Taiwan’s return to China’s fold

By Joe Hung, The China Post

As the United States continued to plan how to deal with Taiwan after the Second World War, American strategists had to ask if sovereignty over Formosa (Taiwan) would pass to China at the same time with its takeover of the island. Entirely apart from the legal principles involved, it was apparent that in practical application a clear-cut ruling would present difficulties for the United States. In the quandary thus produced, Washington made no public pronouncement at all on the subject. Nevertheless, the general thinking after the Japanese surrender was that although, by signing the instrument of surrender, Japan had relinquished sovereignty over Taiwan, and although the Chinese reoccupied Taiwan and assumed an interim administrative authority, legal transfer of that sovereignty to China would require formalization by a treaty of peace. But no decisions were taken, while the Pacific War went on. A plan was formulated for the seizure of Taiwan to precede the occupation of the Philippines. It was abandoned, because President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to acquiesce to General Douglas A. MacArthur, who vowed when he left Luzon at the beginning of the war he “shall return.” It was not President Chiang Kai-shek who made Roosevelt change his mind to drop the plan to invade Taiwan. The island was neutralized by carrier air attacks, however. In the course of the U.S. advance on Japan after the recovery of the Philippines, Taiwan was bypassed in favor of an attack on Okinawa. The capture of Okinawa on June 21 obviated the need of seizing Taiwan for use as a staging area for the contemplated final assault on the Japanese home islands. When Japan announced its acceptance of the Potsdam terms as a basis for surrender, the United States prepared a draft of General Order No. 1 to be issued by the Tokyo government for implementing those terms. This document, among other things, provided that the surrender of the Japanese armed forces in Taiwan would be taken by Chiang Kai-shek. Washington had to drop consideration of seizing Taiwan and running a military government after Chiang made clear the Chinese forces were ready to move with American assistance to Taiwan to accept the Japanese surrender.

On October 25, 1945, General Chen Yi, appointed administrator-general of Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek, took over the administration of the island in pursuance of the Japanese instrument of surrender and General Order No. 1. The instrument did not mention Taiwan specifically, but it stipulated complete acceptance and fulfillment of the terms of the Potsdam Proclamation, which had confirmed the provisions of the Cairo Declaration. Chiang made Taiwan the thirty-fifth province of the Republic of China. All 6 million people on Taiwan and Penghu rejoiced in their good luck to be able to return to the Chinese fold. A truly moving welcome was extended to a Chinese reoccupation army that arrived at Keelung aboard American landing ships on October 17. The troops were more enthusiastically welcomed as they moved down to Taipei.