By Joe Hung, The China Post news staff
TAIPEI, Taiwan — General Douglas A. MacArthur, commander of the U.N. forces in Korea, arrived in Taipei on July 31, 1950 for a conference with Chiang Kai-shek. On the following day, MacArthur said plans had been made to coordinate steps by American and Chinese forces to meet an attack that a hostile force might launch against the island; and he expressed confidence that such an attack would have little chance of success. Chiang announced an agreement had been reached on all the problems that had been discussed and the foundations had been laid for joint defense of Taiwan and for military cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.
The key factors in the shift that took place in U.S.-China policy were the state of American public opinion and the outbreak of the conflict in Korea. The Chinese Communist intervention in the Korean War in October further strengthened the American decision that Taiwan should not be permitted to fall into Communist hands. The about-face demarche was complete with an address delivered before the China Institute on May 18, 1951, by Dean Rusk, assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs. He said: “ … We recognize the National Government of the Republic of China even though the territory under its control is severely restricted. We believe it more authentically represents the views of the great body of the people of China, particularly their historic demand for independence from foreign control. That government will continue to receive important aid and assistance from the United States. Under the circumstances, however, such aid in itself cannot be decisive to the future of China. The decision and the efforts are for the Chinese people, pooling their efforts, wherever they are, in behalf of China.”
That was the equivalent of an announcement that the United States was unqualifiedly supporting the government of the Republic of China. Prior to President Truman’s announcement of suspension of American military aid to the Republic of China, U.S. weapons and equipment had gone to Taiwan under the US$125 million military aid program provided for by the China Aid Act of 1948. In addition, Chiang Kai-shek’s government transferred to Taiwan considerable quantities of supplies and equipment previously acquired from the United States as a fraction of the procurement costs. In the shipments in 1949 to Taiwan were included 123,000 rifles, 68 million rounds of .38 caliber ammunition, 19 million rounds of .45 ammunition, 30 Sherman tanks, 1000 light tanks, 100 scout cars, and 200 AR-6 aircraft. The armed forces on Taiwan were then greatly improved. General MacArthur, in his testimony before the Senate committees on armed services and on foreign relations on May 3, 1951, described his favorable impressions of the military establishment on Taiwan. He testified: “There are some 500,000 troops, capable of being made into an excellent force. Their personnel was good and their morale high. Material equipment varied in quality and was deficient in artillery, trucks, and in a great many modern refinements. The Nationalists probably had between 200 and 250 planes, and their pilots were ‘rather good.’ The navy was only a conglomeration of small ships which looked smart but were capable merely of small coastal activities. If properly equipped, the troops would probably be in as good shape as would be possible without combat experience.”