Sunday, December 25, 2011

The day the US turned her back on us

On the early morning of Saturday, December 16, 1978, Chiang Ching-kuo (1910-1988), then the President of the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan was waken up from his sleep by James Soong, his trusted aide who informed him what he had been afraid of was now a reality. Jimmy Carter, the President of the United States had decided to sever former diplomatic relations with him and established formal ties with People’s Republic of China (PROC), the “enemy” on the opposite side of the Taiwan Strait. Chiang immediately called for a national security council to cope with maybe the worst scenario in his entire political career.

On the other side of Taipei City, for a long time called “the wartime provisional capital of the ROC”, whose government had fled from Nanking, her formal capital, and moved here after losing the civil war to Communist China (PRC) in 1949, located an army supply depot where I, a young second lieutenant, like those of my men who had been given a weekend pass for long awaited leave, anxiously waited for our CO’s nod to start enjoying our weekend holiday. Suddenly, a duty officer came and yelled to us, “HQ just called. All leaves were revoked. Change back to your uniform. Americans are now communist bandits’ friend. Prepare to go to war.” Of course, the duty officer was exaggerating and his last sentence only meant that we were on alert and should be ready for any enemy attempts. Disappointed and cursing, we took off our civilian clothes and changed back to our uniform and returned to our respective stations. Our leaves were suspended for quite a while because we had to make sure that our comrades on the frontline posts of Matsu and Kinmen were fully supplied for fear that PRC might take advantage of the severance matter and undertake some stupid moves to invade Taiwan.  

Many later described that was a critical time when Taiwan was “swaying in the midst of raging storm.” Fortunately, with good leadership of late President Chiang Ching-kuo, not only were we not beaten by the setback but exerted ourselves to become one of the four “little tigers in Asia” economically and democratically as well. The recent US decision to consider visa waiver for our citizens is a proof that we have stood ourselves up after being betrayed by them thirty-three years ago.

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