In order to generate the right atmosphere for the Republic of China’s (ROC) centennial, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in conjunction with different media outlets, has produced a number of television programs to highlight the historical ties between the founding fathers of the ROC, such as Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) and Taiwan. However, these programs are little more than a crude attempt to cover up the fact that a foreign regime rules the nation and they seriously distort Sun’s original intention in supporting the independence of small and weak Asian nations.
By the late 19th century, Taiwan and Vietnam were imperial colonies, and the Qing Dynasty (later the ROC) had basically been demoted to “semi-colonial status” by invading foreign powers. Bullied by the same imperialist powers, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese patriots were sometimes in contact and even joined each another’s organizations in order to exchange opinions on how to save their nations.
In 1904, the Vietnamese revolutionary leader Phan Boi Chau established a secret society named the Reformation Society, which advocated overturning French colonialism by violent means in order to build a new Vietnam based on a constitutional monarchy. At the time, Japan had gained the upper hand in its war with Russia and the international situation made Phan believe that Japan, which had emerged stronger after the Meiji Restoration, could serve as a model for Vietnam. In 1905, he visited Japan for the first time to learn the secret of this great success.
It was during this visit that Phan met Liang Qichao (梁啟超), a Chinese intellectual who lived in Japan, and Sun, who was visiting. Sun criticized Phan’s belief in constitutional monarchy as being too conservative, saying that a democratic republic would be better.
Sun suggested that small and weak Asian nations should cooperate to help each other achieve independence. He also suggested that Phan encourage the Vietnamese to join the Chinese revolution, pledging to help Vietnam transform into an independent state once the Chinese revolution had succeeded.
Phan, however, suggested that Sun assist Vietnam to achieve its independence first, so that Chinese revolutionaries could then use Vietnam as a base in their fight against the Qing Dynasty.
In order to link small and weak Asian colonies, Sun made trips to Taiwan and Vietnam. The founding father of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, also visited China on several occasions seeking help. The ROC government even considered Ho a spy for the Chinese Communist Party and imprisoned him for about a year in Guangxi Province. However, he was not the only Vietnamese to play an active role in the Chinese revolution, with the long-term goal of later leveraging China’s strength to secure Vietnamese independence.
Some media outlets have intentionally exaggerated the participation of Taiwanese, such as Weng Chun-ming (翁俊明) and Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), in the Taiwanese chapter of the Tongmenghui, the precursor of the KMT, in an attempt to create the impression that a meaninfgul number of Taiwanese at that time leaned toward China.
However, the true significance of Taiwanese participation in the Chinese revolution should be seen in terms of how the long-term goal of such individuals was Taiwanese independence, not unification with China.
Chiung Wi-vun is chairman of the Taiwan-Vietnam Cultural Association and an associate professor in the Department of Taiwanese Literature at National Cheng Kung University.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
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