By: Hilario Andes
In the early 1990s, then Taiwan President Lee Ting Hui dropped a bombshell that made the whole world breathless for some seconds of time. 2 to 3 years earlier, the Maoist remnants of Deng Xiao and the Communist Politburu had to bombard Taiwan with intense propaganda that Mainland and Taiwan reunifiication was near and that because Taiwan was a mere province of the Mainland the people of Taiwan who were descendants of Generalissimo Chiang Kai and his forces had no choice left but to reunite with the Communist Mainland otherwise Taiwan will be taken by force.
Almost half a century earlier, the Nationalist Forces of General Chiang had to swallow their pride and retreated to the island of Formosa (Taiwan) by way of the remaining Nationalist naval ships to fight another day and hope to recapture the Mainland one day. Gen. Chiang’s very order of the day for the defeated Nationalist Forces from the very moment they set foot on barren Formosa during the very cold months of November and December 1949 was to dig foxholes day and night at the western front to repel any invasion from the Mao Tse’s Red Army. The victorious Red Army then had no credible naval assets to mount an invasion. THUS NO INVASION CAME AND GEN CHIANG’s FORCES HAD TO DOUBLE THEIR EFFORTS TO TRANSFORM THEIR WESTERN TERRITORY INTO A GARRISON TO MAKE IT SO HARD FOR THE COMMUNISTS TO INVADE.
With no imminent invasion in sight, Gen. Chiang established the NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT IN TAIWAN thru a martial regime and planned for the recapture of the Mainland. At this point up to the KOREAN WAR (1950 – 53) , the COMMUNIST FORCES began strengthening the RED ARMY. And no recapture of the mainland took place. Then the shift in strategy. THE MAIN THRUST OF THE NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT THEN WAS TO INDUSTRIALIZE TAIWAN AS A BASE OF EXPORTS TO EARN THE NECESSARY FOREIGN EXCHANGE FOR MUCH NEEDED RAW MATERIALS LIKE STEEL. It was hard, painstaking and emotional on the part of the Taiwanese to plant for food and build Taiwan starting with the manufacture of small agricultural tools and equipment like hoes, shovels, wheelbarrows, hammers, saws, etc. just to produce exportable products. Some of the household maids of rich Filipinos then were Taiwanese. THUS THE FAST-TRACKED INDUSTRIALIZATION OF TAIWAN FROM THE 60s to the 80s exporting mechanized tillers, harvesters, construction heavy equipment and the like that earned them the title of Asia’s INDUSTRIALIZING ECONOMIES together with South Korea. THEY WASTED NO TIME TO EARN DOLLARS.
Fast – forward now. In the early 90s, with Taiwan’s $ 70 BILLION RESERVES ( The Philippines with ( $ 25 Billion ), President Lee stunned the world by announcing that Taiwan will buy 350 fighter jets from the US, BRITAIN AND FRANCE thru an approximately $ 10 Billion defense budget. CHINA WAS CAUGHT BY SURPRISE bewildered and shocked. WITHIN 3 TO 5 YEARS , F-16S, HARRIERS AND MIRAGE FIGHTERS WERE DELIVERED. TAIWAN BECAME ” THE UNSINKABLE AIRCRAFT CARRIER OF THE FAR EAST “. The rest was history. And China never mentioned taking Taiwan by force again.
A lesson in humility, hardwork and planning.