Mon, Jan 13, 2003 - Page 8 News List

KMT misinterpreted Lee's speech

By Lee Min-Yung 李敏勇

Toward the end of last year, distorted media reports presented a speech by former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) on the "Promote Young Taiwanese" (吹台青) movement as being the first time Lee had criticized Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). The movement began in the early 1970s, when then-premier Chiang recruited a large number of younger local Taiwanese politicians into the KMT and local governments, which at the time were dominated by old-guard KMT exiles from China. The movement indirectly triggered the onset of localization in the KMT.

The KMT rose immediately to denounce Lee's speech on the matter. Not only did the elite of the alien regime grind its teeth, but local yes-men also stood up to declare war on Lee. The part of the speech where Lee talked about inheriting political power from Chiang should have been sufficient to blunt the current KMT's denial of the history of its rule, but it seems the KMT believes it is able to find flaws in that argument. But then, in a TV talk show called Seminar on Taiwan's Overall National Goals in the 21st Century, Lee's own revelations restored the "Chiang-Lee" inheritance idea which he himself values so highly. Viewing the passion with which he has contributed his policies to Taiwan at a time when he is approaching his 80th birthday highlights his unhesitating enthusiasm for Taiwan and proves the rationality of his words.

Chiang is not untouchable. His historic status is not confined to "localization/Taiwanese," and neither can it be encapsulated in or explained solely by the fact that he passed on political power to Lee. We must go back to the 228 Incident during the early days of KMT rule on Taiwan, the White Terror during the 1950s and extralegal power maneuvers. That Lee always has praised Chiang is understandable given his particular feelings resulting from Chiang's transfer of power to him. This behavior makes it abundantly clear that Lee's "Promote Young Taiwanese" speech was not a criticism of Chiang.

Where Lee came from

Rather than criticizing Chiang, it would be more accurate to say that Lee criticized many local Taiwanese members of the power elite for having forgotten where they come from, and for having sold out Taiwan by being acquiescent to the foreign rulers and their interests. Lee takes pride in the fact that he remembers where he comes from. His efforts to further localization and democratization truly stand out when compared to many of the other Taiwanese absorbed into the KMT. Lee has a particular manner of speaking, in particular when using "mandarinized" Taiwanese in his standard Chinese. At those times, a kind of foreign language awkwardness often causes him problems. If he is deliberately misinterpreted, complications will arise.

Wasn't "Promote Young Taiwanese" about absorbing Taiwanese people? Wasn't it about initiating a more active kind of government where Taiwan was ruled by Taiwanese? Of course it was. Most of the 40 years during which the Chiangs' KMT ruled Taiwan consisted of rule under martial law. Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo were not entirely the same. Apart from their different educational backgrounds and personality differences, the circumstances under which they ruled also differed.

Chiang Kai-shek stood on a foundation laid by the chilling and bloody suppression of Taiwan during the 228 Incident and the elimination of dissidents during the White Terror in the 1950s after Chiang's escape from China to Taiwan. He also relied on US troops and the Republic of China's seat in the UN. This situation, where his was the only China, provided the conditions for his absolute authoritarian rule.

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