it all, an elaborate formal presentation took place, staged in Madame Chiang’s noted commercial enterprise, the Grand Hotel. I was called upon to give a brief speech, and thereby the public image of a loyal Formosan was maintained.
These ten outstanding young men were invited to have tea with General Chiang Ching-kuo, acting in his role as head of the National Youth Corps. Undoubtedly a group picture would be taken, as is usual on such occasions, and this in turn would be used for youth corps publicity purposes. This was too much for me to stomach. I still considered myself a nonpolitical academician. I could not have my students see me in public association with the chief of the dreaded secret police who liked to consider himself a “Tutor of Youth.” Too many students, their fathers, brothers, relatives, and friends were being imprisoned on his orders.
I sent a polite note to young Chiang’s office saying that I had previous important engagements in Taichung and could not be present at the tea. When the inevitable group picture appeared in every island paper, my absence was conspicuous. At once there was lively speculation about why I boycotted a meeting with Chiang Ching-kuo.