Taipei is Shaped by Chinese Decision-Making, Not American Influence
Clearly, during the early Cold War period, Taipei was shaped by Chinese decision making rather than by American influence.
The capital was militarized, certainly. But that militarization derived from domestic Chinese forces — not from superpower leverage.
The US had begun to sway some decisions — land reform is a good example. But it is not until the late 1950s that American influence began to promote a more mixed economy between the public and private sectors.
American influence would be exerted primarily through the extra-ministerial Council on US Aid, whose funds were administered outside the government’s regular budget.
Even after the 1960s, Taiwan’s economic policies retained many features directly associated with the pre-1949 industrial planning that had been in place on the mainland. This is because many of the most prominent individuals associated with Taiwan’s economic policy had roots in the pre-1949 bureaucracy.
The National Resources Commission
The National Resources Commission(NRC) provided the majority of the heads of Taiwan’s state-run industries for the first four decades — and 8 of the 14 post-1950 Ministers of Economic Affairs.
As late as 1987, both the Minister of Economic Affairs and the Chairman of the Council for Economic Planning and Development had been associated with the NRC.
Nevertheless, Taipei had a head start on cities throughout the developing world that were eventually influenced by superpower prestige and funding.
The personnel discussed above included several thousand Chinese engineers who were sponsored under Lend-Lease funds for advanced training in major American industries.
This group formed the industrial leadership of China’s postwar development. While most remained on the mainland, some made their way to Taipei.
The first and most selective group of young engineers was sent to the US in 1942. It was composed of 31 men from all major divisions of the NRC who were given internships over a two-year period in organizations like Westinghouse, RCA, Du Pont, Monsanto, the Tennessee Valley Authority, US Bureau of Reclamation, US Steel and American Cyanamid.
Out of this first group, only 7 found themselves on Taiwan in 1949. However, as a group, they have enjoyed great distinction.
The prominence of such individuals carries forth a trend from the late Nationalist period on the mainland, in which essentially non-political economic bureaucrats played an increasing role in government, receiving cabinet-rank positions and sometimes more . . . . In this regard, at least, the economic bureaucracy of pre-1949 Nationalist China may be seen as a problematic predecessor of the contemporary developmental state on Taiwan.
While in the early postwar period these development oriented technocrats were overshadowed by the military, by the end of the 1950s they had regained their independence.
As American influence grew stronger, military reconquest of the mainland became a secondary goal to that of economic development.
US advisers strongly backed the technocrats, and Chiang Kai-shek reasserted his support.
Taipei was soon to undergo one of the most remarkable economic transformations in recent history, led by technocrats whose training had been funded by the United States government and who had sharpened their expertise and experience in American corporations and bureaucracies.
Economic transformation linked to military objectives was an integral part of the growing militarization of Taipei.