Formosa Betrayed is a detailed, impassioned account of Chinese Nationalist (KMT) misrule that remains the most important English-language book ever written about Taiwan.
Author George H. Kerr lived in Taiwan in the late 1930s, when the island was a colony of Japan. During the war, he worked for the U.S. Navy as a Taiwan expert. From 1945 to 1947, Kerr served as vice consul of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Taipei, where he was an eyewitness to the February 28 Massacre and the subsequent mass arrests and executions.
As well as chronicling KMT repression during the early years of the White Terror, Kerr documents widespread corruption, showing how the island was systematically looted. The “betrayed” in the title refers not only to the crushing disappointment Taiwanese felt when they realized KMT rule was worse than that of the Japanese but also to the culpability of the American government. The United States was in large part responsible for handing Taiwan over to the Nationalists and helping them maintain their grip on power.
Formosa Betrayed has served as a foundational text for generations of Taiwanese democracy and independence activists. It had an explosive effect among overseas Taiwanese students; for many, the book was their first encounter in print with their country’s dark, forbidden history. A 1974 Chinese-language translation increased its impact still more. It is a powerful classic that has withstood the test of time, a must-read book that will change the way you look at Taiwan.
In this definitive edition Kerr scholar Jonathan Benda has added a detailed, thoroughly-researched introduction as well as a biographical sketch of the author."Kerr scholar"... that sounds nice, though I prefer "Kerrologist," or, as Henk Vynckier once labeled my fellow Kerr enthusiasts and me, "Kerrdashian."
I mentioned back in January that my interest in Kerr started back around 2007 when I discovered the three volumes of Kerr's correspondence and other writings that Professor Su Yao-tsung and his team edited based on the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum Kerr collection. I encourage anyone with a historical interest in Kerr to take a look at those books or even arrange to see the original documents in the museum. (It's a bit of an effort to do the latter, but it's worth the effort.)
Anyway, I don't have a financial interest in whether or not you buy it, but I hope that people who haven't yet read Formosa Betrayed (or even those who have) will consider buying the book!