An ex­er­cise in char­ac­ter­i­za­tion

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

“Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion” (

) is a col­lec­tion of por­tray­als of he­roes of the “Epoch of the Three King­doms” by Xu Shao ( ) in con­ver­sa­tions with his cousin on the first day of the first moon. The lit­eral trans­la­tion of the book is “Com­ments on the First Day of the First Moon.” One best known com­ment they made is: Cao Cao ( ) is “a great min­is­ter in peace­time but a pen­dragon in a tur­bu­lent age” (

). Pen­dragon is a fierce and am­bi­tious Welsh king, while Cao Cao is the penul­ti­mate chan­cel­lor of the Eastern Han dy­nasty and one of the cen­tral fig­ures of the Three King­doms pe­riod who laid the foun­da­tions for what was to be­come the state of Cao Wei ( ), posthu­mously hon­ored as Em­peror Wu of Wei ( ).

There used to be a sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­i­za­tion for Pres­i­dent Chi­ang Kai-shek’s min­is­ters of for­eign af­fairs.

JOE HUNG

The Min­is­ters

The first min­is­ter so char­ac­ter- ized is Dr. Ge­orge K. C. Yeh (

). A grand­son of Viceroy of Guang­tong and Guangxi Yeh Mingchen known for his re­sis­tance to the Bri­tish in­flu­ence in Can­ton af­ter the first Opium War, Dr. Yeh is the best for­eign min­is­ter in Tai­wan Pres­i­dent Chi­ang had. Dr. Yeh con­cluded a peace treaty in Taipei in 1952 that for­mally ended the Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese War. He also signed the Mu­tual De­fense Treaty be­tween the United States and the Re­pub­lic of China with Sec­re­tary of State John F. Dulles in Washington, D.C. in 1954 that pre­vented the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic from a takeover of Tai­wan by force.

Dr. Yeh, how­ever, was fired by Chi­ang be­cause he knew ex­actly what the pres­i­dent’s un­said wish in Tai­wan’s for­eign re­la­tions was, but said it overtly, ac­cord­ing to the Waichiaopu char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

Another min­is­ter por­trayed is Dr. Wei Tao-ming ( ). He was Chi­ang’s am­bas­sador to the United States dur­ing the Sec­ond World War to se­cure Amer­i­can sup­port for the Re­pub­lic of China, gover­nor of Tai­wan to re­place Ad­min­is­tra­tor Gen. Chen Yi af­ter the bloody Fe­bru­ary 28 In­ci­dent of 1947, and the for­eign min­is­ter from 1966 to 1971 to keep the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China out of the United Na­tions. He re­signed shortly be­fore Bei­jing was ad­mit­ted to the United Na­tions to re­place the Re­pub­lic of China.

His char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is that like Dr. Yeh, he knew ex­actly what Chi­ang wanted but did not say it overtly, and was per­mit­ted to re­tire safe and sound.

Well, Yeh and Wei are ca­pa­ble min­is­ters, like Cao Cao in peace­time. Two other for­eign min­is­ters are char­ac­ter­ized poor ones, though not pen­drag­ons like Em­peror Wu of Wei dur­ing tur­bu­lent times.

One of them is S.K. Chou ( ). He suc­ceeded Wei. Serv­ing briefly as for­eign min­is­ter from 1971 to 1972, Chou said in the open that Tai­wan was will­ing to make friends even with Satan, not to speak of the USSR, to of­fend the staunchly anti-Com­mu­nist Rus­sia pres­i­dent, and had with­drawn the Re­pub­lic of China del­e­ga­tion to the United Na­tions be­fore its Gen­eral Assem­bly voted to seat the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic on Oct. 25, 1971. For that, he was sacked as for­eign min­is­ter in 1972.

Chou is por­trayed as a for­eign min­is­ter who did not un­der­stand what Chi­ang re­ally wished for, but talked about as well as did what he thought the pres­i­dent wanted, and got the sack. Lastly, Shen Chang-huan ( ) is crit­i­cized. He pre­ceded Dr. Wei and was suc­ceeded by Chou as for­eign min­is­ter. Shen did not do well, and Pres­i­dent Chi­ang ap­pointed Wei to keep Taipei’s seat in the United Na­tions. Af­ter the Re­pub­lic of China was kicked out of that world or­ga­ni­za­tion, Chi­ang made Shen his for­eign min­is­ter again. But Shen was un­able to stop Tokyo from nor­mal­iz­ing re­la­tions with Bei­jing in 1972. Nor could he pre­vent Un­cle Sam from dere­c­og­niz­ing the Re­pub­lic of China in 1979. Pres­i­dent Chi­ang Ching-kuo had to fire him right af­ter Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter pro­nounced the United States would set up diplo­matic re­la­tions with the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic in De­cem­ber 1978.

It is why the harsh­est char­ac­ter­i­za­tion is re­served for Shen. He is de­scribed as the worst for­eign min­is­ter the two Chi­angs ever had by these words: Shen did not know what they wished done, but was in­ca­pable of say­ing any­thing about it, even though he tried his best to

make a com­ment.

The Pres­i­dents

Let me try to char­ac­ter­ize the pres­i­dents of the re­pub­lic in Tai­wan since 1950, when Chi­ang Kai-shek re­sumed of­fice af­ter a brief forced re­tire­ment.

Chi­ang Kai-shek is a benev­o­lent dic­ta­tor. His suc­ces­sor C.K. Yen presided over an in­ter­reg­num. Chi­ang’s son, Ching-kuo, is a good au­to­crat who achieved Tai­wan’s in­dus­tri­al­iza­tion for which his fa­ther had laid the foun­da­tion and started its de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. In­dus­tri­al­iza­tion is mod­ern­iza­tion. Tai­wan was fully mod­ern­ized and de­moc­ra­tized by Lee Teng-hui, the first na­tive-born Tai­wanese pres­i­dent of the re­pub­lic by uni­ver­sal suf­frage. Com­par­ing him­self to Moses, Lee wished to make the long op­pressed peo­ple of Tai­wan to­tally free by his “silent revo­lu­tion” and their work­ing the eco­nomic mir­a­cle of the 20th cen­tury. He quit half­way and sup­ported Chen Shui-bian, who he thought to be his Joshua. Chen is a cor­rupt pres­i­dent who is do­ing time for cor­rup­tion and graft. Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou? He has yet to com­plete his sec­ond and last term of his pres­i­dency.

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