Jiang Wenhao

Jiang Wenhao (simplified Chinese: 蒋文浩; traditional Chinese: 蔣文浩; pinyin: Jiǎng Wénhào) (born December 3, 1965) was a PLAAF pilot who defected to Taiwan. Jiang the first Chinese pilot who successfully defected after the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, and he was also the first Chinese pilot who defected to Taiwan after the Taiwanese reward for such defection was greatly reduced. Jiang was also the first Chinese pilot who successfully defected with the defection prevention system onboard his jet.

Jiang Wenhao was born in Leshan and was a graduate of the 13th Aviation School. At the time of his defection, he had totaled 600 hours of flying and he left behind his parents, maternal grandmother and a younger sister. On September 6, 1989, Jiang Wenhao, the 23-year old PLAAF lieutenant of the 2nd wing of the 145th regiment of the 49th division flew a Shenyang J-6 numbered 40307 from Longxi (龙溪) airport, Zhangzhou, Fujian to Shangyi (尚义) airport in Kinmen. Utilizing the blind spot of radars, Jiang made a speedy dive near the sea level after climbing to 300 metres and was not detected by radars on either side. However, once he was climbed back to 300 metres near the coast of Kinmen, he was discovered by an air defense observer Gan Lin (甘霖) on the ground when he was above Kinmen who immediately reported the anti-aircraft artillery command and the whole Kinmen island was put on alert. Shots were fired at Jiang, including 5 rounds from Bofors 40 mm gun, 56 rounds of 12.7 mm from 50 calibre heavy machine gun. Jiang immediately put down the landing gear and pitched the wings, and the ground fire stopped. Shortly after, Jiang discovered the Shangyi airport in Kinmen, and landed safely. The island was then no longer on alert, which lasted 14 minutes.

In order to avoid possible Chinese interceptions, Jiang disguised as a Republic of China Air Force major and was first boarded a naval transport ship to Pescadores on September 7 at night, reaching the Pescadores at the dawn. From there, a Republic of China Air Force Beechcraft 1900 transport aircraft was sent in the morning of September 8 at 7:30 a.m. and flown Jiang to Taipei at 10:00 am. In the afternoon, Taiwan held a news conference for Jiang at 3:00 pm. On September 29, 1989, Jiang publicly denounced his communist party membership and joined the Republic of China Air Force as a lieutenant. Jiang was sworn in by the then chief-of-general-staff of Taiwanese armed forces, Hau Pei-tsun.

The subsequent Taiwanese evaluation of Shenyang J-6 flew by Jiang Wenhao revealed that the Chinese aircraft was equipped with an anti-defection system that was similar to an automobile anti-theft system. This was one of the measures taken after an earlier defection by another PLAAF pilot Liu Zhiyuan on November 19, 1987. The system would warning pilots with acoustic signals and visual signals such as a flashing red light when the aircraft was strayed away from its predetermined routes. If the signals were not responded to within thirty seconds and the aircraft continued to stray further, the system would automatically cut the fuel supply and shut down every system onboard unless the pilot returned to the predetermined route. As a result, no Chinese pilots would be able to fly to Taiwan. Jiang defeated this defection prevention system by selecting Kinmen as his destination, and for the island that was just next to the mainland, he was well within the allowed range of the predetermined routes.

Jiang's financial reward, however, was far less than previous Chinese defectors, and this was due to the reduced tensions between mainland China and Taiwan during the 1980s. On September 11, 1988, as a goodwill gesture, China completely abolished the rewards for future Taiwanese defectors. Four days later, on September 15, 1988, Taiwan greatly reduced its rewards on the future Chinese defectors in response. As a result, Jiang only received a reduced amount of 2,000 taels (approximately 100 kg) of gold from the original 5,000 taels (approximately 250 kg) if he had defected before September 15, 1988. Due to the depreciation of international gold price, Jiang's reward was not enough to buy a luxury mansion near Yangmingshan region, the most expansive piece of real estate in entire Taiwan. Jiang was only rewarded with a rank of lieutenant in the Republic of China Air Force, a rank that is much lower in comparison to those awarded to previous Chinese defectors.

Inevitably, Jiang Wenhao claimed that he was disillusioned about the communist regime in China due to Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 and was cheered as a hero by Chinese democracy movement. Although this was certainly part of his reason for defection, subsequent Taiwanese investigations revealed that the economic reason was the major cause. Jiang openly admitted that he had been seriously planning to defecting in secrecy for a year, well before the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, and the first thought of defection came two years before the actual defection. Jiang also admitted that he was greatly disappointment with the backwardness of the Chinese economy in comparison to the Taiwanese economy, and he was also dissatisfied with the drop of status and financial rewards of the Chinese military because Deng Xiaoping's policy of putting the military development / funding in the backseat in his economic reforms.

As viewed by Jiang Wenhao's critics, Jiang's financial motive was soon obvious after he received his much reduced rewards: Jiang soon got out of the Republic of China Air Force, and among all Chinese defectors, his service in the Republic of China Air Force was the shortest. After Jiang's admission of his main cause for defection was made public, the resulting public support for him in Taiwan was not as great as previous defectors, as shown by a poll conducted on 658 adults in Taiwan: half of those 658 supported political parties that later formed Pan-Blue Coalition, and the other half supported political parties that later formed Pan-Green Coalition. 26% believed that the publicity of this defection incident should be minimized while 7% believed that it should be treated just the way it was. Response from this two catergories came almost exclusively from the supporters of future Pan-Blue Coalition. 21% believed that the incident should be more publicized in order to maximize its political propaganda potential for Taiwan, and this response was also mostly from the supporters of future Pan-Blue Coalition, though there are some supporters of future Pan-Green Coalition also provided the same response. The largest and most shocking response came from the majority of the supporters of future Pan-Green Coalition, for that they believed that Jiang was an illegal immigrant and should be either repatriated to China or a third country, because they wanted nothing to do with China.

After Jiang's honorable discharge from the Republic of China Air Force as a captain, Jiang became a famed underwater photographer and won several awards, and also worked as a diving instructor.