The curious distinctions of appointment to various conferences and the absurd nomination as an outstanding “youth” at the age of forty all fell into the background soon after this. My university gave me new recognition by making me chairman of the political science department. Given the political situation within the island and Formosa’s ambiguous status in international legal and political affairs, it was a daring move from an administrative point of view, an expression of official confidence made just at the moment when doubts were beginning to grow in my mind. Factions in the government were becoming more pronounced. Some of the aging party elite were becoming more and more reactionary with the passage of time in exile and others were becoming more liberal in an attempt to develop a viable island society and to meld all elements within it.
The appointment, which was a coup for the liberals, became effective on 1 August 1960, the beginning of the academic year. Lectures would begin in September. I was hard at work preparing for my new responsibilities when the president of the university sent his car one morning to bring me to his office on urgent business. With only a hint that he himself should be given certain credit, he astonished me by saying that I was about to be appointed officially to the post of advisor to the Chinese delegation to the United Nations Assembly in New York. A formal notification from the Foreign Ministry confirmed the news that afternoon.
The appointment could be explained, I thought, by the fact that the Taipei government was extremely nervous. The moratorium period for the China question had come to an end. Washington and Taipei decided that there must be a change of strategy since in the previous year support for the Nationalists had dropped to the lowest level in the annual vote on the question of seating Peking in the world body. Moreover, Taipei was proposing a complex counterplay involving voting on the admission of Outer Mongolia and of Mauritania. The intransigent Chiang Kai-shek claimed to represent Mongolia in his asserted role as “President of China.” Russia sponsored the Mongolian bid. If Chiang vetoed Outer Mongolia, Russia would veto Mauritania. But the African nations wanted Mauritania in, and if Chiang blocked that admission by his proposed action, he would lose the African support he needed for his own position. I was told that Taipei needed someone in New York who could really work and had a knowledge of international law, someone vigorous who could command international respect.
My participation in government affairs now moved to a new level. On the day following notification from the Foreign Ministry I received a message from the Nationalist party headquarters inviting me to come in for a talk. There lay the true center of power exercised by the Generalissimo in his role as Tsuntsai (“Leader of the party”), the Chinese equivalent of Der Fuhrer.
I was intensely busy for the next few days. Press announcements of my new appointment meant interviews, photographs, and statements. The appointment was discussed publicly at great length. A courtesy call at the Foreign Ministry gave me opportunity to talk with Shen Chan-huang, the foreign minister. My visit to party headquarters brought me face to face with T’ang Chung, the powerful secretary general. During this visit my personal and very private dilemma was clearly defined.
T’ang at once bluntly asked me to look into the Formosan Independence Movement in the United States. This seemed to me to be somewhat apart from my appointed duties as advisor to the United Nations delegation in New York, and I replied carefully that this was a very complicated problem. The independence movement activists, I noted, had already completed army service and were postgraduate students. They were not simple farmers nor naive children. I told him it was doubtful that I would be able to influence them against taking part in the independence movement because I felt even their own fathers would not have much influence in this matter.
T’ang dropped the subject but told me that another man at headquarters wanted to talk with me. This proved to be a rather sinister-looking party officer named Chang Yen-yuan, known to me later as one of the more notorious bosses of the secret police organization. He too asked me to investigate the independence movement in the United States and to use my influence to persuade them to abandon the issue. “Meet them and please tell them to come back,” he said. “Let them see our prosperity now. We can guarantee their safety.”
I came away from party headquarters deeply disturbed. Obviously the party bosses wanted to use me but was I also being exploited deliberately by the government, by the university, and by my sponsors? Within a day or two I paid a courtesy call at the Academia Sinica to take leave of Dr. Hu Shih. To him I remarked privately that I felt the appointment was merely window-dressing, to show a Formosan in New York. He was visibly startled at the idea.
My new colleagues, the professional diplomats, were leaving Taipei a few days ahead of me. My appointment had been unexpected, there were important matters to be arranged at the university, and my family had to be cared for. About two days after the public announcement was made, I received an invitation to call on Vice-president General Chen Cheng at his home at four PM. I found him alone and in a mellow mood. He welcomed me with courteous attention, tea and small dumplings were set before us, and we settled down in an easy and relaxed atmosphere. To my surprise, however, my host remarked, “All your fellow delegates had a dinner here yesterday. I so regretted that we were unable to reach you to deliver the invitation.” Obviously this was a polite lie, for I had been available and the vice-president could have reached me at any moment. I realized at once that either General Chen had chosen this way to have a private conversation with me or, more likely, the other delegates had wanted an opportunity to discuss Formosa’s internal situation and China’s U.N. position unembarrassed by the presence of a Formosan.
The vice-president began to talk of his own recent visit to the United States. He had been confronted by a Formosan Independence Movement demonstration in Washington, the first such public demonstration in the United States (1960), and he obviously was offended and angered. He had lost face. He felt the American authorities should have prevented such a rebellious gesture.
I assured him that there were demonstrations somewhere in America every day, demonstrations on behalf of, or against, the most unlikely causes. For example, there had even been demonstrations protesting the sending of a dog into outer space during the early experiments with satellites and rockets. He accepted this explanation without conviction and turned to general conversation. If he had thought to open a discussion of the Formosan Independence Movement in America, he put the thought aside. After a polite interlude the teatime conversation ended, and I came away sharply aware of the intense sensitivity of Nationalist leaders to all forms of criticism.
In the few days left to me I called upon my closest friend, Liu Chin-sui, who was now an associate professor in the law faculty and a specialist in constitutional law. He was dying of cancer, but before entering the hospital for the last time he had begun to draw up a constitution for Taiwan, a constitution for the future when Formosans would be independent and the continental refugees among us would be given their proper share in an island-wide administration and absorbed into the native island population. As we talked of my new assignment, I was reminded of a small incident that had occurred a few months earlier when Professor Edwin Reischauer of Harvard University had visited Formosa. Liu and I had been with him in a group of academic people about evenly divided between continental Chinese and Formosans. The American presidential campaign was then attracting world attention and Formosans had been excited to learn that the candidate John F. Kennedy had declared that the islets of Quemoy and Matsu were unimportant to the United States and should be given up in order to clarify the American commitment to defend Taiwan. This was mentioned, and Dr. Reischauer playfully said, “Let’s take a poll now. Who do you wish to see elected?”, whereupon all the continental Chinese present promptly said, “Nixon” and all the Formosans, “Kennedy.”
I bid good-bye to my friend Liu for the last time. Ten days later I was in New York and he was dead. The sense of personal loss was great. My thoughts turned often to his dream of a proper and effective constitutional government for our island home.
There was ample time to reflect on this, for I was staying in a dreary hotel near the Empire State Building and was alone a great deal of the time. There were no fellow-Formosans on the delegation or its permanent staff who would understand Liu’s aspirations and my loss. After paying a prompt courtesy call on Dr. Ting-fu Fuller Tsiang, Taipei’s ambassador to the United Nations, I went dutifully to the office each day. There I shared a room with the naval attache and was assigned to the Sixth Committee of the General Assembly, a committee dealing with legal matters.
Just a few days before the formal opening of the General Assembly, the U.N. had been plunged into a grave crisis. Secretary-General Hammarskjold was tragically killed on an African mission. The Soviet Union insisted on adopting the so-called “troika system” by which instead of one, three secretaries-general would be appointed, representing Western, socialist, and nonaligned blocs. It was only at the last moment that U Thant was nominated as a compromise choice. The Nationalist delegation’s task was especially complicated at this moment. The Generalissimo had made a public commitment to veto Outer Mongolia’s application, and Russia had countered by saying that Moscow would therefore veto the Mauritanian bid. The Africans were blaming the Nationalist party leadership and the Chinese delegation was blaming Russia. Taipei resented strong pressures from Washington designed to prevent the veto and blamed the United States for providing insufficient support for Chiang’s claim to represent Outer Mongolia in world affairs. After intensive consultations between our delegation and Taipei, the stubborn Generalissimo was persuaded to make the difficult decision to yield. Since Chiang himself stood to lose face before the world, someone would have to pay the price for the affront. Dr. Tsiang escaped, but the Generalissimo’s extreme displeasure fell instead upon the bon vivant Ambassador George Yeh, Taipei’s popular representative at Washington. This was a matter of behind-the-scenes court politics, suggesting the influence of Foreign Minister Shen Ching-huan who was known not to be one of Yeh’s partisans. The Generalissimo summoned Ambassador Yeh, asked for an explanation, heard him out, and curtly said, “Stay in Taipei; you need not go back.”
Thus Yeh lost the ambassadorship, but since he was one of General Chen Cheng’s men, he was kept in the cabinet to mollify the vice-president and dull criticism among Yeh’s influential friends in America. He was considered too liberal, and kept thereafter under close surveillance, followed everywhere by secret agents assigned to note his associates and report on his daily activities. By now even Dr. Hu Shih’s relations with the Generalissimo were deteriorating, and he had good reason to be conscious of his vulnerability. He had become suspect.
One morning Ambassador Tsiang’s secretary asked me if I had time to lunch privately with the ambassador in his suburban home. We drove out of the city together in his official car, and after a brief greeting by his young wife, the two of us sat down alone for lunch and a long informal talk, which took a strange direction. Dr. Tsiang, then sixty-six years old, began to recall his days as ambassador to Moscow in the years from 1936 to 1938, and soon came around to the subject of Chiang Ching-kuo. I sensed that we had come to the real purpose of the luncheon invitation.
In his youth it was well-known that young Ching-kuo had quarreled bitterly with his father, allegedly because of the elder Chiang’s harsh treatment of the wife of his youth, Ching-kuo’s mother. The young man had gone off to Russia about the time the rising Nationalist general, then forty years of age, had cast aside Ching-kuo’s mother in order to marry Soong Mei-ling, youngest daughter in the wealthy and influential Soong family, based in Shanghai. Ching-kuo attended the Sun Yat-sen Labor University in Moscow, but his movements within Russia after that arc obscure. Ambassador Tsiang began his story by saying that one day he received a cable from the Generalissimo saying, “Please find my son and send him back.”
The ambassador had promptly gone to the Soviet authorities, and a few days later he was notified that Ching-kuo had been found. Dr. Tsiang invited young Chiang to come to the embassy, and then told him of his father’s cabled request. Ching-kuo, who was then about twenty-seven years old, replied, “I have a problem; I have married a Russian girl and I married for love.” Dr. Tsiang invited him to bring his wife to the embassy. According to the ambassador, she proved to be a simple country girl who “didn’t even know how to use a knife and fork properly.” “I told Ching-kuo that he must return to China in any case, and must take his wife with him,” said Tsiang. “He agreed. I then prepared appropriate gifts for them to present to his father.” A few years later Ambassador Tsiang returned to China and was amazed to meet a Russian girl who had been, in his words, transformed into a “gracious Chinese lady” and had adopted a Chinese name.
Since then Ching-kuo had found in him a father-teacher figure, an older man to whom he could look for the friendship missing in his relations with the formidable Generalissimo. After that, he said, each time he returned to Formosa Ching-kuo met him personally at the airport and treated him with special courtesy.
In his conversation with me Dr. Tsiang enlarged on this relationship, saying that he did not consider Ching-kuo a “stupid person” but rather a victim of circumstance. “I told him bluntly on one occasion,” said Dr. Tsiang, “that he seemed always to be surrounded by inferior people and that he should recruit good men, and he said to me, in effect, “Do you think good people would associate with me? None of the able men want to be with me, so the only men around me are men nobody else wants.” Tsiang thought this was proof that Chiang Ching-kuo was not stupid, and noted that he seemed to be comfortable with students and men of lower rank, but lost assurance when with men of superior education.
Dr. Tsiang then said he found occasion to tell the Generalissimo himself quite frankly that he should give his son more respectable and more appropriate jobs. He should not seem to be only a police boss. The response was ambiguous: “What can he do?”, which might be interpreted “Is he capable of doing anything?” or as “What do you recommend?”
The ambassador then remarked to me that “He (Ching-kuo) is not a bad man, and he knows his own limitations. He needs able men about him,” and as he reminisced in this fashion, I began to wonder why he was confiding in me.
Our strange, private talk, unattended and probably unrecorded, continued until four o’clock in the afternoon when at last I was sent back to my shabby hotel in the ambassador’s car. During the long drive into the city I reflected on Dr. Tsiang’s candor in speaking of the Generalissimo and his boldness. For example, he had said that he once advised Chiang to cut the size of his army because it was absorbing too great a share of the budget, and the Generalissimo characteristically had brushed this aside with the comment, “You probably know something about diplomacy and politics, but you don’t understand military matters.”
My only private conversation with the ambassador thus ended on a curious note. Between September and December the Chinese delegation lobbied intensively to gain support in the next crucial vote on the China question. Strategy was changing; from then on it was to be considered “an important question” requiring a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly for a decision. In addition to my light duties on the Sixth Committee, I was asked to analyze every speech made in the General Assembly that touched on the subject of China’s representation in the world body. Thus as these texts came over my desk, I began to see the problem in a new perspective. When the voting took place at last, Taipei retained its seat by a narrow margin.
International interest in the China question was soon dulled by annual repetition. The fate of the Nationalist regime was at stake, but so too was the fate of the Formosan people. They were seldom mentioned in the debates. Our delegation refused to admit that these were separate interests, and my presence as a Formosan member implied a consensus in support of Chiang’s government that did not exist.
Some Formosans questioned my integrity. Why was I willing to serve as a Nationalist representative at the UN.? Several men who were active in the Formosan Independence Movement in New York came to me and proposed that I find an occasion to speak on the floor of the General Assembly on behalf of the Nationalist Chinese delegation and then suddenly and dramatically present the case for independence together with an appeal for UN. action. At the same time, they thought, I should appeal for political asylum in the United States. This was entirely impractical; there would be no occasion for me to make a speech as that was not my role in the delegation, and I was not ready for such a dramatic gesture. The ground had not been properly prepared to capitalize upon the momentary sensation such an incident would generate.
It was apparent to all that the Chinese delegation had no interest in United Nations business other than the problem of keeping its own seat in the world organization. Before the session ended I requested and received permission to return to Taipei and to my new duties as chairman of the political science department at the university.
On my return to Formosa I found myself a center of attention among Formosan students and leaders in every field. I was at the peak of my career in a highly specialized field, the new technological aspects of international law in which I was a recognized pioneer. My brief assignment to the UN. delegation had added nothing to the modest professional reputation I enjoyed abroad, but in Formosa it was taken as a demonstration of what a Formosan might and could accomplish if given opportunity. There was an overwhelming flood of invitations to speak of my experience in New York. Associations of every kind pressed for speaking dates, and students sought me out for conferences and advice. All this reflected their sense of isolation and a starved interest in international affairs that could not be satisfied under the Chiangs’ restrictive control.
There was now little time to spend with my family or to indulge my hobbies. However, I went as often as possible to visit them in Kaohsiung. My son was doing well in his studies, and my little daughter, now five years old, was about to enter school.
We all shared an interest in dogs and tropical fishes. I was breeding guppies and maintained tanks of colorful imported freshwater fish. Sometimes we had as many as ten dogs in our home, and over the years we kept many breeds, shepherd, collie, Great Dane, dachshund, Dalmation, Pekingese, terrier, and bulldog. For a brief time we bred poodles, and I was vice-president of the Dog-lovers’ Association. My son began early to enter his dogs in competition.
My new administrative duties as chairman of the department of political science filled my days; nevertheless I accepted some public speaking engagements. On each occasion, I attempted to make clear the place of the China problem among many complex world questions. These public meetings were much less interesting than the discussions held in my own home and privately elsewhere about town. Students came with their friends in ever-increasing numbers, and discussions of Formosa’s own future were often vivid and sometimes bitter. I have no doubt that among those present were agents reporting to the secret police.
Soon after coming back from New York I was again invited to visit Nationalist party headquarters, this time meeting with representatives of about ten security agencies, to present my impressions of the U.N. sessions or any other subject I might choose.
It was a revealing experience; my questioners returned again and again to the position, thoughts, and activities of Formosan students in the United States and to the character of the Independence Movement. I told my audience frankly and rather bluntly what students abroad think and talk about. Their advocacy of independence, I said, was not a matter of personal or isolated experience and belief, but a general reaction to the basic policies of government in Formosa. They objected to the structure of government in Formosa. They were not content to take part only in a provincial organization while being excluded from an effective place in the national administration that absorbed provincial taxes and made decisions binding on the provincial administration.
My listeners expressed a keen desire to change the views and thinking of students overseas, and I in turn gave them a rather pessimistic estimate of any attempt to alter the situation unless a basic change of government policy took place at Taipei. This was an extremely delicate subject. Everyone present knew very well that government policy meant Chiang’s policy, the will of the party leader. I did not attempt to spell out the changes nor did I need to. These men were not fools, and they had called me before them as chairman of the political science department in a national university, presumably an objective observer. At the conclusion of our meeting many expressed thanks for a “most enlightening and useful session.” They seemed to have genuinely appreciated my frankness. Thereafter from time to time I was invited to speak informally at party meetings.
One evening I was invited by a law professor to dinner at his home. Just after we left the dinner table an urgent message came. Dr. Hu Shih had had a stroke and collapsed at a meeting of Academia Sinica. I rushed back and took a taxi to Nankang. When I reached there he was already dead, lying on the floor covered by a white sheet. I looked at his face whose expression was exactly the same as when he talked with intense concentration. It was then that I was told by one of his closest friends that the anonymous financial supporter who made possible my second year’s study at McGill University was none other than Dr. Hu Shih. This most kind-hearted and thoughtful scholar had characteristically concealed from me, during our association of nearly ten years, the fact that he himself was the one who helped me finish my advanced study in Canada. In him I had lost a most understanding and unselfish friend and supporter.
Sometime after eight o’clock on a chilly January evening in 1962, a jeep pulled up before the house, there was a loud pounding at the door and when my wife answered, the driver rudely asked for “Peng,” handing her a message. It was an invitation to present myself for a private audience with Chiang Kai-shek at ten o’clock the following morning.
The Generalissimo’s office lay at the heart of the towered Government General Building at the center of Taipei. Like a beached hermit crab, he had appropriated someone else’s shell for his own. After his flight from the continent Chiang had taken over the imposing building erected during World War I to accommodate the Japanese governors of Formosa. It was of vice-regal proportions, but had been gutted by fire in 1945, and was now rehabilitated to provide a temporary headquarters from which the Generalissimo proposed to direct “recovery of the mainland.” It was a stronghold in itself, and on the plaza before it he satisfied some delusions of grandeur by staging grand military reviews.
As I rode by cab from the university to this towered red brick building, I was nervous and with good reason. I took my artificial left arm and hand out of my coat pocket, where I normally carry it, to let it dangle by my side. It was well known that Chiang’s guards had orders to shoot instantly if anyone in his presence made a suspicious or very sudden move. Some guard, not knowing of my loss, might think I was concealing a weapon in that pocket. I recalled too many stories and allegations such as the one that on the occasion of a military academy graduation a young man who stepped forward to receive his diploma from the Generalissimo, nervously reached for his handkerchief to wipe his sweating forehead and was shot on the spot. And there was the story that as the Generalissimo’s cavalcade rushed along a narrow country road near Kaohsiung, it came upon a farmer relieving himself on the roadbank. When the poor fellow hastily moved to cover himself, he was shot and killed by the passing guards. He had moved too suddenly just as the Generalissimo’s limousine swept by.
On reaching the great building I was taken quickly to an antechamber in which I was briefed at length on visiting protocol, when and where to bow and how many times. I was told to sit if invited to do so, and to be sharply aware of the moment the Generalissimo desired to end the audience. He would make this clear by a gesture, and upon withdrawing from his presence, I was to bow, and at the door turn and bow again and then promptly depart. It was the protocol of a royal audience.
My name was called, the door opened, and I stepped forward into a huge room. There sat the small Generalissimo before a desk at the far end. Beside him sat someone taking notes, perhaps a bodyguard doubling as a secretary. Chiang himself held a folder or filing envelope on his lap and was glancing through it. I assumed it was my dossier and that he was belatedly doing his homework.
When I had bowed and had walked slowly to a position before his desk, he looked up and in his usual abrupt manner gestured as he invited me to “Sit! Sit!” Then followed some comment and questions. “You are just back from the United Nations. We thank you for what you have done. How are your family? How are your children? Have you any difficulties? If you have any problems, please come to see me.”
My replies to these conventional questions were punctuated by frequent interjections of Hao! Hao! (“Good! Good!”) which serve him in lieu of genuine or meaningful conversation on many ceremonial occasions. In less than ten minutes he indicated an end to the audience, I rose, bowed as prescribed, and withdrew.
What had prompted this curious interview? I had been presented to the Generalissimo on other occasions, and he had asked the same trite questions and had received the same answers. It was common knowledge that he insisted on seeing every person nominated for appointment by him, and that in considering promotions and appointments affecting the armed forces, he carried this to an extreme degree. In early years on the continent he had insisted upon interviewing general officers and men of ministerial rank; now he called in many more men of decidedly lower rank, creating the impression that he put little trust in the recommendations and judgments of his closest advisors. Inconsequential details were known to affect his decisions, and the story was then current that an important appointment had been denied to one unfortunate officer who, being hopelessly nearsighted, chanced to bow toward the wrong person in Chiang’s presence.
This interview strengthened my impression that he expected to create or to heighten an individual’s sense of personal and direct obligation to him by granting such personal attention. Chiang Kai-shek had risen to power and held it through an extraordinarily shrewd manipulation of factions, playing off one against another within army, party, family, and government. My friends and I probed for the significance of this latest attention. We knew that powerful members of the party and army elite objected to concessions to Formosans that might help them advance from positions in the provincial administration to important or influential positions at the national level. We also knew that some relatively liberal and more realistic advisors urged the development of a wider base of support in the island population. Soon after this, various officers of party and government found occasion to have conversations with me. Some still talked about the “return to China,” and others hinted that when a reshuffle took place in the government I would be considered for a high-level appointment. They implied that it was merely a matter of time and of my intention.
My inner thoughts were in turmoil. The government and party bosses had made a great mistake in sending me to New York. This experience finally politicized me, and I was to lead a dual life thereafter, for many months, until I made a final commitment to challenge the dictatorship with a public demand for reform.