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David Cheng Chang, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for East Asian Studies at Stanford University will give a presentation based on his recent work entitled Return to China or “Return to Taiwan”: The Chinese POWs Who Derailed the Korean War Peace Talks.

At the end of the Korean War, only one third of the approximately 21,000 Chinese prisoners of war were repatriated to Communist China; the remaining two thirds, or more than 14,300 prisoners, went to Nationalist Taiwan which represented a significant propaganda coup.

These Chinese POWs were a source of contention in the second half of the war. Utilizing previously untapped archival sources and oral history interviews in the U.S., Taiwan, and China, this study examines who these prisoners of war were, why and how they, individually and collectively, made divergent decisions in the contentious process of “voluntary repatriation.” 

Situated at the intersection of macro geopolitical powers and micro prison camp struggles, caught in the crossfire of ideological battles, frustrated and aided by contingency, Cheng Chang asserts that these POWs nevertheless took actions that derailed the peace talks, and consequently changed history.

Joining Cheng Chang on the panel is James Zheng Gao, associate professor at the University of Maryland.

Wilson Center Fellow Yafeng Xia will chair the event.