Monday, August 29, 2005

Gangsters and the KMT: From Whence Cometh the Link?

Budding Sinologist from the quality blog MeiZhongTai asks an interesting question in the comments of a previous post....

Can you recommend a good source--or maybe you know the answer--about the origin of the KMT-gangster relationship in Taiwan? Was it a leftover of the KMT's alliance with Big-Eared Du (Du Yuesheng) on the Mainland or was this started anew in Taiwan? seems to have been KMT policy from the beginning to work with organized crime. Tu's organization fell apart when the Japanese took Shanghai and the gangsters fled to Hong Kong and cast off his authority (or so it says here) so what went on afterward cannot be connected to him personally. But the policy of cultivating organized crime remained. Fires of the Dragon, which takes as its theme the Henry Liu murder in examining KMT intelligence activities in the US, says that during the late 40s and 50s the KMT used the tongs to control the US Chinese community. Once the PRC took over China, in many Chinese communities KMT controlled businesses became the only route to getting Chinese food, so in many communities businessmen became "loyal" to the KMT. Another factor in its rise among overseas Chinese communities in the US was the McCarthyite witch hunts, which were conducted by the INS and the FBI in the 1950s. In a little-known episode, the KMT seized this opportunity to destroy its opponents by reporting them to the US law enforcement community. One of the many people caught up in this dragnet was the missile scientist Tien Hsueh-shen, who had been in the US for 17 years hoping to become a citizen. He had helped design US missiles during and after WWII. Arrested on hearsay in the FBI sweeps, he was stripped of his security clearance and imprisoned. Released, he turned against the US and went to China, where he helped father China's A-Bombs. It goes without saying that the Chinese community was totally loyal and no spies were found.

I can't offhand think of a good source for what went on in Taiwan (Martin Booth may have something in The Dragon Syndicates, which I have not read). I have often wanted to write a book on organized crime and the Kuomintang in Taiwan, but a childish cowardice prevents me....

UPDATE: In response to the comments on the previous post, Jason from Wandering to Tamshui suggests that we try a book called Heijin by Chin Ko-lin. "A fantastic overview of the origins and machinations of patron-client politics." Its Amazon page is here.

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