Is history like a clear mirror, or is it no more than a conjuror’s trick and a means for politicians to deny guilt, promote their views and fool the public?
Consider the murky history of China’s feudal dynasties, stretching out over thousands of years. When you take away the family chronicles of emperors and generals, the plots and power struggles, the floods and famines, and the perpetual suffering of the common people, what are you left with?
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) heads a government that sees itself as the inheritor of what remains of the so-called “Republic of China,” but is really just the old, corrupt Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime returned to power. Now the Presidential Office and the Central Standing Committee of the KMT have launched, with great fanfare, a month-long series of activities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), by which they seek to bask in the reflected glory of the dead dictator.
Just as the Chiang centenary was getting underway, however, a scandal broke involving bribery in the military. At the same time, a gang of navy seamen made headlines when they were arrested for breaking into a woman’s home and brutally stabbing her to death. And as if that were not enough, a Hong Kong-based risk consultancy company issued a report on corruption in Asian countries, in which Taiwan was rated as more corrupt than China.
Government and the opposition, serving and retired politicians, have all seized on this embarrassing and sordid series of events to launch attacks on one another. Retired general Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村), who dominated Taiwan’s military for more than a decade while serving as chief of the general staff and minister of national defense under former presidents Chiang and Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), roundly condemned the present breakdown in military discipline, which he described as “unimaginable.”
Hau claimed that the era when Chiang was head of government was a glorious page in China’s history when the military was upright and free of corruption.
KMT Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) cast doubt on the government’s ability to deal with the problems.
“The Political Warfare Bureau was instituted to act like white blood cells, preventing corruption in the military, but now it is completely useless. What is the use of relying on this same bunch of people to investigate corruption now?” Lin said.
Ma, who has been president for almost a year, rushed to the front line, calling a press conference and reading out a pledge that his government would take steps to put the military’s house in order within three months by combating corruption in the military and between military officers and civilian officials.
Barely able to conceal his emotions, Ma said that Taiwan’s successful democratization was the pride of Chinese everywhere and that corruption must not be allowed to obscure this success. With regard to the recent spate of bad news, Ma said he was “pained and anxious.”
Who should really be “pained and anxious” in such circumstances?
Who but the Taiwanese public, who have once more come under the rule of the KMT, a rotten old party with a decades-old tradition of corruption in government on both sides of the Taiwan Strait?
If you don’t believe it, have a look through the pages of the KMT’s history, where the stains of corruption abound. Let us consider just one example.