Sun, Mar 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: War of words across the Pacific

Former Taiwan governor K.C. Wu became Chiang Kai-shek’s biggest critic after fleeing to the US in 1953

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

A photo of K.C. Wu, former governor of Taiwan.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

March 13 to March 19

On March 17, 1954, K.C. Wu (吳國楨) was stripped of his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) membership and relieved of all his duties. Not that he was performing any of them — by then, he had resigned his post as governor of Taiwan and fled with his family to the US after a prolonged conflict with other party members, including Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), son of then-president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

The move came after Wu noticed on a road trip in March 1953 that the front wheels of his car had been tampered with, which he saw as an assassination attempt. Two months later, he successfully left the country under the pretense of nursing a sickness and accepting an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Princeton University.

“I’m not coming back,” he reportedly told Judicial Yuan president Wang Chung-hui (王寵惠), who came to see him off at the airport.


Wu kept quiet at first — he was invited to speak at a Double Ten National Day gala in New York City, but only talked about supporting the Nationalists’ fight against Communism. But in November, reports surfaced accusing him of using government money to live a luxurious life in the US. He spent the next three months trying to clear his name, which garnered him more media attention.

He started to reveal more — when asked by Chicago’s WGN-TV why he came to the US, he replied that it was for both health and political reasons. Before that, however, he had maintained that it was entirely due to his sickness.

“In the political climate of those times, this was essentially a public challenge to Taiwan’s government,” his biography published by the Liberty Times states. CBS sent a reporter to his house the next day, and “there was no going back.”

On Feb. 16, 1954, he completely opened up about his conflict with the government, one of the points being that they did not care to win the support of the Taiwanese as well as overseas Chinese.

“We also need to win the support of free countries, especially the US. But if we don’t practice true democracy in our territories, this will not happen,” he said.

According to his biography, he then repeatedly told reporters in English, “The present government is too authoritarian.” These words made the major US newspapers.

This started a war of words between Wu and the KMT across the Pacific Ocean, leading up to his expulsion from the party.


Wu had worked for the KMT since 1926 and was once a close associate of the Chiang family. He retreated to Taiwan with the KMT in 1949, and in 1950 he became governor after Chen Cheng’s (陳誠) resignation.

During this time, he clashed with other major KMT members over many issues, including greater self-governance for Taiwanese and increased democracy. The book Who’s Afraid of Wu Kuo-chen? (誰怕吳國楨?) by Yin Hui-min (殷惠敏) states that he even directly brought up the idea to Chiang Kai-shek of allowing multiple political parties.

“We have the best people on our side, where would we find able people to form an opposition party?” Chiang reportedly replied.

Wu had clashed with Chiang Ching-kuo while still in China, and this feud continued in Taiwan when he intervened in a mass arrest by Chiang’s special agents. Several more incidents took place over political arrests, and Wu further incurred Chiang’s wrath by refusing to provide funds to the anti-communist youth organization China Youth Corps (救國團), which he compared to communist and Nazi youth leagues in his biography.

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