A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947
A Farewell: A Collection of Short Stories
The Great Transition: Political and Social Change in the Republic of China
Governing the Market: Economic Theory and the Role of Government in East Asian Industrialization
Taiwan: Beyond the Economic Miracle
On the same late fall day in 1991, two stories about China appeared in the Western press. One announced that thirty-five drug dealers had just been executed in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, probably by a single police bullet fired into the back of each man’s neck. Before their execution, the thirty-five had been paraded and “tried” in front of 40,000 people. A blurred photograph showed the defendants, arms tied behind their backs, each held by two helmeted policemen, in front of the enormous crowd. As their sentences were announced, a metric ton of refined heroin and four metric tons of opium, allegedly seized from the thirty-five dealers, were burned to ashes in sixty enormous cauldrons. Similar rallies and trials were said to have taken place in fifteen other southwestern Chinese cities, though the number of those executed or participating was not announced. The mass trials took place in a country where the annual per capita income was approximately $350, according to the World Bank.
The same day, confirmation came from Taiwan of the government’s six-year plan to spend $300 billion on rebuilding and expanding public facilities all across the island: 779 projects, most to be put out for bids by local and foreign contractors, were designed to develop roads, rails and subways, schools, housing and medical facilities, refineries, sewage and power plants. Taiwan already had $72 billion in its official foreign exchange reserves, and anticipated no problem in raising the rest from its rapidly increasing domestic tax revenues and lively foreign trade. The reconstruction effort would substantially raise the living standards of Taiwan’s population, whose annual per capita income was currently estimated by the World Bank to stand at $8,000.
Six months later a different set of contrasting images was once more presented to us. The first, from the People’s Republic, told of the ordeal of a young Chinese worker named Han Dongfang. Han had organized an independent Workers’ Federation during the heady month of May 1989, with its headquarters on Tiananmen Square. After the June massacre in Beijing, Han was arrested. Though not summarily executed like several other workers active in the demonstrations, he was treated with sadistic cruelty in prison, tortured with acupuncture needles when he went on a hunger strike, and confined to a ward for seriously ill tuberculosis patients, where, not surprisingly, he contracted the same disease. Reluctantly released by the authorities, so that he would not acquire a martyr’s fame by dying in prison, Han spoke to his American interviewer of his fear that his wife, now pregnant, would be forced to have an abortion as a further way to punish and intimidate him. In a response to Western protest China agreed in August to allow Han Dongfang to travel to the United States for medical treatment.
The lead stories from Taiwan at the same time spoke of the hectic arguments and the flurries of excitement that gripped Taiwan’s newly elected National Assembly …
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Women’s Place January 14, 1993