When I was about five years old I was taken to China. I remember how cold it was in Shanghai, and I recall the long flights of steps to the newly constructed tomb of Sun Yat-sen near Nanking. Mr. Huang Chao-chin, one of my father’s acquaintances who was then in the foreign ministry at Nanking, guided us about the capital. He had just returned from study in the United States. I was too young to comprehend all that we saw, but this trip gave my father and mother an opportunity to compare the living conditions of the Chinese in China with conditions in Formosa after thirty-three years of Japanese rule. They were of course impressed by the immensity of China and felt some nostalgia toward the land of their ancestors. However, in terms of social development, industrialization, education, and public health they felt that, compared to Formosa, there was still much to be done in China (Peng 2012).
In late October word came at last that Chinese military units were expected to land at Takao [=Kaohsiung]. My father was made chairman of a welcoming committee. The job soon became a nightmare. He was notified that the troops would arrive on a certain date. Preparations included the purchase of firecrackers and of banners bearing appropriate sentiments, construction of temporary booths at the exits from the landing stage, and preparation of huge amounts of roast pork and other delicacies, soft drinks, and tea. Then came notification that the arrival was delayed. The perishable foods had to be sold or given away. This happened twice again, tripling the expenses, before a fourth notification proved to be correct.
An American naval vessel came slowly into Takao harbor, making its way among the sunken hulks. Local Japanese military authorities, awaiting repatriation with their men, turned out as martly disciplined honor guard to line the wharf, ready to salute the victorious Chinese army. A great crowd of curious and excited citizens had come to support my father’s welcoming committee and to see the show.
The ship docked, the gangways were lowered, and off came the troops of China, the victors. The first man to appear was a bedraggled fellow who looked and behaved more like a coolie than a soldier, walking off with a carrying pole across his shoulder, from which was suspended his umbrella, sleeping mat, cooking pot, and cup. Others like him followed, some with shoes, some without. Few had guns. With no attempt to maintain order or discipline, they pushed off the ship, glad to be on firm land, but hesitant to face the Japanese lined up and saluting smartly on both sides.
My father wondered what the Japanese could possibly think. He had never felt so ashamed in his life. Using a Japanese expression, he said, “If there had been a hole nearby, I would have crawled in!” (Peng 2012).
Father’s sense of humor prompted him to suggest that someone should collect stories of the incoming Chinese, especially of the ignorant conscripts who had been shipped over to Formosa [=Taiwan] from inland provinces on the continent. Many were totally unacquainted with modern technology. Some had never seen or had never understood a modern water system. There were instances in which they picked up water faucets in plumber’s shops and then, pushing them into holes in walls and embankments, had expected water to flow. They then complained bitterly to the plumbers from whose shops the faucets came. There was a story of one soldier who took a seat in a barber’s shop, had his hair cut, and then when the barber picked up an electric hair-dryer, instantly put up his hands pale with fright thinking it was a pistol (Peng 2012, my emphasis).
In the nineteenth century, Formosa had been controlled by a disorderly garrison government, notorious even in China for its corruption and inefficiency, but after a half-century of strict Japanese administration we had learned the value of the rule of law. People made contracts and kept them. It was generally assumed that one’s neighbor was an honest man. In the shops a fixed price system had made it possible for every merchant to know where he stood. We had learned that modern communications, scientific agriculture, and efficient industries must operate within a system of honest measurement, honored contracts, and dependable timing. All these standards were ignored by our new masters (ibid., my emphasis).
|Peng Mingmin (centre) with colleagues at National Taiwan University, 1954 (source)|
American planes and ships ferried the Nationalists from China to the new island possession. Formosans welcomed them enthusiastically in October 1945, thinking that a splendid new era was at hand. Within weeks we found that Governor Chen Yi and his commissioners were contemptuous of the Formosan people and were unbelievably corrupt and greedy. For eighteen months they looted our island.
The newcomers had lived all their lives in the turmoil of civil war and of the Japanese invasion. They were carpetbaggers, occupying enemy territory, and we were being treated as a conquered people …
Incoming government officials and the more intelligent and educated carpetbaggers made it evident that they looked upon honesty as a laughable evidence of stupidity. In the dog-eat-dog confusion of Chinese life during the war years, these men had survived and reached their present positions largely through trickery, cheating, and double-talk, often the only means of survival in the Chinese cities from which they came…
The common conscript roaming in Kaohsiung was simply taking what he wanted from shops and homes and the public streets. The newcomers from Taipei had been sent down by the highest officials to loot the sugar mills and warehouses, the factory stockpiles and industrial equipment. Junks were leaving the harbor every day loaded with foodstocks, scrap metal, machine tools, and consumer goods of every variety, destined for private sales along the China coast.