Taiwan: Beyond the Economic Miracle

By Michael Y. M. Kau; Denis Fred Simon | Go to book overview

1
Taiwan's Evolution Toward Democracy: A Historical Perspective

Hung-mao Tien


Introduction

When World War II ended in 1945, the Kuomintang (KMT) regime on mainland China took control of Taiwan from the Japanese, who had ruled the island for fifty years. Four years later, as China's civil war came to an end, the defeated KMT forces retreated to Taiwan.

Then President Chiang Kai-shek and his followers initially thought Taiwan would be a temporary sanctuary, a military and political base for recovery of the mainland, which they had lost to the Chinese Communists. However, their defeat had shattered the morale of Chiang's followers, who still had to face the uncertain fate of the widely expected Communist military onslaught.

In June 1950, the outbreak of the Korean War forced the Truman administration to suddenly alter American policy regarding the security and future of the Taiwan Strait. On June 27, President Truman--previously uncommitted to Taiwan's defense--ordered the Seventh Fleet to patrol the island against any military action by the Chinese Communists. This change of U.S. policy not only saved Taiwan's inhabitants from the terror and destruction of war but also prevented the possible annihilation of the KMT forces by the Communists.

Beginning in late 1950, the United States provided Taiwan with an aid program that reached a total of U.S.$1.5 billion by 1965, the year it was finally terminated. American aid helped the KMT regime maintain its military strength and stabilize the shaky agrarian economy, which was experiencing terrible infla-

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