Ruan Ya Ying recollects his childhood, his experiences as a sailor at the Xiamen Port, and his career as a political activist on behalf of the mainland Chinese authorities, during which time he also served as an intelligence officer for the People’s Liberation Army.
Born in 1941, Ruan Ya Ying lost his father at age 7. A Kuomintang (KMT) police officer had attempted to seize Ruan’s uncle’s gold ring when the fishermen in the community were dividing wages in Ruan’s house, and shot his father who had tried to intervene in the scuffle. The family fell into dire financial straits after his death. By 1952, KMT vessels began to barricade the sea by Xiamen Port, and some vessels were towed away. He believes that KMT forces were planning to forcefully traffic fishermen to Taiwan. Fearing that their boat too, would be confiscated by the enemy, Ruan’s mother stayed onboard for 2 months, but it was eventually confiscated. Later, another of their fishing boat was requisitioned by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) for a price. As the KMT’s attacks on the coast at Xiamen intensified, his family lived on their boat and fled to many surrounding islands to escape the KMT.
From 1956 to 1958, Ruan began working as an intelligence officer for the PLA. The next year, he was promoted as a crew leader onboard a fishing vessel. In 1958, he took on multiple additional posts; including chief cultural literacy officer in the crew, picket officer in the Xiamen Commune police station, health administrator, and militia platoon leader. As an intelligence operative, he was tasked to perform reconnaissance on Taiwanese naval formations in the waters nearby. As he was uneducated and could not identify the various objects he encountered at sea, he used matchsticks and other materials to represent large ships and other vessels to reconstruct the formations he observed for his superiors. At times, his operations drew the attention of KMT forces on guard, and he faced their defensive fire.
He also smuggled propaganda materials to the shores of Taiwan on rafts at night, which also was at times detected by the KMT’s defensive units. As another arm of these efforts, he was also involved in the PLA’s attempts to connect with other fishermen from the Kinmen (Jinmen) Islands, governed by Taiwan. He would share cigarettes and tea with these fishermen and attempt to learn if they had family connections on the mainland.
Further, he performed night patrols to deter security threats from the coast, while continuing his job as a fisherman during the day. His efforts were recognized, and he was honored by the state as an “activist in the struggle against the enemy” in 1959. On one such patrol, he reacted to a false alarm and mistakenly arrested the director of the Public Security Bureau who was inspecting the security protocols out at sea. On another occasion, he successfully detained a fisherman from the mainland who was attempting to flee to Taiwan’s Kinmen Islands, for which he received awards at the National Day in 1960. In 1961, he was finally promoted as captain of the ship.
Name of interviewee：阮亚婴
Summary (English)：The interview reflects the multiple roles played by the respondent Ruan Yaying during the Cold War. Ruan’s father was killed by the KMT policemen during the CPC-KMT civil war. Months before the founding of the PRC, the fishing boats of the fishermen were commandeered by the PLA. Their family had escaped to Huoshaoyu Island and Gulangyu Island in order to avoid the harassment of the KMT army. During the period of fishery cooperation, Ruan served as the political team-leader of the ocean-going vessel, as well as the picket member of the border police station, cultural literacy officer, health administrator, militia platoon leader, and the inspector of the Intelligence Department in Xiamen Harbor. The main tasks of the respondent as an investigator included: investigating activities of the KMT army, distributing propaganda materials, contacting fishermen in Kinmen, discovering defectors. In the end, Ruan received awards for several times during the Cold War.
Interviewer: Chen Yongming
Interviewee: Ruan Ya Ying
To what extent were Ruan Ya Ying’s actions during the Cold War era motivated by ideology?
Discuss the economic forces that shaped the Cold War experience for Ruan Ya Ying and his family.
Consider the importance of social networks and personal connections in shaping the Cold War experience for Ruan Ya Ying, and the larger conflict across the Taiwan Straits.