The people who ran Taiwan were the same folks who had completely run China into the ground by 1949, resulting in a life expectancy of 1949. Their legacy was repeated famines, foot-binding, murder of female children, epidemic wife-beating and more or less feudal relations in the countryside. Most Chinese peasants were little more than slaves or serfs. They were serfs on a landlord’s feudal estate.
The landlord or his buddies could go visit the serfs at any time and do whatever he wanted to with them? He had the power of life and death over them. He could kill or beat up any serf he wanted to at any time. He could steal any of their property. And especially he could rape the wives and daughters of the peasants, which he did in epidemic form.
When the Communists took over, in the first few years, they did a land reform, dissolved the feudal estates and distributed the landlords’ land to peasants with no compensation. The Communists simply stole the landlords’ land. And in same time period, the Communists decided to put the landlords on trial. The trials were held in the villages and towns and the peasants were to serve as judge and jury. These were wild raucous public trials and in most cases, the peasants convicted the landlords of many of the crimes above and sentenced them to death. Up to 3 million landlords were executed by the peasants themselves.
This is what happens in peasant uprisings under feudalism. Study the subject of peasant uprisings down through time, and this is how they always end up. For centuries before feudalism was dismantled, there were peasant uprisings the world over. They even occurred in Peru under Inca rule! Usually they were horrifically bloody and if the peasants won, typically they simply killed all the feudal lords and everyone who helped them. The Chmielnicki Uprising in the 1500’s in Poland resulted in all the landlords and half the Jews because they were tax collectors for the landlords. But it also caused the deaths of 1/3 of the population of the country!
Under the Nationalists, feudalism and warlordism was the way in China. There was almost no state at all. Feudal landlords also served as warlords. Their warlord armies held sway in the countryside.
Go read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck sometime. That is what life was like in China under the Nationalists and that was the same way it had been for centuries. The Nationalists did not give a damn about anyone who was not rich. It was a feudal party of landlords and warlords.
The Taiwan miracle happened because when the Nationalists fled China, they took almost every nickel in the country with them. That’s why Mao had such a hard time at first. He was starting with more or less nothing. Also they completely dismantled the feudal landlord-warlord system under severe pressure from the US. Then they did a land reform under heavy pressure from the US also. Then the US flooded money into Taiwan for decades in an effort to make Taiwan an anti-Communist showcase, sort of a propaganda exhibit to compare it with China.
Sure the Nationalists turned around Taiwan. Taiwan has a population of what? 50 million? Try doing that with 1.3 million. And the only reason Taiwan junked warlordism, landlordism and feudalism and did a land reform was because Mao won the war. If Mao would have lost the war, China would have just continued with their landlordism, warlordism and feudalism because that was how the Nationalists had governed for decades before and how their predecessors had governed for centuries before that.
If Mao wouldn’t have won, why would the Nationalists have dismantled the system? And don’t forget that 4% of the population left the country and took almost every dime in the place with them when they left. If they would have stayed the money would have stayed in China, so the nationalists would have had 96% less money. Show me how they do their miracle now? And if there had been no revolution, why would the Nationalists have made those massive economic changes they did when they went to Taiwan. Getting rid of landlordism, feudalism and warlordism was a response to the threat of Communism. If they would have continued on with the system the Nationalists were running in China on Taiwan, they would have had another Communist uprising on the island for sure.
Oh and one more thing. When the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, one of the first things they did was to kill 300,000 Communists in Taiwan.