Introduction to the 1959 Diary

By Yixiao Zheng

After the implementation of the Constitution since Christmas of 1947, Chiang Kai-shek was elected the President of the Republic of China in May 1948. In 1959, the second term of Chiang’s presidency already entered its final year, as it was going to end in May 1961. Because the Constitution barred a third presidential term, the question of a ‘third presidential term’ had increasingly become a serious topic of political discussion by the end of the 1950s, which culminated in a political movement in 1959 advocating constitutional revision to pave the way for Chiang’s re-election for a third term. Preparations for Chiang’s re-election had therefore almost dominated Taiwan’s political scene in that year. It was not until December 1959 that the Party finalised the general approach to the ‘re-election’ arrangements. Accordingly, the issue became the most prominent political subject throughout Fu Bingchang’s 1959 diary.


This year’s diary contains detailed accounts of Fu’s observation of the political consultation and mobilisation among the KMT’s ruling elite in this process. Though Fu himself was not within Chiang’s innermost circle, his seniority and political connections within the Party enabled him to follow the events closely. What also makes Fu’s account particularly interesting is the fact that the Judicial Yuan was playing a special role (not least in constitutional interpretation) in responding to what may be seen as a mounting constitutional crisis as Chiang sought his re-election while trying to preserve the constitutionality of his third-term presidency under the existing constitutional framework. Notably, the diary reveals the various dynamics of the constitutional deliberations, including rumour and speculation, as the political mobilisation gained momemtum. In particular, readers may find accounts of the discussion of various political options and constitutional arrangements that had been raised in the process. The diary also contains Fu’s observation of Chiang Kai-shek’s private views and preferred approach, and the opinions of some of Chiang’s close advisers (such as Zhang Qiyun, Zhang Qun and Xie Guansheng) on the appropriate method and constitutional solution required for the presidential re-election. Of course, readers may also find Fu’s own thinking on the timing, viability and legality of this political endeavour, as well as his increasingly cautious attitude about his personal involvement in this process despite his general support for Chiang’s continued leadership. The diary also notes Hu Shi’s opposition to Chiang’s presidential re-election.


Apart from the politics of presidential re-election, the diary also reveals some other interesting aspects of the political and economic circumstances in 1959. Most notable of these is perhaps Fu’s extensive observations of Vice President Chen Cheng, who concurrently served as the Premier of the Executive Yuan. Fu’s diary contains entries noting Chen’s close associates, his evolving attitude towards Chiang’s re-election, as well as his difficult political position, especially his adverse relations with the Legislators and the so-called CC faction in particular. Also highlighted in the diary are the incidents illustrating the struggle between the Control Yuan and the Legislative Yuan, the party affairs regarding the re-registration of Party members and the establishment of the KMT Central Policy Committee in 1959, as well as the issue pertaining to the return of Chen Lifu and Sun Ke to Taiwan from the United States. In the case of Sun Ke, Fu jotted down how he had tried to persuade Sun Ke to return, and his growing caution on this matter as the political situation on the island became more intense and complicated. The diary also notes the regime’s difficult economic and financial standing, as seen from the economic imperative of selling gold reserves and the growing difficulty of securing continued U.S. economic aid. The economic condition was worsened by the devastating effects of an unprecedented flooding event, which hit much of Central and Southern Taiwan and triggered off a post-disaster national emergency response that resulted in the curtailment of national consumption, tax increases and tightening of government discipline.


The 1959 diary also allows readers to gain deeper insights into Fu’s job in the Judicial Yuan. Insofar as the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries is concerned, this diary has many entries that illustrate the way in which Fu led the Commission, including his much-emphasised ‘non-interference’ principle and his repeated stress on impartiality on the part of the Commissioners. The account of some of the cases handled also reveal the difficulty faced by the Commission in maintaining its neutrality and fairness amidst the intense political struggle and pressure (such as those between the Control Yuan and the Ministry of Judicial Administration). Also noted are Fu’s observations of the Commission’s internal administrative affairs, changing dynamics among the Commissioners and his lack of interest in serving concurrently as the Justice.


The 1959 diary also features Fu’s observations of the diplomatic situation of the R.O.C. It offers a detailed account of the circumstances surrounding Jordanian King Hussein’s visit to Taiwan. Many of this year’s entries are concerned with the situation within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For instance, readers could get a glimpse of the Ambassador Ye Gongchao’s work in the United States and his influence over the ministry’s personnel affairs, the circumstances surrounding Zhang Lisheng’s appointment as the Ambassador to Japan, and the work pattern of Minister Huang Shaogu, etc. Some of the events highlighted in the diary also reveal the R.O.C.’s deteriorating international standing. For example, Fu noted the regime’s declining status in its bilateral diplomatic dealings with Australia and France, as well as its shrinking international space in terms of the R.O.C.’s right to represent China in international organisations such as the United Nations Association conferences and the International Olympic Committee; readers may find interesting accounts of the Chinese responses to these events, including Fu’s own attitude and thinking. Interestingly, Columbia was noted as a consistently loyal supporter of the R.O.C. in all international arenas because of the country’s staunch anti-communist stance. Of course, the diary also contains many accounts of the R.O.C.-U.S. relations. Some of the issues mentioned include the American attitude towards the R.O.C. and the extent of U.S. political support and sympathy within the U.S. polity, the growing difficulty in sustaining U.S. economic aid to Taiwan and the mounting American pressure for economic reform, and Chiang Kai-shek’s tribute to Dulles for his religious faith and steadfastness in opposing Communist expansion.


The diary also provides some insights into the developments in world politics in 1959. The situation of mainland China is one of the major subjects. For instance, Fu noted Chiang’s assessment of the Communist political strategy to undermine the Nationalist military in Taiwan, the Soviet Union’s economic aid to Communist China and notably the growing tensions and conflicts between the Chinese and Soviet Communists. Readers may also find Chiang Kai-shek’s assessments of the Soviet influence and pressure over Chinese Communist politics, such as the power struggle between Mao and his party rivals (Liu Shaoqi and Peng Dehuai) and China’s policy on the people’s commune. Fu also indicated his own thinking on these issues. Another major event recorded in relation to China is the escape of the Dalai Lama to India and the changing attitude of India’s Nehru on this issue in 1959. Readers could even find in this year’s diary the political deliberations behind Chiang Kai-shek’s pronouncement in support of the Tibetan independence and the policy debate on the right of national self-determination for the ethnic-minority border regions during the Second Plenum of the Eighth Central Committee of the KMT.


Apart from situation on the Chinese mainland, Fu also noted the political circumstances within Soviet Russia, the United States, and France. But the issues which have been most extensively covered are Cold War politics concerning U.S.-Soviet relations, the Berlin crisis and the various internal divisions within the Western camp. Fu was concerned about American optimism about Khrushchev’s policy and was disturbed by what he saw as an emerging Soviet-U.S. condominium dominating world politics despite the continued firmness of the Eisenhower administration vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R. Fu’s observation of the situation of the Berlin crisis shows the continuing difficulty in resolving the differences over the fate of Berlin and Germany between the Western powers and the Soviet Union. Fu was also disturbed by the signs of disunity within the Atlantic alliance, such as de Gaulle’s misgivings about the unified NATO command, the centrality of U.S. leadership in European defence, and the lack of European-led nuclear capabilities, among other things; the diary also registers London’s concern for Washington seeking a unilateral understanding with Moscow in the Cold War, as well as the West German and French insistence on a comprehensive solution to the questions of Berlin and German unification and their shared opposition to the Anglo-American attempt to seek a provisional solution to the question of Berlin with the Soviets. Beyond the European theatre, the diary also notes Eisenhower’s failure to woo Nehru and persuade India to join the U.S. side against Communist China.


Fu indicated in the 1959 diary that he had found contentment in his current life and did not wish to take up any position in the executive branch or the foreign ministry. Insofar as his family life is concerned, this year, Fu continued to worry about his son’s marriage as well as his wife’s troubled relationship with his daughter-in-law and her desire to go to America; but his son’s new job with the British Royal Air Force as a lecturer in Chinese Studies had been of some comfort to Fu. Fu also learned about the difficult life of his two daughters in Hong Kong and hoped they could come to study in Taiwan after completing their high school education. Fu enjoyed the company of his younger brother, and grieved the death of his ninth brother and blamed himself for not having done more for his poor little brother. As part of the oral history project initiated by Guo Tingyi of the Academia Sinica, Fu began a series of weekly interviews with two scholars from the Institute of Modern History from December 1959 onwards. This first full-year diary since Fu’s return to government service also to some extent opens up the culture of Taipei’s officialdom in relation to the practices and customs among the top-level Chinese mandarins, not least during each of the major festivals throughout the year.