Sat, Jul 10, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chiang family now rooted in Taiwan

In recent times, the Chiang family has acted as an umbilical cord connecting Taiwan and China, and the bodies of former presidents General Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) are currently lying embalmed in temporary mausoleums in Taoyuan. With the application of Chiang Ching-kuo's widow, Faina Chiang Fang-liang (蔣方良), for these two men to be buried in the military mausoleum on Wuchih Mountain, this umbilical cord is soon to be severed.

The decision for the two Chiangs to be laid to rest in Taiwan represents the fact that the political force that arrived in Taiwan from China has given up its dream of "retaking the mainland."

Prior to 1949, the fascist Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) led by Chiang Kai-shek, plagued with internal corruption, lost the support of the Chinese people. Their defeat at the hands of the Communists forced them to flee to Taiwan. In Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek resumed his strong-man tactics and maintained martial law, in the course of which countless lives were sacrificed during the 228 incident and the period of "White Terror." Both Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, viewed Taiwan as merely a base of operations, a springboard from which to return to China. As a result, they gave little thought to the long-term construction of Taiwan or the welfare of its people.

When the US-ROC Mutual Defense Treaty was signed in 1954, it was clear that the Chiang family no longer believed that there was any hope of retaking China, so this idea became a tool for them to maintain their monopoly on political power.

Only during his later years in power did Chiang Ching-kuo realize that the KMT, an alien power in Taiwan, would never return to China, and if he did not move towards localization, the KMT would have no place left to go. He therefore promoted people from the local elite to let Taiwanese people rule Taiwan, and tolerated the democratization and liberalization of Taiwan. The KMT's political localization was meant to maintain the KMT's political power and turn Taiwan into a base for opposing Beijing.

This move showed that he was already preparing to remain in Taiwan. In addition, he often travelled to different areas in Taiwan in his later years, building an image of being close to the people. He even said that "I am also Taiwanese," and to a certain degree developed emotional bonds with Taiwan.

Returning to the place of one's birth to die is a custom among Chinese people. So although there are many in Taiwan who still harbor a hatred of the Chiang family, there are many others who respect them and find the idea of their burial in Taiwan more congenial than to be returned to a China they regard as an enemy and whose intentions are uncertain.

Madam Chiang Kai-shek, who represents the first generation who moved to Taiwan, has now passed away, and the Chiang family no longer has the responsibility or the duty to bring the KMT back to power in China. Faina Chiang Fang-liang has decided that it is in the interests of the Chiang family that the two Chiangs should now be buried in Taiwan and end the rootlessness of the Chiang family since they moved from China. Now that the family's roots have been planted in Taiwan, Chiang Ching-kuo's claim that he "is also Taiwanese" can finally be said with a clear conscience.

The establishment of the Chiang family roots in Taiwan will also resolve many of the contradictions in the self-identification of the Mainlanders who came over with them. The burial will help them to accept the reality that they have long since become Taiwanese, and this in turn will help resolve the issue of Taiwan's own identity.

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