Wed, Nov 26, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Iron, blood symbols of a past era

By Wu Chin-fa 吳錦發

A few days ago, there was a call to pair Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) with Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the presidential election next year instead of with People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜). Lien's response was that the alliance between him and Soong was "an alliance made of iron and blood." It is surprising to hear such a phrase coming from the mouth of a politician.

Maybe what Lien meant to say was that the alliance between him and Soong was rock solid, but such a relationship would be better described as an alliance carved in stone.

There is too much tension hidden in the phrase "iron and blood." It is readily associated with triads and their blood oaths. Many KMT revolutionaries were indeed triad members.

Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) was a member of the Red Gang (洪幫) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was a member of the Green Gang (青幫). After the Republic of China was founded, Sun drifted away from the triads, but Chiang continued to maintain a close relationship with them. He even used triads to eliminate his political enemies. Green Gang boss Du Yuesheng (杜月笙) assisted with the slaughter of communists in Shanghai, for example.

The alliance of iron and blood between the KMT and the triads had still not been completely dissolved by the time Henry Liu (江南) was murdered in California in 1984 for writing an unflattering biography of then president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). Some have alleged that triads cannot be completely discounted from the 1993 murder of navy captain Yin Ching-feng (尹清楓) as part of the Lafayette frigate scandal.

Even if we try to offer a more positive interpretation of the meaning of an "alliance made of iron and blood," it still carries a notion of unhappiness and an undemocratic flavor.

The "iron" in the epithet "Iron Chancellor" given to Germany's Otto von Bismarck is a way of describing absolute military power. Is it still appropriate for politicians in a democratic country to harbor such attitudes in the 21st century?

Talk of an alliance made of iron and blood also leads to an easy association with "the deepest mutual sincerity" that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) talked about. How did their alliance of iron and blood end? In heartbroken grief.

Historically, too many relationships have progressed from the deepest mutual sincerity to heartbroken grief. One example is the relationship between Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, two Japanese statesmen from the Meiji era. From childhood, they were the best of friends. Toshimichi, skinny and weak, was often bullied by the other children. Each time he was saved by the sturdy Takamori. Both grew up to become government officials and together they promoted reform.

With the advent of the Meiji Restoration, their relationship ended in heartbreak due to different ideals. Takamori resigned his post and returned to his home in Kagoshima, where he was pushed into starting the Satsuma revolt. When the revolt was put down, he committed suicide. Not long after, Toshimichi was assassinated. Before dying, he uttered the following tragic words: "Saigo, oh Saigo, the great wheel of time crushed your body, then it crushed mine, and it keeps rolling still."

There are many other examples where the outcome of an alliance made of iron and blood was the shedding of blood. One such example was the relationship between Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bucharin and Joseph Stalin. Another was between Wang Ching-wei (汪精衛, a former KMT vice chairman) and Chiang Kai-shek. The relationship between Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Lin Biao (林彪) even devolved from Lin being Mao's "heir designate" to a "designated target for execution."

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