Stanford University’s Hoover Institution on Tuesday gave a preview into the personal diaries of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), which are to be open to public viewing starting in February.
The diaries show Chiang focused on Taiwan’s political and economic development in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in sharp contrast to his father, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), said Lin Hsiao-ting (林孝庭), curator of East Asia collections at Hoover Institution Library and Archives.
Based on the elder Chiang’s diaries, “his heart was always with mainland China, and he was mostly interested in retaking the mainland,” Lin said.
The Chiang Ching-kuo diaries cover May 1937 to December 1979, and offer insight into his life from the time he returned to China from Soviet Russia and his move to Taiwan.
The diaries of the year 1948 were lost, while the entries from 1937 to 1940, and from 1945 to 1949 are transcripts, and the rest are handwritten originals, Lin said.
Chiang Ching-kuo, who served as president from 1978 until his death in 1988, stopped keeping a diary in 1979 for reasons that are not known, Lin said, adding that it might be due to health problems, because he underwent prostate surgery that year.
During the preview, the institution showed a selection of the copied and original Chiang Ching-kuo diaries, focusing mostly on his participation in major decisionmaking processes in Taiwan after 1949.
Among the most notable entries was his reaction after he was told in the early hours of Dec. 16, 1978, by then-US ambassador Leonard Unger that Washington was severing ties with Taipei.
It was a hard blow for Chiang Ching-kuo, who wrote: “[I am] in agony. While shouldering heavy responsibilities, [I] should handle it rationally and calm people down first.”
He also wrote that he thought Taiwan’s “strength” and “morality and sense of justice” would serve as the core of the nation’s diplomacy thereafter.
According to entries written on Jan. 18, 1970, he said the best policy for Taiwan was developing the economy, and he wanted to work for the well-being of the people.
The diaries are to be available for public viewing in their entirety at the Hoover Archives’ Reading Room, which is to open in February. They will also complement the collection of diaries from 1915 to 1972 left by his father, who led China from 1928 to 1949 and then ruled Taiwan after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists in 1949 until his death in 1975.
The elder Chiang’s diaries were made public by the institution in 2006 and have since been the most requested collection in the institution’s possession.
The institution has held the diaries of the Chiangs since 2005, when Chiang Ching-kuo’s daughter-in-law Chiang Fang Chih-yi (蔣方智怡) signed a 50-year agreement for the documents to be curated by the institution.
Legal disputes over ownership of the diaries have been ongoing since, but all parties involved last summer agreed to make them public to facilitate research.
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