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American Justice in Taiwan: The 1957 Riots and Cold War Foreign Policy

by Stephen G. Craft

Availablecloth$60.00x 978-0-8131-6635-3
Studies in Conflict, Diplomacy, and Peace
284 pages  Pubdate: 01/29/2016  6 x 9  16 b&w photos, 2 maps

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On May 23, 1957, US Army Sergeant Robert Reynolds was acquitted of murdering Chinese officer Liu Ziran in Taiwan. Reynolds did not deny shooting Liu but claimed self-defense and, like all members of US military assistance and advisory groups, was protected under diplomatic immunity. Reynolds’s acquittal sparked a series of riots across Taiwan that became an international crisis for the Eisenhower administration and raised serious questions about the legal status of US military forces positioned around the world.

In American Justice in Taiwan, author Stephen G. Craft provides the first comprehensive study of the causes and consequences of the Reynolds trial and the ensuing protests. After more than a century of what they perceived as unfair treaties imposed by Western nations, the Taiwanese regarded the special legal status of resident American personnel with extreme distrust. While Eisenhower and his advisers considered Taiwan to be a vital ally against Chinese communism, the US believed that the Taiwanese government had instigated the unrest in order to protest the verdict and demand legal jurisdiction over GIs. Regardless, the events that transpired in 1957 exposed the enormous difficulty of applying the US’s Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) across cultures.

Employing meticulous research from both Western and Chinese archives, Craft demonstrates that the riots were only anti-American in that the Taiwanese rejected the UCMJ, the affording of diplomatic immunity to occupying US forces, and the military courts’ interpretation of self-defense. His compelling study provides a new lens through which to examine US–Taiwan relations in the 1950s, US policy in Asia, and the incredibly charged and complex question of the legal status of US troops on foreign soil.

Stephen G. Craft, professor of security studies and international affairs at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is the author of V. K. Wellington Koo and the Emergence of Modern China.

An excellent microhistory of an intrinsically interesting series of events: the murder of a Taiwanese civilian by an American serviceman, his subsequent trial, and the riots that followed his acquittal. . . . [It] makes significant contributions to the history of U.S. relations with Taiwan, to the history of the Cold War in Asia, and to the history of US overseas forces. -- Robert McMahon, editor of The Cold War in the Third World

Craft does a superb job of placing a specific legal event, crime, and trial into a much broader historical context. The great strengths of the study are its use of a particular seemingly routine trial to shed light on the inherent tensions in the US–Taiwan relationship . . . and its very complete use of Chinese primary sources to supplement what has traditionally been a Western focus on the Taiwan riots. -- Michael Schaller, author of Right Turn: American Life in the Reagan-Bush Era

Stephen Craft has, in American Justice in Taiwan, written an excellent account of what has come to be known as the “Liu Tzujan Incident” against the wider background of US involvement in the Far East at the time. -- Taipei Times

American Justice in Taiwan is a book worth reading for those with great curiosity and questions about either Taiwanese or US foreign policy in the Cold War period. -- H-Diplo

If you’re looking for a compact, knowledgeable, and quite interesting account of the post-World War II development of American SOFAs and their criminal jurisdiction provisions, issues that remain contentious today, this volume is a good place to start. -- Journal of Military History

American Justice in Taiwan is full of careful research and well-reasoned arguments. Craft skillfully blends American and Chinese views throughout the book, highlighting the sources of clashing perceptions. -- Journal of American-East Asian Relations

Stephan G. Craft provides an excellent account of both the 1957 Taipei riots and the implications for U.S. foreign policy at the height of the Cold War. -- Journal of Cold War Studies

In painstaking research, Stephen Craft used archival sources to illustrate the origins and consequences of the 1957 Reynolds trial and the ensuing riots across Taiwan, also known formally as the Republic of China (ROC). -- Pacific Historical Review