The lead-up to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II is shaping up to be incendiary — here in Taiwan as well as in Beijing and Moscow.
China has announced plans to hold a military parade, most likely in early September, to mark the anniversary of the defeat of Japan in 1945, along with a reception and evening gala to be hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Russia is to hold its annual Victory Day parade on May 9, amid reports that Moscow and Beijing are planning some joint commemoration events.
The Executive Yuan has announced a series of 16 events to be held from July through Oct. 25 to mark the Republic of China’s (ROC) victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the retrocession of Taiwan, with the Ministry of National Defense saying on Monday that it would hold its first military parade to mark the anniversary at a base in Hsinchu in July.
All three hosts are inviting people and organizations from around the world. However, not all are being well-received. Geopolitical tensions have already led to British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel declining Moscow’s invitation because of tensions over the Ukraine crisis, while leaders in France, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are also staying away.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman Fan Liqing’s (范麗青) invitation for Taiwan to join its celebrations said that the victory had been one for “the entire nation,” and that Beijing hoped that “people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can always remember history … and rally together through war victory activities.”
However, the Mainland Affairs Council on Wednesday declined Fan’s invitation. The council said it was inappropriate for government officials to take part in memorial events and a military parade hosted by China, adding that there were regulations regarding visits to China by retired government officials and civil servants, and that private citizens “should take into consideration how society might perceive” their taking part in such events.
It sounded like the council has not forgotten the embarrassment caused by former premier and defense minister Hau Pei-tsun’s (郝柏村) visit when he marked the 77th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in China last year by singing the Chinese national anthem — not to mention visits by other retired senior military personnel in recent years.
However, some of Taiwan’s planning sounds like it is driven more by cross-strait rivalry. Government officials have expressed concern that China’s celebrations would downplay the role of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and troops in defeating Japan. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said little attention has been paid by the international community to the ROC’s contribution to ending World War II, while Executive Yuan spokesperson Sun Lih-chyun (孫立群) said the nation could not allow China to change or wipe out history, and that the events held in Taiwan would emphasize historical accuracy.
History is something that both the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party know something about, since they both excel at covering it up and rewriting it. However, neither seems to learn much from it.
Meanwhile, many Taiwanese want to know what commemorating the fighting in China, and arguing over who did what, has to do with them. In the push to ensure that the KMT army gets credit for its actions in China between 1937 and 1945, the government is forgetting that many Taiwanese were drafted or enlisted in the Imperial Japanese Army and died fighting for the Japanese empire.