Nanking Embassy Files, Lot F–79, 800 Formosa

The Consul at Taipei (Blake) to the Ambassador in China (Stuart)

No. 36

Sir: I have the honor to submit as of possible interest to the Embassy some observations upon the present uneasiness of the public mind in Taiwan which is increasingly disturbed by rumors concerning the activities, and affecting the prestige of, the United States.

The December 20 protests against American “injustice” toward Formosan Chinese in Japan so closely coincide with the current outcry against American behaviour in Peiping and elsewhere in China as to suggest possible common inspiration. No evidence has been discovered to date to establish a link, if it exists, but it is believed that further attempts to affect America’s position in the eyes of the Formosan Chinese may be anticipated and should be understood in relation to the many rumors—often fantastic—now in circulation among the people of Taiwan.

Taiwan is alive with rumors that America and Russia are, or shortly will be, at war, that America is about to initiate a large scale military activities here and that the Government here is secretly preparing for military action on the island. It is alleged in another rumor that China has sold the island to the United States in return for a huge credit for military use.

The Magistrate of Hsin Chu-hsien indiscreetly ordered a revision (not the repeal) of air raid shelter construction decrees, which was immediately interpreted to mean that war was imminent. It is believed by many in Taipei that the residents of Keelung (18 miles distant) have been ordered to disperse to the hills unless their work is essential to public services and defense. It is widely believed that the Government has given secret orders that all Government factories must prepare air raid shelters and take measures in anticipation of bombing. Some even believe that Keelung has already been bombed, while there is belief by others that Nagoya, in Japan, has been bombed [Page 424] by Russian forces and that Okinawa is being bombed by “unidentified planes”.

The Chinese Air Force is now openly moving munitions into local dumps, which may seem further to confirm such stories.

The Jen Min Tao Pao, (consistently anti-American of recent months) on December 4 carried the following item, in full:

“According to information released by the American Consulate, a large section of the United States Air Force will be stationed in the province and the airfield near Taichung has been chosen as its base. The USAAF is also intending to build a B–29 factory at Taichung and is positively making all preparations, it is said.”

A contract has been let to a Formosan firm to enlarge and repair an airfield and a factory near Taichung. It is, of course, assumed locally that in as much as China cannot produce airplanes, the United States Government is behind the contract. Two Taichung persons called at the Consulate December 28 to confirm this, in order to plan “business” in connection with the expected influx of Americans. It is widely believed that as many as 300,000 American troops are soon to arrive. Young Formosans who have served with United States forces in the Philippines and elsewhere are frequent visitors, seeking employment with the expected American troops. At one time 16 called in a body. No criticism has yet been heard of this anticipated influx of American forces. Some rumors allege that 1,600 men have already landed at the river port of Tamsui.

The current susceptibility to rumors and fears of a return of Japanese in force may spring from the widely circulated story that certain formerly prominent but unidentified Japanese, upon leaving Keelung for repatriation, boasted that in as much as Japan was not defeated by China but by America, the Japanese would be back in Formosa within twenty years. This gives local emphasis to the belief that America, disappointed in China’s failure to achieve unity and economic recovery, is now prepared to support Japan’s recovery as fully as possible.

It was commonly believed throughout 1946 that the United States Army and United States Army Air Forces intended to establish large bases on Taiwan. The continuing presence of ground forces here (successively the Formosa Repatriation Group of approximately 100 men, the Graves Registration and Search Detachment of approximately 10 men and the second Repatriation Team of five Americans), plus the recent brief aerial reconnaissance mission operating from the Ryukyu Islands Base Command, have added visual “confirmation” of public rumor.

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The most extreme story is to the effect that the Generalissimo1 came to Taiwan in October to have a secret meeting with General MacArthur,2 at which time the sale of Taiwan to the United States was arranged in return for a huge sum which the Generalissimo needs for prosecution of war against the Communists. The story has persisted in circulation for two months and is now linked with the current repudiation of Communist charges that the Kuomintang has enormous sums at its disposal in the United States. None of the versions of this rumor heard so far have carried criticism of the alleged sale.

The recent “Shibuya Incident”3 protest was the first attempt to organize, crystallize and direct Formosan opinion on an issue fundamentally Formosan versus an outside group. It failed because the Formosans themselves are not sure that they have a case. Political leadership is confused and immature, and was prompted in this instance to promote a “cause” of which very few people were wholly convinced. Some Formosans say that too many of themselves, repatriated from Japan in recent months, know how many rascals there are among Formosan Chinese now living by their wits in Japan. Speeches, broadcasts, pamphlets and conversations are full of realization that the Formosans at Shibuya “may have been one hundred per cent wrong,” followed by an attempt to justify the protests on the grounds of identity with a “victor” nation. A news item appeared December 20 which states without comment or verification that the Taiwan Government General4 has received a memorandum recently from SCAP5 stating that during July, August and September the 300 cases of law violation (category unspecified) charges against Formosans are more than double the number recorded in the same time against Japanese.

Public uneasiness reflects the uncertainties of political and economic conditions both on the mainland and on Taiwan. The seeming imminence of large scale civil war on the mainland is felt here. The continuing influx to Taiwan of people of all classes from all coastal areas (with a rising percentage from the poorest levels) brings conflicting interpretations of conditions across the channel. The police [Page 426] system does not improve. Large scale robberies continue to take place.

Representatives of a group of well educated men (with whom the Mayor of Taipei is said now to be associating himself) observe that in their discussions of Taiwan’s problems they conclude that with any crisis on the mainland—either full scale war or collapse of the present economic structure—there will be a crisis on Taiwan, during which a struggle for control of Taiwan will ensue. They say among themselves that they have three things they would ask of the United States. They will ask that the United States refrain from transporting mainland troops to Taiwan as was done after the Japanese surrender. They will ask that America send technical and administrative advisors to Taiwan to help it through a crisis in which they are determined not to be engulfed in mainland chaos. And they will ask America to lend financial and material support in the rehabilitation of commerce and industry, which they feel could be hastened under a policy of free trade and enterprise emphasizing independent trade abroad rather than (as now) exclusively with the Government’s Trading Bureau and other official agencies.

Respectfully yours,

Ralph J. Blake
  1. Chiang Kai-shek, President of the National Government of the Republic of China.
  2. General of the Army Douglas A. MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Japan.
  3. Incident of July 19, 1946, in the vicinity of Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, in which a dozen or so Formosans were fired upon by Tokyo police.
  4. The Government General of Taiwan was organized at the time of the Japanese military surrender and the occupation of the island by the Chinese on October 25, 1945; unlike other provinces of China, this was not a regular provincial government, as the Governor General, with an unusual relationship to the Chinese Executive Yuan, wielded almost autocratic powers.
  5. General MacArthur’s command.