Fri, Jul 20, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Revisionism is Taiwan's big enemy

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), the child said, with the precarious conviction of a toddler as he takes his very first uncertain steps, was our savior. Thus a four or five-year-old on the weekend, gazed with wonder at the TV camera lens, as the nation looked back on a different time, when martial law, imported from distant shores, governed everybody's lives.

We shake our collective heads, or recoil in horror, when we hear young Palestinians, young Iraqis, Afghans, Serbs or Chinese tell the camera that Osama bin Laden, the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic or Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) were, in similar terms, the saviors of their people.

Aside from the telling fact that it is not altogether outlandish to name Chiang alongside such enlightened murderers, the characterization -- by children born long after his death -- of the generalissimo as any kind of savior reveals that some elements within our society are still passing along a revisionist version of history.

If, as outsiders, we have the clarity of vision, or the advantage of emotional distance, that allows us to pass judgment on youth who see bin Laden and his ilk as saviors, then surely admirers of Chiang cannot be exempt from similar criticism.

And yet, to this day, many are those who refuse to throw Chiang into the pit alongside the multifarious tyrants that pepper the long, sad history of man's inhumanity to man. Instead, as do some misguided parents and teachers in far-away lands, they pour the poison in their children's ears and thereby perpetuate falsehoods out of which no good can come.

While it would be invidious to even conceive of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) trading his jogging shorts for the generalissimo's ever-pristine martial costume, or to imagine that he could make recourse to the same dictatorial methods as his predecessor, his failure -- and that of his party -- to completely break ties with the past and decry the crimes for what they were belies a continuation of a mindset of oppression, the epitome of which is the teaching of youngsters that Chiang was, and remains, a hero.

If, heaven forbid, Chiang were still alive today, Taiwan would be an entirely different place. In this alternate universe, the generalissimo would conceivably still be at war with China, as a result of which the powers in Beijing would likely be more repressive and more bellicose than Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and his retinue.

In fact, it is not too far-fetched to imagine that, with Chiang still in power today, Taiwan and China would by now have come to blows and the 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan as you read this would appear like a minor day-after headache.

All this to prove that Chiang, the old savior revered by some, wasn't good for Taiwan, as his presence today would mean more dangers for the country and a hotter conflict than the Cold War that haunts us every minute.

The only reason Beijing has softened its stance on Chiang and, to a certain degree, refashioned his image, is that he is safely long dead. In so doing, by rehabilitating its old nemesis into a character worthy of -- granted, mitigated -- reverence, Beijing has once again demonstrated in no uncertain terms that it doesn't have the interest of Taiwanese at heart. A true friend of Taiwan would never change his line on a murderous dictator, or choose to visit Taiwan for its last remaining monuments to this man's dreams of grandeur.

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