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06/01/2020 No. 156
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Books & Writings
The Gold Story - 1949
By Sing-yung Wu Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
September 1, 2014

Author Sing-yung Wu (Wu Xingyong) obtained a Ph.D. in Experimental Pathology at the University of Washington, Seattle, (in 1969) and a medical doctor degree at Johns Hopkins University (in 1972). He is now Professor in Residence, Radiological Sciences, School of Medicine, at the University of California, Irvine. However, he has a strong interest in modern Chinese history. This is his third book tracing the facts of gold shipped from the Shanghai National Vault to Taiwan in 1949 during the Chinese Civil War.


This book attempts to decode some of the enigmas of how the Shanghai gold was shipped to Taiwan during the Civil War. The book also explores the Mingguo Ren (民国人, defined as people in the Republic era from 1911-49) during that gold-shipping era. It reflects those turbulent times and provides testimony to modern Chinese history with the help of many valuable historical original documents in the author’s possession.


The author lived through this era of great change and was able to speak frankly about past events. His father Sung-ching Wu (Wu, Samuel Songqing, Wu Songqing吳嵩慶) was the Military Finance Chief for the Republic of China (ROC) leader Chiang Kai-shek during the Chinese Civil War and left a collection of diaries which span more than forty years. General Wu candidly wrote his daily experiences with no intention of boasting or defending himself, except to have a peace of mind as a Mingguo Ren. In his will at the age of 89, he did not write a word about his diaries. It was the author who was curious and dug into the private matters in these diaries. But a Mingguo Ren should have no problem being open and candid by sharing the facts.


As the Military Finance Chief of the Nationalist Government during the Civil War period, when the lion’s share of the state budget was for military expenditure, General Wu was led into the gold-shipping incident and was ordered not to disclose anything as long as he lived. For him, it was simply accepting an order to fulfill his military duty. In 1991, General Wu returned to the mainland to revisit his hometown Zhenhai (鎮海) for the first time at the age of 90. He passed away quietly without illness on the very day of his return to Taiwan. By 1996, five years after his death, from the diaries he left behind, the author got to know the lifetime secrets of his father, which were not known to the outsiders. During the Civil War, his father was in charge of nearly one million shi liangs (one shi liang = 31.2589942 gram = 1.005 troy ounces, or ozt) of gold and many tens of millions of Ying Yuans (silver dollars) in secret military expenditure. The author, who lives overseas, has spent his spare time during more than ten years to explore the historical facts about how millions of troy ounces of gold were shipped to Taiwan before and after 1949.  From a survivor of the Civil War to today's physician who lives in a distant overseas land, the author has written about this past gold event with a sense of gratitude in his heart. Until 2008, many reasonable estimates made previously could be verified, thanks to the good fortune of having the newly declassified original files provided by the Taipei Academia Historica and of having the Chiang Kai-shek diary during the Civil War period made available for public viewing by Stanford University. As a result, the book Huang Jin Mi Dang (The Secret Archives on Gold Transfer) (《黄金秘档 - 一九四九大陸黄金运台始末》), printed in simplified Chinese characters was published in 2009 in Nanjing, the former capital of the Nationalist Government. This book has attracted many readers. Over the past four years, the author gathered some new historical data and he believes that these data could give the readers a more complete grand finale of the “Gold story”. As an amateur historian, the author pursued historical facts and did not care about praise or criticism. He intended to arouse professional historians to come forward and systematically track this history. He wants this far-reaching event to be exposed to the world without any cover-ups or twists of historical facts.


From 2009 onwards, the author earnestly searched for the retrospective facts and discovered that the gold delivered to Taiwan was mainly from the United States. Within two months of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the US House and Senate passed a loan of US$500 million to China. Over a year later, Chiang Kai-shek’s wife Madame Soong Mei-ling visited Washington. She met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the White House and they made the final decision of buying 6.28 million ozt of gold with 220 million US dollars (US$35 a troy ounce) and shipped it to China to stabilize the Fabi (法幣the first currency issued by the Nationalist Government). This action was a milestone in the rapprochement of China and the US to fight against the common Axis enemy.  Despite the fact that later some corrupt officials on both sides of the Pacific Ocean took away some of the gold for themselves and the bureaucrats in the US Treasury Department caused repeated delays, the gold was a symbol of the American people’s sincere friendship towards the Chinese people. Until 1946, there were still more than six million troy ounces of gold being shipped to the Chinese people. Two years later, at the peak of the Civil War, there was still 2.3 million troy ounces of gold remaining in the Nationalist Treasury. Coupled with the more than one million shi liangs of gold obtained after issuing the Jinyuanquan (金元券 currency issued by the Nationalist Government) in August 1948 and the gold originally deposited in the National Treasury of the Central Bank, there were altogether more than four million shi liangs shipped to Taiwan and Xiamen before the takeover of Shanghai (May, 1949) by the Chinese Communists. However, a quarter of it was used for military and administrative spending in the mainland in the latter part of 1949. Two-thirds of the amount (three million shi liangs) kept in Taiwan was designated and used for military expenditures. The remaining one million shi liangs were used as New Taiwan Currency gold reserves which still are kept in the Taipei National Vault.


By 2013, the author sorted out another secret which was deeply hidden in his father’s heart as well as an utmost regret of his lifetime. This unspeakable secret during his lifetime was his apology to a dear female friend of the past, and the utmost regret was related to another close friend; what his friend had done led to his determination of living a life “of the poor”. In 1962, he even changed the registration of a residential house originally purchased as a private home in Taipei, which was later worth about 3.3 million US dollars, into a public property. As a result, in his old age, he “had sleepless nights due to deep apprehension about how to support his future life!” This was the life of a Mingguo elder in his late years, who was in charge of the gold and silver of the huge military expenditure at the crucial moment of the Civil War. As his son, the author without his father’s permission exposed the two secrets and the utmost regret his father silently brought with him into the military cemetery of the Wuzhi Mountain (五指山) in Taipei. This book also included the stories of many Mingguo era men who lived during those periods and events that took place amid the crazy chaos. Some of them eventually left their homes and country to stay in the United States. Coupled with the gold story, the saga of these men also reflects that era. The author believes that readers will be interested in this book.


Millions of ounces of gold were shipped to Taiwan. They played a role in boosting the morale of the people, both civilian and military, during the Nationalist Government’s stormy periods so that Taiwan could survive independently of the communist dictatorship. But what role will Taiwan play in Chinese history? It is worth pondering. And this was the very reason for the author to write this book. Dr. Wu believes that Taiwan played an important role in China’s future, reflecting the goodwill of the American people’s loan of the gold, as well as establishing a government of the people, by the people, and for the people by adhering to democratic values and inheriting the traditional Chinese culture.

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