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What if the US had fully backed the KMT in the late 1940s?

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  • DOR
    replied
    President Lee Teng-hui, RIP

    President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the first native-born leader of Taiwan, passed away July 30, 2020, at the age of 97. His legacy is an aggressively democratic political system that transitioned from authoritarian martial law with perhaps the least amount of violence of any significant nation. During a decade in which South Korea, the country with which Taiwan is most usefully compared, endured coups and civilian slaughter, he was one of the two principal architects of the most astonishingly peaceful transition in modern history. The other was his mentor, President Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國, CCK).

    Lee was born in colonial Taiwan and learned Japanese along with his native Taiwanese. He was one of a handful of locally born students to be admitted to Kyoto Imperial University (by this time, Taiwan was an integral part of Japan's Home Islands). After service in World War II, Lee remained in Taiwan and enrolled in National Taiwan University.

    After Japan's August 1945 surrender, Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石, CKS) Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) government took Taiwan from Japan. Coincidentally, Korea was granted independence from its own colonial control. Lee became politically active during this time, reportedly becoming a member of the tiny Taiwanese Communist Party and perhaps participating in the February 28 (1947) “2-28” protests against harsh Nationalist government. That protest led to a wide-scale blood purge of Taiwanese intellectuals which he escaped.

    Lee was one of the first Taiwanese students to be admitted to graduate school in the United States, completing a Masters Degree in agricultural economics at Iowa State University (1953), and later a PhD in the same discipline from Cornell University (1968). In between, he was part of the team that revolutionized post-war economic development through land reform, state-owned enterprise privatization, and export-oriented import substitution.

    In the 1960s, as Chiang Kai-shek's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, began to prepare to succeed his father, demands for political liberalization emerged. One response was to recruit KMT members from among the local population (Taiwan had long been considered a mere staging ground for the eventual recovery of the Chinese mainland). Lee was made a Minister Without Portfolio in 1971 and became well known for his highly successful agrarian policies.

    In 1978, he was appointed mayor of Taipei, and 10 years later, Governor of Taiwan Province. CKS passed away in 1975, and after a suitable period of mourning, CCK became the undisputed leader of the island.

    As governor, Lee created an important stepping stone to higher office, albeit one with limited real power. He was promoted to Vice President in 1984, just as CCK's health was beginning to become a serious political concern. Chiang Ching-kuo died in January 1988, and after a brief confrontation with the mainland-born old guard, Lee Teng-hui became chairman of the party and president of the state.

    Lee adroitly managed the ambitious mainlanders still holding high office, but also filled the ranks of party and government posts with locally born technocrats. It was the first time in history that Taiwan was both wholly unified and locally run. Competing politicians such as the ban-shan (“half mountain,” or Mainland-born-but-Taiwan-raised) James Soong Chu-yu (宋楚瑜) and Lien Chan (連戰) were able to help smooth the transition in the early years, before becoming serious contenders for Lee's job.

    Lee served as President until the end of his second term, in May 2000, and then retired. His 1996 reelection was the first time the island's leader had been chosen by the people of Taiwan.

    Although he carefully avoided antagonizing China during his presidency, Lee was a quiet advocate of independence. When pressed on the issue of Taiwan's official name being discarded in order to retain membership in the Asian Development Bank, he told a foreign journalist, “You can call me Harry (his long-abandon English given name), or you can call me Teng-hui. We both know who I am.”

    Lee was expelled from the KMT for advocating Taiwan independence in September 2001. In 2007, he said in an interview that he did not support independence, but would be satisfied with amending the island's formal name, and it's constitution.

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  • astralis
    replied
    DOR,

    And, 0.020% of the sum of GDP in 2015-17 ($56.4119 billion) is $112.8 billion.
    yes, this was my calculation too, which is why i compared this to Afghanistan:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/u...ic-effect.html

    an expensive proposition but again considering how much we blew on Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, etc...not much by comparison. but that's looking at it from a lot of hindsight.

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  • DOR
    replied
    CIA Historical Staff Chronology, 1946-65, Volume I: 1946-55

    Massive reorganization of intelligence agencies going on throughout 1946-47. Many very senior wartime department heads replaced and whole departments shifted to new agencies. Confused lines of reporting.

    Feb 26, 1946: George F. Kennan’s “Long Telegram” laying out containment
    Mar 5, 1946: Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech
    May 2, 1946: Tokyo war crimes trials
    May 31, 1946: Congressional hearings on Pearl Harbor
    Jun 30, 1946: US armed forces reduced to 3 million in FY46, from 12 million in FY45.
    Jul 1, 1946: Bikini Atoll A-test.
    Jul 23, 1946: First report to Truman of Soviet’s global capabilities and intentions.
    Sep 12, 1946: Commerce Secretary Henry A. Wallace publicly deplores ‘get tough with Russia’ policy; dismissed by Truman Sep 20. To me, this signals more broad strategy confusion.
    Sep 15, 1946: Greek civil war resumes.
    Sep 30, 1946: Nuremberg trials end.
    Nov 28, 1946: Indo-Chinese civil war resumes; French bomb Haiphong; Ho Chi-Minh government evacuates Hanoi.

    Jan 21, 1947: General George C. Marshall returns from 15-month China mission, becomes Secretary of State.
    Feb 12, 1947: NIA prescribes requirements on China in Directive No. 8
    Apr 23, 1947: Congress allocates $400 million for Greece and Turkey
    May 5, 1947: French government dismisses communist cabinet ministers.
    Jun 5, 1947: Marshal Plan. National security and international expenditures in FY47 reduced to $20.9 billion, from $46.2 billion in FY46. Military strength down by half, to 1.5 million.
    July 1947: “Mr X” Foreign Affairs article (George Kennan on containment)
    Jul 11, 1947: Wedemeyer mission ot Korea and China (to Sep 18)
    Sep 18, 1947: National Security Council, National Security Resources Board and Central Intelligence Agency established
    Oct 5, 1947: COMINFORM established to coordinate communist party propaganda in nine European countries. US organized Organization of American States March 30, 1948 indicating we were playing catch-up.
    Dec 23, 1947: House passes $540 million aid bill for France, Italy, Austria and China

    Feb 16, 1948: DPRK established (ROK established Aug 15)
    Feb 25, 1948: Czechoslovakia falls to communist coup d’etat
    Feb 27, 1948: Finland-USSR mutual assistance proposals revealed; signed April 6.
    Apr 3, 1948: $5.3 billion foreign aid to Europe.
    Jun 11, 1948: NATO; Yugoslavia expelled from COMINFORM June 28
    Jun 20, 1948: Berlin blockade (to May 11, 1949)
    Jun 30, 1948: national security and international expenditure cut to $16.3 billion, armed forces to 1.4 million.

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  • DOR
    replied
    Rather than rely on my original back-of-the-envelope 0.6% of GDP / $10-15 billion, here’s a slightly more thoughtful calculation:

    Sum of 1946-48 GDP: $751.6 billion (as per Bureau of Economic Analysis, after July 2018 revisions…which did stretch back that far).
    Which means, $1.5 billion (midway point) would be 0.020%
    And, 0.020% of the sum of GDP in 2015-17 ($56.4119 billion) is $112.8 billion.

    Remember, it was $1-2 billion over a three year period, so it is vis-à-vis the sum of three years’ GDP, not the average.
    My bad.

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  • astralis
    replied
    still writing that article of mine. when George Marshall stopped US aid in July 1946, he thought it was going to be a shot across the bow for CKS.

    of course CKS ignored him and escalated his offensive. marshall then responded by withdrawing USAAF advisors and slowing down training, and slow-rolling a lot of the US aid-- both military and economic-- going to the Nationalists.

    the period of July 1946-July 1947 was essentially the highwater mark of Nationalist China, with the seizure of CCP capital of Yan'an in Mar 1947.

    by the time the assistance restarted, it was at a considerably smaller scale going into fall 1947. from DOR's original post:

    To slow or reverse this would require nonmilitary aid of a minimum of $1-2 billion over a three-year (1948-50) period [i.e., about 0.6% of the US’ 1947 GDP, or $10-15 billion in today’s money). This would be in addition to military aid sufficient to train, supply and maintain 30 divisions.
    the original US plan was to train and equip 39 divisions and stand up a 8-1/3 group Air Force. by June 1946 this had largely succeeded, altho logistics was a mess and the Nationalists were fully dependent on US training.

    the Nationalist highwater was essentially taking these US trained troops and $$, and using them up.

    from the US standpoint, US aid to China was expensive (equivalent in 3 years to what we spent in Afghanistan in 17), but "only" one-tenth the amount of aid we gave to Western Europe under the Marshall Plan. US diplomatic, military, and political leadership essentially thought China was going to slag down into further warfare anyways and didn't see the point. reading through State and CIA annexes, it's clear that the $$$ aid required to "save China" in Nov 1947 became VERY $$$$ aid by Spring 1948, and by Summer 1948 the analysis was that nothing short of US armed intervention was going to save the Nationalists, which absolutely no one was for.

    of course, it's no accident that less than a year after the fall of mainland China, the DPRK was trying to do the same thing...and the US intervened. but it took the shock of the utter rout of the Nationalists to make this clear (even as late as Fall 1948, IIRC CIA was predicting that it'd be several more years of combat before Communist victory).

    wonder what would have happened if the US kept on throwing $$ at the Nationalists in 1946-1947, or even tried an armed intervention in 1948. after all, the cost of Korean War far, far exceeded the cost of throwing money at the Nationalists. come to think of it, fighting the Commies in China might have been an easier prospect than fighting in little-manuever room Korea.

    thoughts?

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  • DOR
    replied
    Originally posted by Triple C View Post
    IIRC, post-retreat from China, the KMT implemented land redistribution in Taiwan, followed by a state-ordained reduction in agrarian rents. Some historians have argued that since Taiwanese gentry were not CKS supporters, the reforms carried less political pain, and the fact that their loyalties to the KMT was dubious to being with means depriving them of land killed two birds with one stone.
    That's right.

    The KMT took the land from the Taiwanese elite and redistributed it to (mainly) mainland demobilized soldiers. It not only 'punished' families who had 'collaborated' with the Japanese for 50 years (including the last dozen years of the Qing Dynasty), it also effectively destroyed any effective base of future resistance. The token shares they were issued in exchange for their land were in confiscated companies such as Taiwan Cement.

    As long as you weren't an actual Taiwanese land owner, the land reform was painless.

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  • Triple C
    replied
    Originally posted by DOR View Post
    It’s really, really hard to reform land ownership without taking it from those who have it and giving it to those who don’t. And, as the landed gentry and business were the main (noncriminal) supporters of the KMT, such a move would have been suicide. The Nationalists paid lip service to land reform in the early days, but after 1931 it was more about minimizing the fallout from the Japanese invasion than about land reform.
    IIRC, post-retreat from China, the KMT implemented land redistribution in Taiwan, followed by a state-ordained reduction in agrarian rents. Some historians have argued that since Taiwanese gentry were not CKS supporters, the reforms carried less political pain, and the fact that their loyalties to the KMT was dubious to being with means depriving them of land killed two birds with one stone.

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  • Triple C
    replied
    Originally posted by astralis View Post
    think CKS could and should have leaned on them more. i mean, what were their options? japan or the commies, pretty much.
    Particularly hard when some of the noncriminal elements were CKS's own in-laws.

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  • DOR
    replied
    Dec 1948: the KMT is losing, discredited, impotent.

    US military aid can only have a limited effect on the course of the civil war. “The funneling of US aid to Taiwan (Formosa) or South China, no matter on what schedule, would serve chiefly to maintain the legal fiction that there is in China a government still resisting the Communists.”

    “To the extent that expedited military aid would prolong the civil hostilities without affecting the final outcome, such aid would have a weakening rather than strengthening effect on [the] Nationalist economy.”

    “The political effects of expediting US aid to the Nationalists might be positively harmful to US interests.”

    https://www.cia.gov/library/readingr...000300010001-3

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  • Ironduke
    replied
    Originally posted by astralis View Post
    he managed to screw things up so bad that in the less than one year that the US finally had enough of his corruption and stopped the re-supply/arms sales, all of the hard work the US did in training the Chinese military collapsed from within, as evidenced by the disastrous battles of 1947-1948.
    How likely did the US consider an eventual possibility of a Communist victory to be when this aid was cut off?

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  • astralis
    replied
    Wasn't most of that WWII surplus? In other words, 'free' ?
    the equipment was WWII surplus but the re-supplies, logistics, training, etc was all provided by the US. that's also not counting the enormous japanese stockpiles and arms that were turned over to the Nationalists...in addition to captured Japanese soldiers "persuaded" to fight on in the name of CKS.

    and CKS got a bunch of direct financial aid, not just from the US but from the UN.

    CKS had a bunch of beautifully trained and equipped divisions (the Burma troops) at the end of the war, an Air Force that was completely rebuilt along US lines (he had so many surplus bomber aircraft that he asked the US to help the pilots re-qual to transports), and even the beginnings of a Navy.

    he managed to screw things up so bad that in the less than one year that the US finally had enough of his corruption and stopped the re-supply/arms sales, all of the hard work the US did in training the Chinese military collapsed from within, as evidenced by the disastrous battles of 1947-1948.

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  • DOR
    replied
    Dec 1947 Intelligence briefing mentioning CCK being tasked with cracking down on the Shanghai black market. Currency dropped by half between mid-November and this Dec 2 report.

    US$60 million US stop-gap aid being recommended to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs “this week.” Not clear if that is in addition to $300 mn previously signaled by Secretary Marshall.
    https://www.cia.gov/library/readingr...000100010043-2

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  • DOR
    replied
    Originally posted by astralis View Post
    i'm currently writing a paper for a military journal on this subject. i knew the US had supported the KMT a lot post war, but with a bit of research i found out just how much...it was shocking.

    we gave more to CKS in the four years post-war than we've provided afghanistan in 17 years. and he still blew it.
    Wasn't most of that WWII surplus? In other words, 'free' ?

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  • astralis
    replied
    i'm currently writing a paper for a military journal on this subject. i knew the US had supported the KMT a lot post war, but with a bit of research i found out just how much...it was shocking.

    we gave more to CKS in the four years post-war than we've provided afghanistan in 17 years. and he still blew it.

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  • DOR
    replied
    Originally posted by hboGYT View Post
    Surely, someone must have thought to effect change from within. Didn't a general kidnap Chiang to make him do the right thing?
    Zhang Xueliang and the Xi’an Incident of 1936 had nothing to do with economic reforms, which was the heart of your question. Still, he did follow No. 1 on my list of suggested courses of action.

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