2015年4月25日 星期六

1950s Part 6: Stability

Taiwan menaced by Red China (illustration dated Mar 26, 1955)
It was an era of fight-to-the-death anti-communism, absolutely for real. Rhetorically, the slogan was "反共抗俄Repel the CCP and Resist the Soviet" supplemented with "Long live ROC", "Long Live CKS", and "Counter Attack Recover Mainland". Undeniably, however, it was also a time of prosperity. Taipeimarc has done a superb job organizing a series of photos showing a wide range of the 1950s economic development in Taiwan (here). Photo below is just an example: a 3,600-ton oil tanker, the SS Faith, that was being built in 1959 in Keelung:


Military and financial aids from the US were both timely and generous. And with increasing number of college graduates preparing/departing for overseas study for advanced degrees in the US, the influence of American pop culture, through music, novels and especially movies, was quite far reaching. All kids knew Hollywood movie stars by heart and learned indirectly the American way of life from the films. The gov't even banned the "West Side Story" to avoid gang-banging copycats (didn't work, BTW, movie plot, songs and sleek photos went around anyway).
 
Two movies both starring Rock Hudson, Giant (1956) and Something of Value (1957) were shown in Taipei. People queued up to buy admission tickets. Those in military uniforms were actually high school students. 

In the real world, there was little or no interaction between the Americans and the locals, however. Most US families stayed in the exclusive TianMu and YangMingShan suburbs enjoying a colonial life style, complete with servants, and kept to themselves. Some US servicemen frequented bars and night clubs on Chung Shan N Road that did not cater to the locals anyway. It was therefore surprising that on May 24, 1957, the US Embassy in Taipei was sacked by a "mob" (below). Almost no one expected anti-Americanism in Taiwan at that time. More likely, it was a protest against diplomatic immunity, which was confused with the unequal treaties forced upon the Qing by western powers. In many ways, the riot was a nationalism education in schools of all levels that had backfired. In fact, the youths were active participants, even children could be spotted in the crowd:
The riot
The incident was ignited by the acquittal of an American sergeant attached to the US Embassy, who had shot and killed 劉自然Liu Zi-ran, a citizen of Taiwan, claiming that Liu was a prowling peeping Tom. Even if the allegation was true, the use of deadly force was clearly unjustified. ROC security force nevertheless quickly took action and 3 rioters were shot dead, 111 arrested. Students who took part in the riot were later denied visa application, in effect barred from entering the US for life.

In the meantime, military preparedness continued unabated, just in case the Reds decided to attack, even high school girls were required to participate in drill sessions (below) and in target practice shooting with M1 rifles.


For the rest of the population, it was hustle and bustle:
The beginning of the motorbike age - the whole family on a Suzuki 50cc
Leg-powered traffic at the railroad crossing near North Gate in Taipei
The old Chung Hua Road where price haggling was an art (and a must)
The tranquility was occasionally disturbed by sporadic fighting in Kinmen and Matsu. The biggest event was the visit by Gen Dwight Eisenhower on June 18, 1960, the only US President that has ever endorsed Taiwan in such an open manner. He arrived in Songshan Airport greeted by CKS and the enthusiastic welcome of the people of Taiwan. We the students were among the cheering crowd lining both sides of the streets when the motorcade passed though.
This period lasted until Oct 25, 1971 when the UN passed a resolution ousting Taiwan. Earlier on July 15, Richard Nixon announced his planned visit to PRC, the first blow of the one-two punch. From this point on, Taiwan was on its own, struggled to maintain diplomatic relation with mostly third-world nations, and at the same time, to remain free from a forced takeover by the PRC. Even today.

Many who grew up in this 1950s era still recall a stable time for most ordinary citizens even though the stability was possible only because Taiwan was ruled under martial law. Not the least, though, the prosperity was brought about by dedicated workers and professionals of all walks in a time for survival.

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