Selected Modern Chinese Essays: A Letter to Chiang Ching-Kuo

◎ Liao Chengzhi

July 24, 1982

Dear brother Ching-Kuo,

Who would have expected that the short distance between us should be keeping us poles apart! It is now more than 36 years since our brief encounter in Nanjing. The days we spent together in childhood as well as later in the Soviet capital, however, are still as fresh as ever in my memory. But it’s a pity indeed that we haven’t heard from each other for so many years. Recently it filled me with much concern to learn of your indisposition. Men aged over seventy are liable to illness. I hope you will take good care of yourself.

For three years, we have repeatedly proposed bilateral talks between the two parties to let bygones be bygones and strive together for the great cause of national reunification. But you have time and again insisted upon having “no contact, no talks and no compromise”, which I truly think inadvisable. In view of the public and personal concerns as well as the long-standing deep friendship between our two families, I feel duty-bound to offer you a word of advice for careful consideration.

The peaceful reunification of the motherland will be a great achievement to go down in history. Taiwan is bound to be reunited eventually with the motherland. An early settlement of the problem will be in the interests of all. The compatriots in Taiwan will be able to live in peace and happiness, the people of all nationalities on both sides of the Taiwan straits will be relieved of the pains of separation from their own flesh and blood, and our senior folks in Taiwan and those formerly migrated there from the mainland will all be properly placed and provided for. And, moreover, it will contribute to the stability of Asia and the Pacific region as well as to world peace. You used to seek self-encouragement from the motto, “The interests to be considered should be the interests of all; the fame to be sought should be an everlasting fame.” If you should be instrumental in bringing about the great cause of national reunification, you will certainly win esteem and praise nationwide and your meritorious service to the country will earn you a niche in the temple of fame. It is sheer absurdity to think yourself “guilty” for rendering such a service. After all, dragging out your existence in that tight eastern corner is by no means a permanent solution. This should be crystal clear to a man of your wisdom. Procrastination, hesitation or sleeping over the problem will only lead to adversity and you, my brother, will hardly be able to escape censure. Moreover, peaceful reunification is entirely an internal affair of China. As is known to all, outsiders who are talking glibly against it have designs on our Taiwan. To be irresolute when a prompt decision should be taken would only spell disaster. I, therefore, would like you to think this over carefully.

After going through untold hardships during which countless revolutionaries unflinchingly laid down their lives, the Kuomintang founded by Dr. Sun Yat-sen finally overthrew the monarchy and established the republic. This has been universally recognized as a glorious achievement. The Kuomintang and the Communist Party twice cooperated and on both occasions they made tremendous contributions to the country and the nation. We know something about the first cooperation, led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen, though we were still young at that time. The second cooperation was presided over by your father and, as participants in it, we should know what it was all about. Complicated as the matter was, an overall view of the situation will show that united, the country and the nation benefit; divided, they suffer. Now, as head of the Taiwan administration, you have unshirkable responsibility for bringing about the third cooperation. Leaders from both sides will find it easier to talk the matter over since they know each other well, having formerly been schoolmates and close friends. I find it really hard for me to subscribe to those views which describe cooperation as “surrender”, “humiliating”, “suffering losses” or “being duped”. In reviewing history or looking ahead to the future, one should be publicminded and put the interests of the country and the nation above all. Why harp on the narrow interests of a party? Such remarks as “unifying China with the Three People’s Principles” are regarded by all thinking people as unrealistic, deceptive and ostrich-like. People of our generation know the true meaning of the Three People’s Principles quite well and there is no need to argue about it. Neither is there any need to dwell on such assertions as Taiwan’s “economic prosperity, democracy and easy livelihood”, the truth of which all gentlemen in Taiwan must be quite aware of. To my mind, if you, for the sake of your party, shoulder the historic task and, going with the stream, take part in peace talks for our national reunification, the two parties will be able to co-exist for a long time to come, supervising each other and making a common effort to revitalize China. Otherwise, content as you are with your present rule over the tight eastern corner, how can such a situation be expected to last for long? This is a question already on the minds of thinking people. It is a matter of survival or extinction for the Kuomintang and I hope you will think it over again.

Recently I was profoundly moved when I read one of your writings in which you expressed the “longing for my father’s soul to return to the homeland and be among the forefathers”. The remains of your father, now still temporarily placed at Cihu, shall, upon national reunification, be immediately moved to the final resting place in Fenghua, Nanjing or Lushan in fulfilment of your filial wishes. You recently said, “Filial devotion should be expanded into national devotion, which means love of the nation and dedication to the country.” Well said! Why don’t you apply it to the great cause of national reunification? As far as the country and the nation are concerned, you will have fulfilled the task imposed on you and your father by history; as far as you yourself are concerned, this will be an expression of both loyalty and filial piety. Otherwise how could you account for yourself after your passing away? I hope you will think more about it.

Dear brother, the frustrations marking your lifetime are by no means predestined. You yourself alone are master of your own fate. Merits and demerits to be recorded in history hinge on the decision made in a moment. The present international situation is capricious. Throughout Taiwan people of all strata are talking about their future. Time does not stay and brief is the day. A long night invites bad dreams; time and tide wait for no man. I hope you, my brother, will make a wise choice and repair the house before it rains. “Vast is the expanse of sky and water. What are you waiting for, staying away from home?”

The longing for old friends grows with age. If it suits your convenience, I will pack and go on a visit to Taibei to consult our elders. “For all the disasters the brotherhood has remained; a smile at meeting and enmity is banished.” When I look south towards the distant horizon, my heart cannot help going out to my compatriots there. No word is enough to express what I wish to say. It is hoped that you will take good care of yourself. I am looking forward to a reply from you.

Please convey my regards to your mother as well as to Fang-Liang, Wei-Kuo and the children.

Best wishes to you.