Wang Xuecheng

Wang Xuecheng

Wang Xuecheng (王学成) was a People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force pilot who defected to Taiwan on November 14, 1983, and Taiwan rewarded him a position as a major in the Republic of China Air Force and 3,000 taels (approximately 150 kg) of gold.

Wang was born in Kaifeng, 1958 into a family with distinguished revolutionary background. His grandparents and parents participated in the communist struggles against the ruling nationalist Chinese government prior to the establishment of the People's Republic of China, but were later persecuted and jailed during the political movements in China, such as the Cultural Revolution, which resulted in the death of his grandfather. This was the major cause of his defection. During his pilot training, Wang was a classmate of another PLA defector Wu Ronggen (吴荣根), who had defected on October 16, 1982. Wang joined People's Liberation Army after graduated from high school and in March 1974, entered a basic aviation training school of the [PLAAF in Baoding. After completing all of his training, he was assigned to People's Liberation Army Naval Air Force and eventually promoted to a squadron commander.

The inherent social and political problems of the communist system in China further frustrated Wang once he became a pilot. One of such problems was that the deeply flawed system that was common in China until the 1990s: Under the strict residential system, people could not move freely to where they wanted to live, and a person must reside in the place where his residency was registered. Therefore, unlike western military pilots, most Chinese pilots did not have the luxury of living with their spouses. When the Chinese pilots were transferred, they must endure the separation that only happens to western pilots when redeployed in missions like those in the war zone. The Chinese government only allowed one month vacation per year so that pilots could reunite with their families, and this vacation was already longer than most ordinary Chinese citizens could get, such as those workers in the state-owned-enterprises. Wang was married in 1980 and considered such flaws of the system that impacted his family was completely wrong (and he was right) and in Wang's word, "suppressed humanity" (and he was right to certain degree, as proven by the fact that such practice was slowly abolished during the Chinese economic reform in the 1990s). Such difficult life style also contributed to Wang's decision to defect.

Another problem contributed to Wang's defection was caused by the same strict residential system, as the cadres of the government, Wang's father was assigned to the different posts in Beijing and Wuhan, and thus was unable to spend the time together as a normal family, and his mother was frequently absent in his life due to the same reason. Wang was raised by his grandmother in Kaifeng and rarely saw his parents. The lack of normal childhood and family life certainly also played an important role in Wang's defection. It was not until he was 16 when he was reunited with his father in Wuhan.

On November 14, 1983, the 25-year old PLANAF squadron commander of the 2nd wing of the 18th regiment of the 6th division got his opportunity that he was looking for. The training flight of the day did not require wingman, and there was enough fuel thanks to the auxiliary fuel tank that was normally absent in previous flights. At 7:30 a.m., Wang made preparation for his flight and by 7:55 a.m., he was in the air. However, Wang's first attempt in the failed due to the presence of two trainers of a different unit flew nearby, and Wang's Shenyang J-5 numbered 83065 was directly in their sight, Wang decided to play safe by going back to the airport at Daishan, Zhejiang to refuel, and he landed at 8:15 a.m..

After Wang took off again at 9:15 a.m. from the same airport, the two trainers were still in the air south of the airport, but Wang calculated that it was difficult if not impossible for them to see him due to their current positions. To make sure, Wang took further actions by dropping down to a mere 10 metres above the sea level and flew toward Taiwan, and he flew at this extremely low altitude for 18 minutes. At 9:40 a.m., Wang dropped the auxiliary tank after exhausting the fuel within the tank, and climbed back to higher altitude to save fuel, as he only 700 liters of fuel left. At 9:45 a.m., Wang had climbed to 10,000 metres and maintained 1,000 km/h speed heading toward Taiwan. In order to reduce weight and safe fuel, Wang fired all of the 140 rounds of ammunition.

Taiwan discovered the intruder and sent two F-5E's to intercept Wang when he was near Taiwan, and the aircraft meet at 9:55 a.m. Wang dipped his wings to show the interceptors that he was defecting, and the Taiwanese pilots understood and flew behind his Shenyang J-5 to cover him. However, Wang faced a new problem: his jet was running out of fuel. Because the opposing sides used the different radio frequencies, Wang could only communicate with the F-5E pilots via hand gestures. Wang tried desperately to signal the pilots of the interceptors behind him to come to in front of him and lead him to the nearest airport to make an emergency landing, and after what seemed to be an eternal 10 minutes, the two pilots of the F-5Es, Xu Weihan (徐维翰) and Chen Shiying (陈世英), finally understood Wang's intention at 10:05 a.m., and help to guide Wang to the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, which was still under construction. Under the escort and guidance of the two F-5Es, Wang discovered the Chiang Kai-shek International Airport from an altitude of 2,440 metres, and successfully landed at 10:12 a.m. before the fuel ran out, but the tires and brakes were damaged during the landing.

Wang Xuecheng (王学成) eventually was discharged from the Republic of China Air Force and after a divorce, Wang married a local Taiwanese woman and father two daughters and a son, and Wang still talks to his family members in Henan via telephone, and refuses to immigrate abroad like most other Chinese defectors did. Compared with other Chinese defectors who invested heavily in the Taiwan Stock Exchange, Wang was most conservative and only invested 5 million New Taiwan dollars (20,000 United States dollars), and as a result, Wang neither gained nor lost anything.

ee also

*PLA Defections
*Sun Tianqin
*Jiang Wenhao


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