Taiwan’s citizenry had a negative perception of the mainlanders and their military that was underscored when hundreds of thousands more soldiers began to enter Taiwan in the spring of 1949. This group, defeated by the peasant soldiers of Mao Tse-Tung, came to Taiwan both individually and as part of units. They appeared downtrodden and demoralized.
One observer noted:
We all went down to greet the Chinese troops carrying Nationalist flags, and the Formosans were really sincere in welcoming the new government. But the mainland troops were so poor and shabby that the Formosans were disillusioned even before experiencing the graft and corruption….They’d been used to smartly-dressed and disciplined Japanese soldiers who were clean, neat, and well- behaved. Now these KMT troops were filthy, illiterate, and treated the Formosans as an occupied people.
As previously mentioned, it is estimated that about one million military personnel and another million government and civilian personnel arrived on the island, most of them settling in Taipei.
Debate continues about the caliber of the arriving mainlanders and their ability to assume the critical posts the Japanese exit left vacant in the scientific, technical, and administrative structure of Taipei’s economy.
In contrast to the accepted judgement, some believe that the mainland Chinese were not “skilled or experienced in activities which required replacement management, [even though] the business and government leaders were well educated, bringing strong administrative and technical expertise to the capital.”
Most agree that the migrating army was heavily weighted toward young men with limited education credentials.
The arrival of the mainlanders immediately affected Taipei’s urban landscape, placing severe strain on the city’s infrastructure and services.
The Taiwanese expressed apprehension over the incorporation of large numbers of civilian and military refugees into Taipei’s struggling economic and political environment.
The Nationalist government was also concerned and, since most of the refugees were military or government workers, the government felt obligated to take care of them.
The new arrivals were given most of the key jobs in the government bureaucracy, in the education system, and in government enterprises despite their status as a numerical minority.
They were also given most of the homes abandoned by the Japanese. Still many became homeless and lived in the squatter settlements which were emerging all over the city.
The situation became increasingly serious because most of the new arrivals did not speak the same language as the locals. Misunderstandings and tensions became the norm.