Giant on the move
Chiang knew he’d lose to Mao
War is the last thing on the minds of Taiwan’s leaders these days as the island government moves to make friends with rival China. Even in far more hostile times, Taiwan’s KMT leadership had privately given up dreams of using force to take control of the mainland, according to documents that are now available for public viewing.
A public opening in May of the forested Back Cihu compound outside Taipei teaches 400 eager visitors per day how the island-based Republic of China government aimed to strike back at the Communist People’s Republic of China, but it ultimately abandoned the idea.
As the county now in charge of Back Cihu worked toward opening the site and its historical treasures to visitors, it came across documents left over from strongman Chiang Kai-shek, detailing schemes to retake China in the 1950s through the early 1970s. Visitors can see some of the records at Back Cihu, which features five buildings and a tunnel that would have housed the government if Beijing ever attacked central Taipei.
“The material on display allows the public to see the tense atmosphere of the 1950s,” a statement from the county government says. “(After the 1960s) the scale of Chiang’s plan to take back the mainland was gradually reduced, and in July 1972 put away in the office of a vice defence minister.”
Chiang, who died in 1975 without retaking China, had scrapped battle plans for several tactical reasons, the documents explain.
Taiwan’s navy was weak, they say, while China had rallied crucial support at home by urging patriotic citizens to donate scrap metal. Chiang had also thought to attack China through Vietnam but decided U.S. forces there were too weak to help out.
Lin Chong-pin, a strategic studies professor at Tamkang University in Taipei, says the military plan was real: “Chiang Kai-shek did mean it. It was more than just rhetoric. He had something planned but could not do it.”
Access is limited to pre-registered visitors, and demand is huge for the T$100 (about $3) guided tours. “It was closed for years. Now reservations fill up right away,” county tourism promoter Lee Fu-hua said. “We can let the public see what it was actually like in that period.”