President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has taken a personal interest in the history textbooks of Taiwan’s high schools. Apparently, the historical legacy he leaves during his second term is to be concerned not with improving the lives of Taiwanese, but in seeing his own ideology written into school textbooks.
To makes matters worse, he is using the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution as an excuse, reportedly saying the textbooks were not written “in accordance with the ROC Constitution.”
If Taiwanese are not aware of the following facts, the problems caused by Ma’s interventions may haunt us for years to come, and may even jeopardize the democracy we currently enjoy: The ROC Constitution is little more than a tool the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) uses to rule the country, characteristic of a foreign colonial power.
The emergence of the ROC Constitution has nothing to do with Taiwanese history. This is common knowledge. At the time, Taiwan was a colony of Japan. The ROC Constitution reflected the political situation in China, although several clauses have been altered since. However, even before it was implemented, China fell into civil war and was regarded differently by different leaders. Finally, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) brought the Constitution over to Taiwan, mothballing it during the Martial Law era.
However, having kept it locked away for so long, the KMT were quite happy to resurrect it when Taiwan became a democracy, using it as a tool to suppress political dissent. This was a lesson in the application of soft power that Ma learned from his former boss, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).
Regardless of whether Ma is interfering with textbooks, forcing high school pupils to study the Four Books and Five Classics, or branding his political opponents’ ideas unconstitutional, we are constantly reminded of how the Constitution is being abused. We also saw this ideological nonsense during the last presidential election campaign, best understood as underpinning a pincer movement by the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in their efforts to realize unification.
In democratic nations, the constitution acts as a charter representing the terms by which the populace seek to live and providing the framework to facilitate this. It also represents hope of a better future. However, this is not true in the case of the ROC Constitution — forced upon Taiwanese by a foreign power. The KMT maintains that Taiwan’s future is not in Taiwan itself, but in China. Neither do Taiwanese own their past, for this has also been commandeered, again by the KMT, happy to rewrite it to reflect its own ideology and politics. This is characteristic of colonialism: The colonized are denied a future of their own and Taiwanese, like many colonized peoples, have been fooled, through a mixture of temptation, intimidation and brainwashing into taking on the historical perspective of their colonial masters.
The KMT has no respect for the ROC Constitution. Content to cherry-pick clauses that can be used to attack its political foes or suppress the populace, it discards those clauses that counter the party’s interests. The KMT does not countenance others using the document to support the public interest. Now, Ma wants to interfere with the content of school textbooks, saying they should comply with the Constitution, regardless of historical facts or indeed the principles of education. He ignores all this in the interests of reinstating party-state ideology in Taiwan. Until Taiwanese wake up to how the Constitution is being used and abused about how it has been introduced from outside and how the KMT is using it to govern the land it has colonized, the KMT will continue to use it as a revisionist tool.
Chu Ping-tzu is an associate professor of Chinese literature at National Tsing Hua University.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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