Wed, May 23, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Letters: Misplaced credits

Arthur Waldron's letter arguing that Taiwan's democracy owes its existence to Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) occupation of, and retreat to, Taiwan, posits an erroneous and deeply pro-authoritarian view of Taiwan's history while at the same time making a fallacious moral argument based on that history (Letters, May 22, page 8).

Waldron first argues that Taiwan would not be independent of China were it not for Chiang's powerful China lobby connections, which enabled him to mobilize US opinion in his favor.

Taiwan, however, was saved not by US approval of Chiang but by the Korean War, which spurred the US to draw a line around the nation with its navy, preventing China from taking Taiwan, which it was almost certain to do in the summer of 1950.

At that time, the US had no intention of intervening.

The idea that "Chiang's presence saved Taiwan" is therefore a gross oversimplification. It is far truer to say that without the Korean War, there would have been no US protection for the nation and no US aid program to preserve the Taiwanese capitalists whose small and medium-sized firms would create the "Taiwan miracle" and lay the economic foundation for successful democratization.

Sadly, Waldron regurgitates a major Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) myth: that Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) "opened the way for democratization." It is high time this piece of propaganda was put to rest.

Taiwan democratized in the 1980s thanks to three major factors. First, a dedicated independence and democracy movement was effective in pressuring the government in Taipei and in energizing support overseas.

This movement also conducted reprisal killings and attempted assassinations of KMT officials and supporters at home and abroad, serving notice to the regime that the nation could not be handed over to China without violent opposition.

It was the militant independence movement, not some putative steadfastness of Chiang Ching-kuo's as Waldron claims, that prevented him from serving Taiwan up to China on a platter.

A second major factor was the ineptitude of the KMT, which cracked down on the dissident movement with highly publicized trials that put the mention of democracy in every home and made heroes of its victims, all of which was exacerbated by its ordering the murder of writer Henry Liu (劉宜良) in the US and other boneheaded espionage moves, angering the regime's supporters in the US and galvanizing its opponents there.

Finally, the changing international scene -- particularly the fall of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 -- put fear into the government. Waldron ignores the fact that the Chiang Ching-kuo administration may have "lifted" martial law in 1987, but it kept dissidents in jail and passed a national security law that was martial law redux in all but name.

The real midwife of Taiwan's democracy was not the murderer and dictator Chiang Ching-kuo, but his successor Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who had to fight Chiang Ching-kuo's allies and supporters every step of the way.

It is quite true that many ordinary Mainlanders sacrificed their lives to keep Taiwan free. They too, just as Taiwanese, were victims of the Leninist regimes that ran both China and Taiwan, and all honor to them.

Certainly they deserve a monument. But to argue that because a mass murderer's occupation of Taiwan was a necessary factor in Taiwan's democratic future he deserves a large monument in the capital, is akin to arguing that Hitler deserves a monument in Berlin for creating Germany's autobahns, or that Franco deserves a huge memorial in Madrid because of the Spanish economic miracle in the 1960s.

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