National Geographic : 1969 Jan
National Geographic, January 1969 photograph 13,113-foot Mount Morrison Yu Shan in Chinese-highest mountain in Taiwan. But snows, landslides, and clouds had frustrated every attempt to view it from the land. "How about from the air?" suggested a Chinese Air Force friend. "You can photo graph a flyby past Yu Shan." "Wonderful. What kind of planes?" "F-104's-Lockheed Starfighters. You'll fly in a trainer-just like the fighters, but with two cockpits. Fine aircraft. Supersonic." With less enthusiasm I strapped myself into a parachute and was instructed how to eject from the stub-winged silver plane. "Just routine," the pilot, Lt. Col. Joseph Chen, assured me. "Our squadron won Lock heed's award for safety." My qualms were replaced by exhilaration when the trainer joined the other Starfighters on the runway and we rocketed up to 14,000 feet. I felt the surge of acceleration when Joseph ignited the afterburners and the Star fighter leaped through the sound barrier. His voice crackled over the intercom: "Keep talking, Frank. I want to know that you're all right, that you haven't blacked out." Smoothly, Joseph rolled his jet until we were flying upside-down. The vast panorama of Taiwan unfurled like a Chinese scroll paint ing. My eyes swept from the wind-tossed gray of Formosa Strait across the rice-green plains and factory-studded cities to the snowy peaks thrusting through a flat sea of clouds. Upright again, I saw the other Starfighters flash past the crystal-white crag of Yu Shan, flying so precisely they seemed almost lashed together (preceding pages). Back on the ground, I complimented the pilots on their skill. "We fly every day," Joseph said. "We never forget we're only 8 minutes from Communist China. We never know when we'll be needed." Madame Chiang Serves Tea Perhaps nowhere is news of Asia watched more closely than on Taiwan. Headlines ban ner the war in Viet Nam and North Korea's growing belligerence; guerrilla raids in Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand; riots in Hong Kong; purges in Communist China. With each new upheaval editorials hint that the time is near for Nationalist China's return to the mainland. In a rare audience, Chiang Kai-shek summed up Nationalist China's viewpoint: "As long as the Communists occupy the mainland, there will be no end to the disturb ances in Southeast Asia. The Republic of China here on Taiwan must return to the mainland to clear up the mess." The President and Madame Chiang Kai shek (page 12) had received us in their Grass Mountain home on the outskirts of Taipei. Carpets the color of rubies accented an array of Ming dynasty oxblood porcelain. Roses glowed in the light of a fire, and Madame Chiang's own paintings graced the walls. Despite its large size, the reception room radiated warmth and friendliness. Tea was served with sandwiches, cake, and dumplings. In the cultured English that re flects her Wellesley College background, Mad ame Chiang discussed Chinese painting with Helen; the President, speaking through an in terpreter, asked me about our tour of Taiwan. Progress a Weapon in Quiet War So relaxed was the atmosphere that more than an hour passed before we realized it. President and Madame Chiang Kai-shek rose to bid us goodbye, and at the door I looked back. The President was standing with hands on hips and an alert twinkle in his eyes. For all his 81 years he was still lean and straight, but I wondered how-or if-his lifelong dream of a united China would be realized. Not even the most optimistic Nationalist Chinese believe that this goal can ever be achieved by military action alone. They point to the government's "70 percent political-30 percent military policy." "First we must make Taiwan an example for all Asia of progress through free enter prise," a friend in Taipei told us. "We must capitalize on the broken promises of the Com munists. Our intelligence reports indicate that many people on the mainland are already dis illusioned. We must encourage revolt. When it comes, we will be ready." And so the quiet war goes on, amid the rumble of factories on Taiwan and the roar of rockets from the mainland. THE END Wading yet another step, swooping down yet another time, a rice planter performs an age-old ballet as she spaces the seedlings to assure maximum yield. In this flooded paddy the only sounds are the ripple of water and the squish of mud, striking contrast to the roaring industrial plants of Taiwan's cities. AGFACHROME BYHELEN ANDFRANK SCHREIDER © N.G.S.