The Cairo Declaration, a Chinese war movie produced by a company said to have ties with China’s military and scheduled to hit cinemas in China on Sept. 3, or Victory over Japan Day, has sparked controversy over a promotional poster featuring Mao Zedong (毛澤東) — who had no role at all in the 1943 Cairo conference. Academia Historica Director Lu Fang-shang (呂芳上) waded into the debate by calling the poster “ridiculous.”
However, Lu’s credentials for making pronouncements on historical accuracy are questionable.
Judging from the trailer, it looks as if the film has not stretched historical accuracy enough to actually place Mao at the summit, and spokespeople for the production company have reportedly said that China’s attendance at the Cairo conference was made possible by the sacrifice of the whole “Chinese nation,” of which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), led by Mao at the time, was a crucial part.
Lu’s utter dismissal of a Mao-centered interpretation of the history of the Cairo conference is understandable, as even Chinese netizens have ridiculed the film’s portrayal of Mao, saying that history has been distorted and the movie is a disgrace to his memory.
If, as those concerned with making the film have said, Mao is portrayed not actually sitting in the conference room, but simply as a war hero who contributed to the defeat of the Japanese and thereby the need for the summit, it could be argued that the movie interprets the truth rather than falsifying events. However, Lu has sought to dismiss the contributions of the CCP toward the defeat of Japan.
According to a media report, he said that while the CCP believes it was the “mainstay” of the resistance against Japan, “historical facts are based on evidence, and any open and democratic society would be able to expose these types of lies, so there is no need to give any attention to this shallow performance.”
It is widely believed in Taiwan, with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime having touted it via history textbooks for decades, that the CCP used “10 percent of its force for resisting the Japanese Army, 20 percent against the KMT and 70 percent for developing its own power,” a fact said to be supported by historical evidence.
Lu, a specialist in the history of the Republic of China, said it is important to have “a focus on academic language rather than political language” to return to “true history.”
However, the statement appears to contradict the views of Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華), who has said he believes that history — and Taiwan’s history textbooks, for that matter — are not about the presentation of facts which are “right or wrong,” but about “perspectives,” a viewpoint he expressed repeatedly when addressing high-school students protesting adjustments to curriculum guidelines.
Some of the nation’s netizens have mocked Lu’s slight on China’s interpretation of history, citing Wu’s argument, and asking why Lu cannot tolerate diversity when encountering “differing historical perspectives.”
It has been revealed that Lu was a member of the task force responsible for the “minor adjustments” made to the curriculum guidelines. However, he was absent the 12 times the team met to discuss the adjustments. It is suspicious that Lu was unwilling to endorse the changes, but at the same time reluctant to publicly voice any objections to them.
One could ask whether historical truth only becomes important to some in Taiwan when it involves the interpretation of modern Chinese history, over which China and Taiwan fight to gain prominence.
Resorting to relativistic sophistry whenever it is convenient for the KMT would, ironically, hurt the professionalism and legitimacy of its bid to rewrite history — a struggle it is desperate to win.
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