Who knew that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Britney Spears had so much in common? The same “Oops! I did it again” refrain that propelled Britney’s career into the stratosphere — and later became a haunting echo to her public meltdown — appears to be the Ma administration and KMT’s mantra as they rely on PR-machine smoke and mirrors to cover up their inability to learn from their mistakes.
What else are we to think when just five months after the Ministry of National Defense was roundly criticized for publishing a comic book about the Republic of China’s (ROC) military history that omitted the contributions of former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), yet found space for Ma, the Government Information Office (GIO) has done almost exactly the same thing with its new book for the ROC’s centennial, 100 Years of Splendor.
The book sings the praises of dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — and of course, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) — but barely mentions Lee or Chen.
Lee gets a few paragraphs in a two-page article on the implementation of direct presidential elections, while Chen is mentioned in an article about the transfer of power to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000 and the KMT’s return to power in 2008.
The GIO has trumpeted that the 170 topics covered in the book were chosen by an independent four-person panel from 20,000 suggestions. The director of its Department of Compilation and Translation said the book “gives a plain statement of facts and does not pass judgement on the heads of state.”
However, 100 Years of Splendor has done exactly that by giving such short shrift to Lee and Chen. It is hard not to interpret the lack of coverage of the pair to anything but KMT enmity. After all, Chiang Ching-kuo was elected president by the now-defunct National Assembly on May 20, 1978, and died in office on Jan. 13, 1988, which means he was president for just more than nine-and-a-half years, while Lee, who succeeded him, served for 12 years and was the nation’s first directly elected president. Chen, the first opposition politician to be elected president, served for eight years.
100 Years of Splendor hails the younger Chiang as the “No. 1 civil servant of the ROC,” but honestly, would he have been given the posts as head of the secret police from 1950 to 1965 (which under his leadership committed the worst abuses of the White Terror era), and then successively defense minister, vice premier and premier, if his daddy had not been the leader of the country?
It’s not just these two books that ignore history; almost everything marked as commemorating the ROC’s centennial has seen the same kind of whitewash. The “Eye of the Times: Centennial Images of Taiwan” exhibit at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum has no photographs from the 228 Incident, the Kaohsiung Incident or any of the street protests of the 1980s that helped pave the way for democratization. It is hard not to interpret the selection of photos, like the books, as anything but a triumph of ideology over truth.
History is like a mirror, Ma said this year at the national memorial service commemorating the 228 Incident at Taipei’s 228 Peace Park. However, it would appear the only mirror that Ma and the KMT can look at is the one they have created themselves that is as distorted as any in a carnival funhouse.
At the same ceremony, Ma said that the people must use democracy to keep the government in check so it will not be corrupt and make the same mistakes again. Those are words voters would be wise to remember when they go to the polls in January.
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