John Paton

Wu Ningkun




INT: And you take credit for that?

MG: No I don't. I had very little to do with shaping his opinions. I did, however, successfully counter his views on one important episode relating to the offshore islands crisis, and that is (Clears throat) that he wanted to take it to the United Nations twice, to have it resolved through a neutralization of the offshore islands, and I knew that was a crazy idea, that it would never work: neither China would accepted it, and it would weaken our position all across the board. And I effectively opposed it through Robertson. I didn't have any problems convincing Walter Robertson. But I was very close to Dulles at that time, and he used to telephone me directly and we discussed these things. But I would always tell Mr. Dulles, when I opposed his views, that I would take it up with Mr. Robertson and others in the Bureau, and we'd let him know our opinion, so I never ventured an opinion of mine on an issue of that nature. But I found that Robertson was much more realistic on some of these issues than Dulles was. On the other hand, Robertson was unrealistic in terms of his (Clears throat) excessive zeal for supporting Chiang Kai-shek and Syngman Rhee. Now, one of the things we ran into in dealing with Chi... particularly when I was Consul General in Hong Kong, was that on Taiwan they were supporting raids against the mainland, sometimes operating out of Hong Kong, which used to infuriate Governor Black and others in the Hong Kong Government, because it was endangering Hong Kong to be thus involved. And I felt very strongly about that, and so I went from Hong Kong - I was Consul General - to Taiwan, and I talked with our embassy and officials there and told them why this was a dangerous thing to be doing. My guess is that Peking learned about this. I don't think it harmed my relationship with Peking, although that was not my intention.

INT: What were the problems with Chiang Kai-shek, and what did you American officials feel about it?

MG: Well, I think his basic call was "Return to the mainland," just like Syngman Rhee's was "March north". These were clearly opposed to our basic policies. It's that fundamental. There may have been external [factors], such as just described now, but the fundamental problem was the idea of return to the mainland. Now, when Dulles went to Taiwan by way of Gasperi's funeral in Italy, and England, where he refueled, much to the grief of the London Times, that had a black-bordered article saying "(Ask today?) why he came to England", John Foster Dulles replied: "We came here to refuel." Anyway when he went to Taiwan, and he met with Chiang Kai-shek, he used an argument that I had... among others, I had given arguments that he could use with Chiang Kai-shek... was to make it clear that we're not talking about return to the mainland in a physical sense: what we're talking about is that (Clears throat) the return to the mainland is a return to the freer way of life that China should have and did occur in Taiwan, and it was to spread the good news of freedom that was his mission; it was not physically to return to the mainland, which would endanger world peace. Oh, Dulles liked that, and that of course was very much in accord with his own thinking. But his understanding of East Asian issues, as I say, was limited, and his handling of the Indonesian problem at that time, which I was not involved in that issue, was again an affront to Sukarno and made for some real serious problems in the internal civil war that occurred shortly thereafter in Sumatra.

INT: How serious was this second Taiwan Straits crisis of 1958? How dangerous was it for the world?

MG: It was dangerous to the world only in the sense that if (Clears throat) the Chinese communists were to actually launch an attack to recover Taiwan, it would probably bring about Armageddon. We had, after all, a commitment to Taiwan to defend them. And so it would have pitted Peking directly against Washington; it would have brought on a major world crisis. But Peking was not aiming to actually attack Taiwan: it was aiming to attack the offshore islands to the point where they would either capitulate or take out their forces, and it would be seen as a great Chinese communist victory, undermine the morale in Taiwan and bring down the government of the Republic of China from within. Now the reason I say that was, the attack against the offshore islands occurred at the worst time of the year from the point of [view of] an invasion of Taiwan: it was the time when the monsoon was coming on and when the tides were at their highest, the seas were storming, and so forth. So that it was quite clear, from that viewpoint. But there were many other indications that that was not their intention. For one thing is that they never sent any aerial attacks against Taiwan. They did some buzzing around the offshore islands, but they never went near Taiwan. They did not want to bring the United States into it in any total way. So our problem was to maintain the morale of the excessively large numbers of Chinese forces on the offshore islands, because we'd been urging, ever since the 1955 crisis, for Chiang Kai-shek to withdraw the huge number of forces they kept there, because they were too exposed. They didn't. Nor did they after the 1958 crisis; he kept them there. They were hostages to fortune; and we were obligated, under the circumstances, to be involved. Now the degree to which we became involved, again I think showed up Dulles's genius. I think he handled that, as did Eisenhower - there was no basic disagreement - I think they handled it very well. What they did is, they had American support, escort support, for ships that were re-supplying the offshore islands. That would be Chinese nationalist ships. But our ships would never go within three miles of the offshore islands; otherwise we'd be involved in an invasion, so we stayed out, and it was up, therefore, to the Chinese nationalists to get supplies from there ashore, which they didn't do very successfully, and the supply situation was running down disastrous- so much so that it appeared at one time that they would have to capitulate, we thought. What we didn't know is that they maintained large stores of supplies in this maze of tunnels in the island of Quemoy; and they didn't tell us about how much they had, but learnt through CIA sources they had far more than they were letting us on that they had; because they were trying to draw us into the struggle, they were trying to make out they were about to lose all their forces and we had to be involved. So we had to fight that one. Now I don't think that our embassy in Taiwan was particularly helpful under those circumstances. And there, I took really a lead in policy-making at that particular point, because I found out that they had these forces, that Dulles had already gone up to New York to make his pitch for the neutralization of the offshore islands, through the French and the British ambassadors taking the initiative, and when I found this out I raced up to Robertson's office and told him about it. He got in touch with the Acting Secretary of State, Christian Herder. Christian Herder called a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and everybody in this office, and they sent me up to New York to bring this news to Dulles's attention and to argue that he should come back to Washington. And that worked out: he did come back to Washington, and we had a meeting at his house that night, and Audy Burke was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at that time... no, he wasn't chairman... I'm thinking he was...

INT: But you don't think... your view at the time, the prevailing view by the United States, was that the Chinese weren't likely to invade Taiwan, was it?

MG: That's right. We didn't think so, and nor did Dulles think so. But the problem was our rules of engagement: how far should our aircraft get involved, how far should our ships get involved? There were no ground forces involved. Now the problem here was this: that the batteries that were pounding on the offshore islands were on reverse slopes, and you couldn't get at them with naval gunfire. You could get at them with aerial dropping of the atomic bomb, which nobody seriously considered. But they did seriously consider napalm bombs, which might have eliminated them. But then that would have meant that we would have drawn the Chinese air force into this war, to the extent that they were not. The Chinese were exercising restraint. It was up to us to exercise commensurate restraint, so we did. Dulles was very wise, I think, in his handling of these overall strategic issues. And so we confined ourselves to defense of Taiwan through the involvement of our escort vessels, and that was about it. We did also supply the Chinese nationalist air force with side-winders, and the side-winders brought down half a dozen of the Chinese communist planes that were in that area - not the Taiwan area, but in the area of the offshore islands. It was not our planes, it was Chinese nationalist, but they were using our equipment, very successfully, and I think this is one of the reasons why the Chinese communists were persuaded that maybe calling a halt to this thing was the wisest thing.

INT: But another aspect of this crisis was that... I think a lot of European countries were rather concerned that Eisenhower's and Dulles's policy was too aggressive towards...

MG: Well, you see, they were thinking about the original Dulles and Eisenhower, when they were talking about massive retaliation and all these other idiotic slogans that the Republicans came in with in 1952; and in 1954 it was of course exemplified by what you've just mentioned: Dulles's refusal to shake the extended hand of (Clears throat) Zhou Enlai when they met in the Vienna talks. So... Dulles, overall, handled this crisis in a way that I don't think he would have back in 1952 or '54. The Europeans were still thinking of those events of the earlier times, of how Dulles appeared to them. And of course, they were also worried by the mood in our Congress, and we mustn't forget that we had gone through the McCarthy period and we'd gone through a lot of right-wing extremist views in our country at our time; it would so seem to them, and it took time for them to get to understand that there was a new kind of foreign policy direction in the United States as far as the Far East was concerned.

INT: Relations at that time, in 1958, between communist China and the United States must have been at a pretty low ebb (Overlap) as far as the...

MG: (Overlap) Well, they were non-existent. It was a frozen relationship, and it was to remain frozen until the Shanghai communiqué of 1972.

INT: Was there any thought at that time, even though relations were very poor, that there might be... that there ought to be some sort of (Overlap) rapprochement?

MG: (Overlap) Oh, yes, yes, there were. I must say, in all interviews like this, one tends to be very subjective. I'm talking about things as I saw them. Somebody else probably would discuss it in a somewhat different manner. But the way I saw them was... I was Consul General in Hong Kong in 1963. I had been a Japan language specialist really up to that time; and this was my first time that I was ever really involved in a setting where it was a China setting, where my staff were Chinese specialists. They were very good; we had one of the largest staff of foreign service officers in any post in the world there. So we were watching China very closely. And when you watch China, as I did from Hong Kong in 1961 to '63, I came to some very different conclusions than I had brought to Hong Kong. I came to realize that China was not this great 10-foot giant that we made it out to be. We realized that China was tottering on the very brink of economic ruin through the ridiculous Great Leap Forward program; that China did not have this kind of aggressive stance towards the rest of the world, except for encouraging communist forces in Southeast Asia, but otherwise it wasn't involved in a kind of a strike against other countries by the People's Liberation Army. So, when I was in Hong Kong, I came to that conclusion. The same conclusion I came to was Hong Kong itself: it had very viable relations with the mainland China; they had relations with regard to the sale of water to Hong Kong from China; they were dealing in trade and student exchanges and visas, immigration problems, all kinds of issues they were dealing [with] in a rational way. So the thought clearly came to my mind that why shouldn't we be entering into a more civil discourse with China, why should we be flaring against each other? Why shouldn't we let Americans visit China, why keep Americans out of China? Why don't we contaminate the Chinese with our freedom as much as they were contaminating other places with their communism? Now this was the argument. But we were imposing restrictions: everybody's passport stamped, no visits to China and to other places. And this was wrong. So, policies that I came up with at that time were received extremely well by people like Roger Hillsman, who was the Assistant Secretary of East Asia; Governor Harriman, who was to occupy more important positions in the State Department; as well as with people in the Senate, like Mike Mansfield and Fullbright and others, Church, who visited Hong Kong. And so I began to find that there was a lot of responsiveness to this whole idea of "Why don't we get rid of these ridiculous foreign assets control regulations?" where, for example, you were not allowed to buy any objects in mainland China, on any market in the world. And here we were building, with Texas money, a new hotel called the Hilton Hotel in Hong Kong, on whose walls there were lots of artifacts that came from mainland China. That was against our law. This was aAmerican company; I had to call up Texas and tell them they had to take down all the hangings on their walls, which they did, to comply with American law. And incidentally, they couldn't sell them anywhere, because that was also illegal, so (Laughs) they were left hold the bag, you might say. These were all the absurdities in our policies. So I was called by Kennedy - actually by Hillsman, but Hillsman with Kennedy's support - to take a long hard look at our China policy; and I did that in 1963, and we made a number of changes to the policy. The first one was in our own bureau. We didn't have any division that was dealing with mainland communist affairs - and I'm not talking just about China, I'm also talking about North Korea, North Vietnam and Mongolia. And so we set up a new division that was properly staffed with specialists, and (Clears throat) we began to try to advertise and get support for these changes in policy. We didn't get very far. When we talked abo