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three The Plight of Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan for the communists, successive victories in the Sino-Japanese War and the ensuing civil war (1945–1949) created a fundamentally new historical situation in which the major humiliation of foreign imperialism had become a thing of the past. But for Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, after their retreat to the island province of Taiwan (which had been restored to China in 1945 after Japan’s defeat), the most salient change, arguably, was that the area under direct government control had drastically shrunk. The Guomindang still faced the task of eliminating foreign imperialism (now in the guise of the Soviet Union) and its Chinese accomplices.1 There remained , in other words, a major humiliation to be eradicated, requiring the same qualities of forbearance, hard work, belt-tightening, and tireless eªort—of woxin changdan—that had been staples of the Goujian story as it had been articulated in earlier decades. Predictably, in these circumstances, the story was from the outset widely disseminated among all sectors of Taiwan ’s population. the taiwan setting after 1950 To better understand the pertinence of the Goujian story to Taiwan’s circumstances in the middle of the twentieth century, a few of the more distinctive characteristics of these circumstances need to be delineated. Ter8 7 ritorially minuscule in comparison with the Chinese mainland, Taiwan embraces an area roughly half the size of Ireland. Its population, as of 1950, was less than ten million (including an infusion of some two million refugees during the civil war years), as contrasted with a mainland population at the time of close to six hundred million. In late 1949 and early 1950, Chiang Kai-shek’s embattled government was readying itself for an amphibious Communist invasion that appeared imminent and that the American government assumed, given the deplorable state of the Nationalist military , would be successful. Then, in June 1950, the Korean War broke out and the East Asian world changed overnight. Communist forces, which had been assembling in southeastern China in preparation for the final act of the civil war, were redeployed to the northern part of the country, and the United States, determining that Taiwan was now an important part of its defense perimeter in East Asia, moved its Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait. “For the Nationalist Chinese,” Nancy Tucker writes, “the struggle in Korea had come as if by magic at the last possible moment before disaster engulfed them.”2 Provided with the breathing space it had previously been denied, the Chiang government during the 1950s moved in a number of broad directions that were to distinguish the Taiwan scene for the next three decades. After an examination of past errors evocative of the pained self-scrutiny Goujian engaged in following his humiliating defeat at Mount Kuaiji,3 the Nationalists reorganized and rebuilt their armed forces, fashioning a military that by the end of the 1950s was six hundred thousand strong and bore “little resemblance to the disorganized, demoralized units” fleeing the mainland in 1949. Huge in relation to the size of the population, this military was fed by a system of two- or three-year universal conscription that, for the male members of society, constituted an additional period of formal training on top of their prior educational experience. The latter was also nearly universal, with some 93 percent of children of primary school age enrolled in school as of the late 1950s.4 During the 1950s a number of important economic and social developments also took place, laying the groundwork for the vigorous economic growth that Taiwan experienced in the 1960s and 1970s. A much-praised land reform program was initiated in 1949, which dramatically reduced the power of the landlord class in the countryside and transformed Taiwan’s agriculture into an owner-cultivator system. The infrastructure the Japanese had created during the colonial era, substantial American economic aid from 1950 on, and the actions of an impressive group of Westernt h e p l i g h t o f c h i a n g k a i - s h e k ’ s t a i w a n 8 8 educated Chinese technocrats who had migrated to Taiwan in the final stages of the civil war were additional factors favoring the island’s economic growth. As incomes rose, educational opportunities expanded, including increased access to schooling for girls. Literacy rates, already relatively high at the end of the Japanese colonial period, rose still further...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780520942394
Related ISBN
9780520255791
MARC Record
OCLC
769188158
Pages
384
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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