Long Live The Emperor

This TV series (made in China) features Ming Dynasty’s founding emperor Zhu Yuan Zhang 朱元璋 as a no-nonsense ruler who rooted out corruption to a tee. But as with all MIC productions in recent years, this one had to be “educational” and “politically correct”. What better way than to portray a corruption-fighting Chinese emperor lifting the country from the gutter created by the Yuan Dynasty? Do watch it. It’s really quite entertaining.

Apparently, Justice Bao was not impactful enough. Why Zhu Yuan Zhang? Well, the real Zhu Yuan Zhang is known to be a control freak who employed draconian measures to force migration to depopulated regions. He also ruthlessly rooted out corruption and disloyalty, ordering massacres of communities that refused to submit.

Paranoid about uprisings and power struggles, Zhu created China’s first secret police, the 锦衣卫 to spy on his subjects. Suspects were treated mercilessly. Over 1,000 offences were punishable by death. Zhu also confiscated land and redistributed it to the peasants. China then was a strictly regimented and self-sufficient society with its doors closed to all barbarians at its borders. Trade was discouraged, merchants and traders were despised while farmers were supported with massive agricultural projects. The audience is persuaded to accept Zhu Yuan Zhang’s way as the best way to cure the country of its ills.

I didn’t watch the entire series, but they probably didn’t mention that Zhu also promoted Islam (China had more Muslims during the Ming Dynasty than any other dynasty) and he had 30,000 people executed because one man plotted against him. He also wanted all his consorts to be buried alive with him when he died. Emperors will be emperors. May China never suffer from imperial rule again.

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My Philosophy

When I was growing up, Christianity was an “atas” religion adopted by the well-educated. My perception of Buddhism was that it is enshrouded in rituals and mysticism. Influenced by an evangelical primary school teacher, we sang Christian songs in class and even paid frequent visits to our teacher’s church. That teacher would have been censured today, but Christianity remain an “atas” religion in the minds of many Singaporeans out there. Just look at our mega churches. Being a kampung boy by nature, such things didn’t appeal to me.

For most of my teens and early adulthood, I’ve been a freethinker and as a young adult, I was no different from most ambitious yuppies desperately seeking 5Cs until an emotional setback made me realise that I might not have had the best game plan for happiness after all. Our country is obsessed with “security”, so much so that our reserves, whether in our personal capacity or at a national level, is never enough.

I began travelling adventurously at the age of 29. I went to poorer countries and got a feel of life at street level. While it did make me feel fortunate to be in Singapore, there was an even more important lesson that I took away. People who have less than we have can be happier than we are. People who are quick to give and share are a lot more pleasant than people who need to be drowning in excesses before they give something away. A visit to Borobudur and new, deeper understanding of Buddhist concepts in a graphic and dramatic setting introduced a new philosophy to a mind that was still shallow with materialism.

Phra Goh’s philosophy is the one I subscribe to. You don’t need to keep going to temples to tham boon (make merit). Buddhism can be practised anywhere. I stay positive but I identify bullshit (especially those coming from politicians). I try to do good and forgive but I recognise evil and won’t hesitate to call it out. I try to be compassionate in that I don’t bay for blood when someone has made a mistake. 得饶人处且饶人。Suffering arises from greed and grasping. Compared to the vast majority of Singaporeans, I’m easily contented. I want less and I let things go. Whenever appropriate, I unleash my sense of humour.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

The Late Ni Kuang On Science Fiction

Ni Kuang (1935-2022) made a lot of predictions in his science fiction novels. His style might have been rather lowbrow and some critics have pointed out many flaws, but so accurate were some of his predictions that some of his fans suggest that he might have had some communication with aliens.

On politics Ni Kuang was spot on when he said that it’s meaningless to talk about destroying “one country two systems”. There was never really any two systems. It was a scam from the very start. He predicted that there would be no hope for Hong Kong.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

Qinghai Love Story

Ying and Yong’er were both students from a university in the South. They signed up for a research project as environmental protection volunteers and travelled to the harsh, remote and beautiful Hoh Xil Lake region (Qinghai Province) together.


Ying was assigned to the relatively less remote Tibetan Antelope Observation Station at Budong Spring, Yonger, however, was assigned to the more remote and harsher Tuotuo River Observation Station. Beyond the towering snow-capped mountains in the north is the vast Gobi Desert. The Hoh Xil under the snow-capped mountains is known as the “forbidden zone” due to the extreme altitude, the cold and the lack of oxygen.


At Tuotuo River Observation Station, all Yonger had was a clean and tidy tent. There was nothing in it except a bed. For a southerner like Yonger, the crushing cold was unimaginable. At times, he had to collect data at minus 40 degrees C. However, every time Yong’er went to Ying’s place to submit reports, he only told Ying about his interesting encounters in Hoh Xil. He did not breath a single word about his suffering.

Actually, Ying had already learned from other companions how difficult the conditions at Tuotuo River Observatory were. Constantly at risk of hypothermia, Yonger pretended that everything was all right, for fear that Ying might lose sleep over it. She too pretended not to know and counted the days to the end of the project, but worry bit her constantly. She waited anxiously for the last batch of data from Tuotuo River. Once Yonger had submitted that, they could both go back to their warm and cozy beds in the south.

One day, Budong Spring was visited by the leader of the expedition. She thought the project was ending early, but he came from Tuotuo River and brought along Yonger’s personal effects to be returned to his family. Ying was stunned. Yonger had died at Hoh Xil. Ying was devastated and lived in misery ever since.

After hearing to the poignant story of Ying and Yong’er, Xinjiang songwriter Dao Lang was deeply moved. He wrote a song specially dedicated the two of them. This song is 西海情歌 (Love Song of the West Sea). 西海 is the old name for Qinghai Lake.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

Musical Maverick, Dao Lang

Actually, I agree with Na Ying and Wang Feng’s assessment and Dao Lang’s waning popularity is not so much due to him deliberately keeping a low profile but rather the initial buzz that greeted his unique style is long gone. In the long run, the capricious spenders in the Chinese market will grow tired of him and his only fans would be the working class people who buy pirated copies. If a studio were to invest in producing Dao Lang’s music from then until today, they are almost certain to lose money. In that sense, I don’t completely agree with the video below.

However, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that Dao Lang is no good. I’m just talking about the commercial value of his music and his potential as an idol in China. While he definitely earn a comfortable living as a songwriter, there is a ceiling to his commercial value because unless he undergoes a total image makeover (which he is obviously unwilling to undergo) he simply doesn’t have the “sophistication” to sell cars and luxury apartments. People don’t pay a lot to listen to music these days. What’s more, concert tickets would probably cost many of Dao Lang’s fans a week’s salary. Singers often have to resort to being brand ambassadors to get rich. Dao Lang simply doesn’t have the star factor to rake in unlimited advertising returns.

Below is one Dao Lang Song that I like.

Dao Lang in Hong Kong with Cantopop king, Alan Tam, about 20 years ago.

Finally, Alan Tam manages 披著羊皮的狼 professionally and with superior technique. Note the difference and why some people think that Dao Lang can’t sing.

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I Like This Kyrgyz Song

Автор слов: Чынгыз Алиев Аранжировка: Teddme Ырдын созу: Байкалбастан, байланыпмын Айланыпмыпмын сага кайра Жакындасан, айла таппай Жашынамын, жаным кайда Бридж: Ар бир куну мен Кагаз бетине, соз ордуна мен Кармап калемим Арзуу сезимим арнап келемин Сага гана, сага гана

Word author: Chingiz Aliyev
Arrangement: Teddme


Unnoticed, tied, I'm around, I'm close to you again, I'm hiding, where is my soul Bridge: Every day I'm on paper, instead of words, I'm holding my pen

Припев: Аруу аруужан жалжалым менин Жалтанып жалындуу карегинден Эй-эй-эй, деги-деги, эй-эй-эй Тандасы атын тамгалап кайталап Жандасам тилим кайдан шай табат Эй-эй-эй, деги-деги, эй-эй-эй Продюсер и автор идеи: Тагай Тазабеков Режиссер и автор идеи: Назгуль Бербаева Оператор: Чынгыз Сулумбеков Видеомонтаж: Азамат Кадыров Администратор: Жамиля Таалайбек кызы Стилист: Чынара Султаналиева Make up and hair: Салон красоты «Звезда» Менеджер: Сабина Сабирова


My beautiful sister-in-law
Glancing fiery pupils
Hey-hey-hey, hey, hey, hey
Repeat the selection of the name
Where is my tongue when I live?
Hey-hey-hey, hey, hey, hey

Producer and author of the idea: Tagai Tazabekov
Director and author of the idea: Nazgul Berbaeva
Cameraman: Chyngyz Sulumbekov
Video editing: Azamat Kadyrov
Administrator: Jamilya Taalaibek kyzy
Stylist: Chinara Sultanalieva
Make up and hair: Beauty salon "Zvezda"
Manager: Sabina Sabirova

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

Popular Songs In Krygyzstan

The MV below features a song with a very catchy tune. It’s my favourite Kyrgyz song. It’s sung in Kyrgyz but written in Russian letters. I can pronounce some of the words using my knowledge in Russian alphabets but I don’t know the meaning. Google translates it as a patriotic song. Interesting.

In Kyrgyz:

Тарыхы бар нечен,
Ынтымагы дайым бекем.
Ала-Тоо – бешигим,
Башым ийип, таазим этем.
Керемет аймагы,
Желбиреп турсун байрагы.
Булагың таш жарып,
Булбулдай сайрагын.


Кыргызстаным, Кыргызстаным!
Билем мен, бир өзүңдө ырыс-бакыт,
Өзүңсүз атпайт таңым.
Кыргызстаным, Кыргызстаным!
Керекпи? Бир өзүңө арнайм жаным,
Аябай тамчы каным!

Мекеним, медерим,
Ыйыксың, аны сеземин.
Түбөлүк сактайбыз,
Түшүрбөй бийик желегиң.
Баарыбыз бул тапта,
Баркыңды сезбей турсак да.
Кемитпей беребиз,
Келечек урпакка.


Менин алтын уям,
Бакытымдай туям.
Уча бер оболоп,
Бардыгы оңолот!

Google translation:

How long has history,
The unity is always strong.
Ala-Too is my cradle,
I bow my head and bow.
Wonderful area,
Let the flag fly.
Your spring is cracked,
Sing like a nightingale.


My Kyrgyzstan, my Kyrgyzstan!
I know, happiness in you,
Morning without you.
My Kyrgyzstan, my Kyrgyzstan!
Is it necessary? I dedicate to you my soul,
A drop of my blood!

My homeland, my mother,
You are holy, I feel it.
We will keep forever,
Do not lower your flag.
We are all in this moment,
Even if we don't feel valued.
We will not reduce,
For future generations.


My golden nest,
I feel happy.
Keep flying,
Everything will be better!

In Russian:

Существует история страданий,
 Всегда сильная солидарность.
 Ала-Тоо, сена –
 Я клянусь, опустив голову.
 Территория чуда,
 Даже флаг был поднят.
 Вырезать каменный фонтан,
 Феминистская соловьи.

никогда не изменится:

 Кыргызстан, Киргизия!
 Я знаю, что я делаю, счастье, счастье твое,
 Хорошо стрелять себе.
 Кыргызстан, Киргизия!
 Должна ли она? Возьмите себе душу,
 Капля крови!

 Моя страна, успокоение,
 Я чувствую его.
 Сохраняя навсегда,
 Флаг и постоянно высокий.
 Во всем этом,
 Хотя мы считаем достойными.
 Хотите дать,

 никогда не изменится:

 Мои родственники,
 HAPPY чувство.
 Мухи, летать
 Всего улучшится!

Google translation:

There is a history of suffering
 Always strong solidarity.
 Ala-Too, hay -
 I swear with my head down.
 Territory of wonder
 Even the flag was raised.
 Carve stone fountain,
 Feminist Nightingale.

will never change:

 Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan!
 I know what I'm doing, happiness, happiness is yours,
 It's good to shoot yourself.
 Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan!
 Should she? Take your soul
 A drop of blood!

 My country, peace
 I feel it.
 Keeping forever
 Flag and constantly high.
 In all this
 Although we consider worthy.
 Do you want to give

 will never change:

 My relatives,
 happy feeling.
 Flies, fly
 Everything will get better!

Regardless of a country’s GDP or it’s traditions, the pop songs sound similar. Also K-Pop – Kyrgyz pop.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

The Uncomfortable Truth

Why is it that some seemingly nice and charming women remain unattached? They all say that they are not too particular about looks and wealth. Are they being honest?

We live in a politically correct world. This is especially so for folks who have a social media presence. Nowadays, even a harmless comment on another race can attract a tsunami of accusations. When it comes to one’s criteria for choose a mate, it’s often not easy to be honest – especially when you are highly eligible.

Are women who say they don’t mind men who not good looking, don’t earn a lot of money etc telling the truth? In this video Xiaomin, tears off the masks of these politically correct leftover women and, revealing the uncomfortable truth of highly eligible women who are somehow unable to find a mate.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

Emperors Once More by Duncan Jepson

This is a thriller set in modern day Hong Kong. The police force in Hong Kong now comprises both local officers and those from the mainland. Senior Inspector Alex Soong is an outstanding police officer from Shandong Province posted to Hong Kong SAR. Though his Cantonese is halting, he managed to perform very well in the HK police force.

Emperors Once More

Then, a series of seemingly unlinked yet somewhat related murders and assassinations hit the former colony. The killings are gruesome and the clues point to the Boxer Rebellion. In consultation with the young beautiful historian, Professor Yi, Alex follows the trail of the “make China great again” zealots to uncover a plot to recruit him into the movement and assassinate the pro-West Chinese Minister of Finance.

Emperors Once More

While the book is quite an engaging read, I find the obligatory surprise ending rather unconvincing. How do good guys suddenly turn bad? How do good cops suddenly turn crooked? Why do family men abandon their loved ones to become martyrs? There has to be a plausible explanation or at least there ought to be some misleading hint deliberately planted to mislead the reader in the beginning, only to point in the opposite direction when the truth is revealed. This is the ingenuity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories which few can match.

Like many readers, I’m fond of ironies. Though I think that the author did not develop the afflicted characters adequately, the biggest irony in this book, published in 2017, is that most fertile breeding ground for imperial cults may not be authoritarian societies but relatively free and even democratic ones.

While the author’s prediction of a revival of xenophobic, anti-West imperialism is “on the button”, his irony of it hatching in HK instead of the mainland is way off the mark.

Dewdrop Books – Fiction and non-fiction with a focus on the colourful and exotic Asian realm. Check out our titles.

Jin Yong On Taiwan 1973

Hailed as the most popular writer of Chinese swordfighting novels, he was born in Zhejiang Province in 1924. Those of us who grew up watching Chinese swordfighting dramas would not find Jin Yong (Louis Cha) unfamiliar. He was the author of many wuxia novels like 書劍恩仇錄, 射鵰英雄傳, 神鵰俠侶, 倚天屠龍記, 天龍八部, 笑傲江湖, 鹿鼎記 which were serialised in a HK-based newspaper run by Mr Cha himself – Ming Pao. You can read more about his life and works here.

Jin Yong's Works

Those who only read his novels may not realise that Jin Yong was also a socio-political commentator. The book above (which I borrowed from the library) is a collection of his many essays and socio-political articles. Those who are only familiar with his pulp fiction will surprised by Jin Yong’s depth and breath of knowledge in history and politics, both Asian and Western.

I find his report on his 10-day visit to Taiwan (his first visit in 1973) most interesting. It was his first visit to the “renegade province”, having avoided Taiwan as prior to his founding of Ming Pao in 1959, he was pro-China. Unlike most of us, Jin Yong was a VIP in Taiwan and he had the opportunity to meet up and chat with folks at the helm including Taiwan’s president Chiang Ching Kuo. Even though his visit only lasted 10 days, he met up with all the “key personnel” and was therefore able to make such a detailed analysis. The English summary (and my remarks) are as follows.

jin yong

At that time, mainland China offered to hold peace talks with Taiwanese leaders. The offer was flatly rejected by the latter. The reason given was that agreeing to peace talks would be tantamount to surrender and they believed they had every right to make that call because it’s not that the KMT had never tried to work together with the CCP. They revealed that even as they were calling for peace talks in public, they were carrying out subversive activities in secrecy. KMT leaders could boast that nobody in the world understood the CCP better than they did. Of course, it would benefit the PRC most if Taiwan surrendered without a fight. They did not rule out the possibility of holding peace talks with the PRC in future, but the prerequisite was that PRC’s political system had to be very different from what it was then. Nevertheless, there were some who were keen on these talks. They might not have the interests of Taiwan at heart as we shall see in a moment.

In 1971, the PRC was recognised as a member of the United Nations. At the same time, the Republic of China (founded in 1911, joined UN in 1945) was ousted. Taiwan became isolated. When Jin Yong asked the leaders what they could do, they replied that they could only try their best to build a stronger relationship with the US through informal channels. In spite of Taiwan’s loss of UN membership, Canada sold nuclear reactors to Taiwan and trade between Taiwan and Canada doubled in volume even though they had no diplomatic ties with Canada.

When Japan formally established diplomatic ties with the PRC, Chiang Ching Kuo predicted that the Japanese would be disappointed. Japan’s special envoy to Taiwan privately admitted that dealings with the PRC were indeed problematic.

Why did Taiwan not declare independence earlier? The leaders gave three main reasons.

  1. They did not want to disappoint their supporters on the mainland. By declaring independence, they would be abandoning those supporters.
  2. Most countries would not be inclined to recognise Taiwan as an independent country. It would have made little difference on the diplomatic front.
  3. Taiwan would run the risk of being invaded by the PRC.

By then, Taiwanese leaders had acknowledged the impossibility of recovering territories on the mainland. KMT leaders were still hopeful that the regime or political ideology on the mainland would evolve and become more democratic. KMT leaders acknowledged that they had made many mistakes governing the Republic of China. They would learn from these mistakes and if the CCP made even bigger mistakes in future, mainlanders might prefer a government like Taiwan’s. While it was pointless to talk about the KMT making a comeback on the mainland, Taiwanese leaders were only aiming to safeguard the Taiwanese way of life which differed greatly from that of the mainland.

Taiwan’s leaders told Jin Yong that they were confident that the PRC would not invade them soon after they have been taught a lesson in 1958 when many PRC fighter jets were lost in Taiwanese airspace thanks to Taiwan’s air defence missiles. As military technology advanced in Taiwan, the threat of invasion was greatly diminished. Interestingly, Jin Yong found that the Taiwanese believed that the PRC would never use nuclear weapons against them. Likewise, the Taiwanese had no plans to make nuclear weapons but they did harness nuclear energy to power their industries.


Taiwanese leaders declared that democracy was their ultimate goal. How far were they from that goal? Jin Yong highlighted a technical issue with the leader of Taiwan being called “president” because he has not been chosen by the rest of China. Jin Yong felt that he ought to be called “KMT chairman” instead.

Another issue was the lack of freedom of the press. No newspaper in Taiwan would get away with criticising the Chiang family. However, even though journalism was still pretty much shackled in Taiwan compared to the US, UK and HK, Taiwanese people already had easy access to world news. Only local news concerning high level officials and communist propaganda were censored.

The independence of the judiciary in Taiwan at that time was also wanting. Besides that, there were overseas travel restrictions, prohibition of protests, demonstrations and the unlimited powers of the police to search, arrest and detain. Basic human rights issues were played out on a daily basis.

The Taiwanese leaders had two trump cards over the CCP. One was the popular support which most mainlanders did not give the CCP. The other was the Taiwanese economy. The communist ideology of putting the strength of the country before the welfare of the people was not popular. Citizens on both sides wanted a higher standard of living.

However, for thousands of years, Chinese people had tolerated oppressive treatment from the ruling class. While those who had a taste of freedom overseas probably wouldn’t want to go back, Jin Yong noted that some Western scholars believed that submitting to dictatorship and authoritarian rule had already been deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. He considered this as an insult to the Chinese people, making them look pathetically subservient. If Jin Yong’s were still around today, he might be surprised to see the ideological slavery that is evident on 抖音. Perhaps as a man of letters, Jin Yong could not accurately grasp the mindset of the average peasant.

To win the hearts from the CCP, greater democracy and freedom than the PRC were not enough. They must measure up to the West. One Taiwanese leader told Jin Yong that many of the restrictions faced by Taiwanese people in the beginning could be relaxed without compromising “national” security. Jin Yong quipped that a reasonable clean environment would be far more conducive for good health and building resistance than a thoroughly disinfected one.

Jin Yong observed that Taiwan had made progress. Government critics had successfully appealed against persecution. Apart from criminals and tax evaders, no free country should prevent its citizens from travelling abroad. Taiwan was still not a democracy in the 1970s, but Jin Yong observed that it had taken a number of steps in that direction.

The Taiwan that Jin Yong saw had been focusing on its economy. They began by shipping fruits like mangoes and pineapples to Japan. From the 1970s, they ventured into manufacturing, gradually moving from labour intensive to capital intensive industries. Only then could they increase workers’ wages. And they were doing well against all odds. Even the US did not expect Taiwan to survive.

When Jin Yong visited, he noticed that the average Taiwanese family could afford a TV set and a motorbike. Most houses had very simple furnishings. Jin Yong attributed the fall of the KMT on the mainland to its failure to manage the economy. Inflation had spiraled out of control. In Taiwan, they had their own currency which was very stable and inflation was well under control. They had learned from their mistakes. In terms of the ease of doing business, Jin Yong felt that Taiwan was still way behind HK. Inequality was also a problem. The leaders recognised ensuring equality would involve too much micromanagement. The most practical means to tackle the issue was to ensure equal opportunity for every citizen.

Land reforms in Taiwan

In collaboration with the US government, the Taiwanese government launched revolutionary land reforms in Taiwan starting as early as the 1950s. Some of the features of this exercise were:

  1. Imposing limits on rental income, capped at 37.5% of yields.
  2. Government taking over privately owned land by issuing bonds to landowners
  3. Selling land acquired from landlords to farmers who were allowed to pay by installments.
  4. Redrawing the boundaries for urban and rural areas.

After the scheme took off, 90% of Taiwanese farmers owned the land they farmed. Landlord exploitation gradually died down and productivity rose sharply. As in mainland China, some indigenous landlords opposed the reforms, but the majority of the biggest landowners were the Japanese. The Taiwanese government put them in jail instead of killing them like the CCP did in their land reforms.

Leaders Jin Yong talked to regretted not implementing these reforms when they were running the country on the mainland. Their scheme would have been much better received than the communist way. River systems were very different in Taiwan compared to the mainland. Given that the greater part of most rivers ran in the mountains, they were not only unnavigable on most of their lengths, there was a need to build dams and provide adequate storage to safeguard agriculture. Taiwanese leaders had wisely invested in dams and reservoirs. Oil refining was also an important industry in Taiwan. Their retired military officers took over many state-owned enterprises and they prospered.

Jin Yong said that he was not against socialism but he strongly opposed authoritarian rule, class struggle, absolute faith in government. He believed that a free market economy would always be better than a controlled, managed economy. However, many unabashedly capitalist economies had adopted socialist ideals and welfare.

Communist propaganda during those days claimed that Taiwanese people were oppressed by their corrupt, ineffectual government. That was indeed an accurate description of the KMT while it was the government on the mainland. Jin Yong believed that even the communist party could do something good after the Cultural Revolution. Not all mainlanders were dissatisfied with the CCP. Most of them were not demanding, not having been exposed to the outside world. As the PRC recovered from its famine-stricken years, the people were even thankful to the Party.

Conscription ensured that Taiwan would have a credible defence force to deter an invasion from the PRC. Jin Yong observed that there were two clearly distinguishable “tribes” in Taiwan. One was the Taiwanese natives and the other was the former mainlanders. While all the soldiers were young men born in Taiwan, senior officers who had to be experienced, were almost entirely former mainlanders. The same went with academics. University professors were mostly former mainlanders and they formed the most prominent group rallying for peace talks. This may result in division as most native Taiwanese would find unification quite meaningless. The one thing that both groups shared was their opposition to communism.

Jin Yong asked if Taiwanese leaders had ever considered a military alliance with the Soviet Union. The answer was an emphatic no. Firstly, they were against communism and secondly, they wanted to protect the Chinese way of life. Taiwanese leaders were also optimistic that the free world would not sit and watch them get destroyed. Already, Taiwan was getting a lot of investments and support from overseas Chinese. Having never been colonised by the British or by communism, Taiwan preserved many of the positive as well as negative aspects of Chinese culture and traditions.

It was his first trip to Taiwan but Jin Yong observed that compared to their cousins on the mainland and in HK, Taiwanese were friendly people. In fact, he felt that the friendliness and hospitality of the Taiwanese people were more genuine than that of the cold and rigid Japanese. The only rude and arrogant people Jin Yong encountered in Taiwan were low level civil servants.

However, he also noticed that Taiwanese people lacked a sense of urgency, moving a lot slower than people in HK. Laws in Taiwan were also a lot stricter than those in HK. He found Taiwanese to be more flexible, forgiving, compassionate and not as pragmatic as people in HK. On the downside, traffic on Taiwanese roads was horrendous and driving habits were bad.

With Jin Yong, Taiwanese leaders referred to mainland leaders as 共产党. Among themselves, he overheard the Taiwanese calling them 共匪. On the mainland, communist leaders would refer to Taiwanese leaders as 蒋匪. Taiwan had its own propaganda department which would periodically dispatch balloons bearing messages from the Taiwanese government across the Straits. They also had a research team monitoring developments on the mainland and advising the government on how to deal with government there.

Mao Zedong had declared that he would never wage a war without being confident of victory. Jin Yong believed that Taiwan would be gone if the KMT ever messed up. Of course back then, he did not know that Taiwan would eventually develop into a multi-party democracy doing fine with the KMT in the opposition. Anyway, Jin Yong predicted that there were a few conditions that would herald an invasion by the PRC.

  1. CCP establishes a strong hold over the entire territory with a powerful leader.
  2. The Soviet Union becomes an ally of China and no longer poses a threat.
  3. America promises not to intervene.
  4. KMT government fails resulting in crippling internal conflict in Taiwan.

Some of the conditions Jin Yong laid out had already been satisfied. Obviously, Taiwan could not control what happens in the mainland and their relationship with the USSR. But does Taiwan stand any chance of surviving an invasion? Their optimism is reflected in liberal use of the word 莒 in naming buildings, trains etc. It comes from the reminder 勿忘在莒 – don’t forget that we are in Ju. To explain this, we need to go back in Chinese history during the period of the Warring States.

Ju was a city that the state of Qi 齐国 had managed to defend after practically all the cities had been conquered by the state of Yan 燕国, its army led by General Yue Yi 乐毅. The situation seemed hopeless for Qi but Qi general Tian Dan 田单 managed to fight back and recovered lost territories. This was a reminder to Taiwanese that it’s possible for them to become masters of China.

However, Jin Yong also mentioned the conditions for Qi’s seemingly miraculous victory over Yan. Qi lost the battle initially because the people were losing their trust in a callous ruler who exploited and tormented them. Tian Dan did not retaliate immediately. He timed his counter offensive at a time when there was a change of leadership at Qi and Yan. In Qi, a wise and benevolent ruler loved by all the citizens took over at the helm. Unfortunately, the new ruler at Yan was a suspicious character. He dismissed General Yue Yi and replaced him with inept commanders. Tian Dan saw his opportunity and fought back.

On the mainland, the KMT had completely messed up, giving the CCP an opportunity. If China had invaded Taiwan back then, they would have the advantage of an uncooperative people. By the 1970s, the CCP under Mao had made many serious mistakes while Taiwan grew from strength to strength with guidance and assistance from the US.

The PRC could try to legitimise their invasion by claiming that they are liberating Taiwan but in order for “liberation” to be meaningful, the people to be liberated must have been suffering before that. If their lives were not improved by this “liberation”, then the invasion would lack legitimacy. Jin Yong believed that if the KMT messed up again, the PLA could just breeze through Taiwan – without knowledge of the current political system in Taiwan where the KMT could get voted out and the bureaucracy still works.

Like most reasonable people, Jin Yong wished for peaceful unification – with the prerequisite that the PRC embraces democracy with freedom of the press, lifting of travel restrictions, freedom of religious beliefs, property rights and human rights.

Considering the fact that Jin Yong wrote all this in 1973, his insights back then are truly remarkable. Nevertheless, we should also take note of the times when Jin Yong was wrong. When he was working for Da Gong Bao in China, he was pro-communist, anti-West and did not hate the CCP even though he own father was persecuted. He later became very disappointed with the CCP and started a Rightist newspaper Ming Pao which was often sabotaged and even faced attacks from pro-communist terrorists. It was the British government that protected his freedom to publish.

When Deng Xiaoping took over, Jin Yong became optimistic about China again. He participated enthusiastically in the committee drafting Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The Basic Law was to ensure HK autonomy (one country two systems) after 1997 but Jin Yong had often been criticised for being too obliging towards Beijing. The Tiananmen incident would change his mind completely, causing him to swing back to his rightist position. He resigned from the committee drafting HK Basic Law. Below is a rare video of Jin Yong feeling shocked and emotional after the Tiananmen massacre.

Jin Yong was a multi-talented genius, but like many people, he was not immune to misjudgement and flip flopping. Jin Yong remained hopeful of changes in China, but his dream of retiring in his hometown of Hangzhou, Zhejiang would never come true. He died on 30 October 2018 in Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital.

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