Response to June 29 Reuters article about Su Beng

Ralph Jennings' article about Su Beng came out the day before I was to leave Taiwan to relocate in New York City. I have finally composed my response, which I've sent off to some major newspapers, and I offer it here in its complete unedited form:


While Mr. Jennings’ June 29, 2007, article, “Taiwan ex-communist on long march for independence,” succeeds in juxtaposing Su Beng’s involvement and eventual disillusionment with the Chinese communists, it also creates the false impression that Su Beng became a member of the Chinese Communist Party under the direct tutelage of Mao Zedong.

Being labeled a communist is certainly nothing new to Su Beng and it’s a label loaded with complexity. During his years of study at Waseda University, Su Beng became a Marxist devotee and he fully embraced Marx’s communist ideology. But to imply that Su Beng went to China to be trained by Mao to become a (Chinese) communist is deeply misleading.

When Su Beng left for China in 1942, he was already a “believer” of communism- of the purely Marxist variety. To him communist China was a utopian society that offered him the opportunity to be a part of the Chinese Communists’ resistance of Japanese imperialism. At that time he couldn’t even speak Mandarin, so it’s doubtful that he set out specifically to participate in the Chinese revolution. His motivation was to oppose Japan’s rising aggression.

To say that “Su Beng trained assiduously under Chairman Mao Zedong” is tantamount to stating that Su Beng was personally trained and shaped by Mao Zedong to follow the Chinese revolution. This a bit of a stretch; the reality of the situation is not so stark. The Chinese Communists faithfully used Mao’s teachings to indoctrinate all those within their reach; there was no choice in this matter and Su Beng was no exception.

Mr. Jennings’ description of Su as “disillusioned with his former party” brands Su Beng as a member of the Chinese Communist party. If Mr. Jennings had delved deeper or simply asked Su Beng about his relationship with the Chinese Communists; his article would not be leading the reader into such false assumptions.

In my discussions with Su Beng, he has talked about how the indoctrination of Maoism led to his disillusionment with the Chinese Communist party; Chinese communism bore no resemblance to Marx’s theory of communism. It was then that he vowed never to join the Chinese Communist Party. He has also talked of how the Chinese Communists kept a watchful eye on him and excluded him from party member meetings.

Mr. Jennings continues to describe Su Beng’s ongoing fight for Taiwan’s independence, but neglects to mention Su’s greatest legacy, which is authoring the mammoth “Taiwan’s 400 Years of History”- a veritable encyclopedia of Taiwan’s history, that has influenced generations of Taiwanese by awakening an awareness of their past and a sense of Taiwanese identity.

Two final points of clarification required. First, the charge of 50 days in jail now facing Su Beng, is for failing to stop a protest after being given 3 warnings. On April 27, 2005, Su Beng and his motorcade assembled outside of a jail to protest the immediate arrest of the taxi driver who- just the day before (April 26 2007)- had driven Su Beng during a high speed chase of Lien Chan’s (then chairman of the Kuomintang party) car en route to the Taiwan Taoyuan airport. On that day, mass protests erupted in the Taiwan Taoyuan airport in response to the visits of Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) officials with the People’s Republic of China officials.

Secondly, when Su Beng stowed away in a banana boat to Japan in 1952, he was immediately arrested for illegal entry and charged with four months in detention, despite his request for political asylum. It is an oversimplification to state that Su Beng “persuaded authorities to let him live in exile.” In a strange twist of fate, the banana exporting company reported Su Beng missing to the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan, who in turn contacted Japanese authorities for their cooperation in arresting Su. Since Su was wanted for plotting to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek, this notification actually proved that Su Beng was in need of political asylum, and so he was released and allowed to live in Japan in exile.

Furthermore it is Mr. Jennings' opinion that the authorities wouldn’t let a 90-year-old man serve time in jail. When he asked me what I thought about the matter I said that I believed that Su Beng probably wouldn’t have to serve time since he has not yet served any time for previous arrest warrants. Su Beng has not been officially pardoned, but before President Chen Shui-bian’s inauguration in 2000, he honored Su Beng for his contributions to Taiwan.

Mr. Jennings has used broad statements that are open to wide interpretation to simply grab the reader’s attention without considering the damage done by putting such falsehoods on out record. There is still much more to set straight about the life of Su Beng- revolutionary, historian, educator and idealist.

Felicia Lin
Su Beng’s biographer