An exercise in 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.
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.
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.