K. C. Wu (Chinese: 吳國楨; pinyin: Wú Gúozhēn) (October 21, 1903 – June 6, 1984) was a Chinese political figure and historian.
Man on the Dike"; Time, August 7, 1950. ()
DANGER ZONES: Man On The Dike
Out of the skies over Formosa one day this week roared a U.S. C-54. It landed smoothly at Taipei's airfield. From the Bataan stepped General Douglas MacArthur. He was welcomed by Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek, whose determined face had over the years become almost as familiar to history as Douglas MacArthur's lofty scowl. MacArthur, accompanied by Vice Admiral Arthur Struble, commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, had come to discuss the defenses of Formosa, which the U.S. is committed to guard against Red attack. Said MacArthur, shaking Chiang's hand: "How do you do, Generalissimo, it was nice of you to come down and meet me."
The two men, who for nearly 40 years had been fighting the various separate battles that history assigned them, had never met before. Last week, at long last, the two fighters stood side by side in the same battle. After months of snubbing the Nationalists on Formosa, Washington had begun to see the one fact that counted about Chiang. Formosa's Governor K.C. Wu had sharply stated that fact: "The only force in this part of the world with a sizable anti-Communist army, with a leadership that has a popular following and with the will to fight, is the Nationalist government."
It had taken the U.S. a long time to reach the same conclusion.
The Road to Decision. Last January, the President of the U.S. announced: "The United States Government will not provide military aid or advice to Chinese forces on Formosa . . . The resources on Formosa are adequate to enable them to obtain the items which they might consider necessary for the defense of the island."
Secretary of State Dean Acheson had persuaded the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, against the advice of General MacArthur, that the U.S. should not intervene in Formosa. He advanced the remarkable argument that if Russia had its way in Asia, the Communists would eventually become highly unpopular among Asian people and the U.S. would gain popularity for its nice-mannered nonintervention.
knock into a cocked hat
The Red invasion of South Korea knocked such arguments into a cocked hat. The President reversed himself, announced what most military men—and plain common sense—would tell any American: Formosa in Red hands would be "a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area . . ."
Can Formosa Hold? In the six months that it took for the U.S. to make up its mind, the Reds had built up a sizable invasion fleet. The Red dragon began to spit fire; Communist leaders made belligerent statements about how.they would liberate Formosa and crush Chiang. Would Formosa be the dragon's next bite?
Last week, the Communists tried to take Taitan, a small Nationalist-held island off the mainland port of Amoy. The Nationalists drove off the attack. Later, the Nationalist air force—which had been idle for a month because of President Truman's request that the Nationalists cease operations against the Red mainland—strafed Communist forces on the Chinese coast, reported that it sank 150 Red invasion vessels. The Nationalists called this action a "self-defense measure," and Washington accepted that explanation.
U.S. military men believe that a Red invasion can be turned back by the U.S. Seventh Fleet, together with the Nationalist army of about 500,000 men who have been licked into top shape by V.M.I.-trained General Sun Li-jen. They concede, however, that the Red Chinese air force of about 300 fighter-bombers and 100 medium bombers might deal crippling blows to ports and industries of the island stronghold.
But the defense of Formosa, and the U.S. stake in it, is not purely a military matter. A large, vocal body of U.S. opinion has persistently suggested that the Nationalists are not fit allies for the U.S. The Chinese who are building a stronghold on Formosa today should tell Americans another story. One of the most important of these Chinese is Governor Wu.
The Measure of Maturity. Wu Kuo-cheng was born in 1903 in the mountains of Central China, grew up in Peking, where his peasant-born father was director of military training for the Imperial Chinese army. In Peking's yellow-roofed Forbidden City, Dowager Empress Tzu-hsi (also known as the "Venerable Buddha") still occupied the Dragon Throne, and China still lay in the heavy torpor of her past. While Wu was in school, Sun Yat-sen and his followers rudely yanked at the queue of Chinese tradition, dethroned the Manchus and established the Chinese Republic.
The din of these great events was only dimly heard in Wu's classroom. Wu was a bright pupil. Because he was the smallest boy in his class, he was invariably seated in the first row where he could get a better view of the blackboard. Next to him in the front row usually sat a mandarin's son named Chou Enlai.
Their generation of Chinese was discovering (almost simultaneously) the Bible and Karl Marx. Wu eventually turned to the Bible and became an Anglican; Chou turned to Marx, is now Premier and Foreign Minister of China's Communist government.
When he was 17, Wu weni to the U.S., enrolled at Grinnell College in Iowa. The only course in which Wu, later to be the mayor of three cities, did not get an A was municipal government. In 1923 Wu moved on to Princeton to take his doctorate in political science. He faced the formidable Dean Andrew Fleming West who personally interviewed all graduate students seeking admission. "Young man," said West after contemplating the round, boyish face of the applicant, "you are immature." "Sir," replied Wu, "to judge maturity by the criterion of age is an immature thought in itself." Dean West promptly admitted him to Princeton.
Technician of Order. When Wu returned to China in 1926, Sun Yat-sen was dead. Vast areas of the country were bitterly contested by warlords with their private armies and by Nationalist revolutionaries. The best of the Nationalists, Chiang Kaishek, Sun's disciple, set out from Canton at the head of a revolutionary army on his famous Northern Expedition to quell the warlords. Young Nationalist K. C. Wu tried to join Chiang's army. He was rejected with the explanation: "You are too educated."
Throughout the war, on orders from Moscow, the Reds had arrayed themselves in the "united front" with Chiang against the Japanese.* Liaison man between the Communists and the government was Wu's old schoolfriend, suave Chou Enlai. Chou was often heard to say at Chungking parties: "Wu and I used to go to school together. Now we fight together." Wu did not share this pally mood. Chou made him nervous. Said he once: "Chou En-lai puts me on the jitterbug."
K. C. Wu's jitters proved amply justified.
The Technicians of Chaos. For a time it seemed as if Chungking's—and all China's—heroic endurance had been rewarded. In 1945, after 14 years of fighting, the war was over: the Japanese surrendered. Men like K.C. Wu were sure then that they would get the time and the peace so desperately needed to build and organize a modern China. But, within sight of realization, their hopes came to nothing. While the technicians of order labored to build, the Red technicians of chaos labored to perpetuate disorder. Immediately after V-J day, the Communists and Nationalists were at war.
In 1946, Chiang Kai-shek assigned Wu to tend Asia's most desperate sore of disorder: Shanghai.
It was not a city; it was the double-distilled epitome of chaos. Sediments of every evil that Asia has seen in a century, and the residue of every Western movement for good in Asia, had been washed ashore on the Shanghai mudbanks. When Wu took over, Shanghai was a compound of patient, unlettered Chinese coolies, British traders, American, French and British missionaries, White Russian blondes who lived by their wits, refugees, adventurers, prostitutes, gangsters—and Communist agents. Nobody was astonished at hotel rooms that cost $150,000 (Chinese) a night, at small boys who peddled blackjacks in public, or at homeless children dying nightly in the streets.
Mayor Wu's first act in office concerned the 97,000 dead who, during the war, had accumulated in the city's morgues because relatives could not transport them inland to their ancestral burial grounds. Wu ruled that henceforth no corpse might stay unburied more than 30 days.
Wu proved an efficient, smart administrator against overwhelming odds. He managed to keep Shanghai's astronomical budget from soaring into outer space, did his best to fight black markets. As in Chungking, he dashed in person from crisis to crisis. On one occasion, he harangued nearly 3,000 rioting students for 18 hours, persuaded them to go home peacefully; another time, students beat him up. Once when workers in the city's big textile industry demanded pay raises, Mayor Wu gave a big tea party for the union bosses and their families. They were so pleased at being allowed to rub elbows with the mayor that they cut their demands by 75%.
But Wu's fight for order was in vain. The technicians of chaos carried the day. The Communists (and their obedient echoes in the U.S.) screamed about China's weakness and confusion while, swinging the torch of civil war, the Reds themselves desperately increased the weakness and the confusion. As the Reds approached Shanghai, Chiang ordered Wu, who was seriously ill, to go to Formosa.