The debate over who led the Chinese War of Resistance Against Japan during World War II is hardly meaningful for Taiwanese and will only get them caught in the trap of defending the legitimacy of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Should Taiwanese really endorse the KMT’s historic perspective? The answer is obvious.
In a historical context, the Republic of China (ROC), the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and even the ancient Qing (清), Song (宋), Tang (唐) and Han (漢) dynasties all directly belong to a Chinese historical lineage.
As far as the Chinese are concerned, the ROC is a government or dynasty that has already perished and became history and the PRC became the Chinese government when it inherited the Chinese legacy in 1949.
So, from this perspective, it is perfectly reasonable for the PRC, which currently represents China, to commemorate the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208, the first campaign in the Tang war against the ancient Korean state of Goguryeo in 666; Zheng He’s (鄭和) first voyage of exploration in 1405; or the end of World War II in 1945, as all these events are parts of Chinese history.
On the other hand, it makes little sense for Taiwan to fight with China over who led the War of Resistance Against Japan or who gets to have a say about it.
Taiwanese need to ask why the they are still looking at the world from the KMT’s historical perspective and why they are still defining Taiwan’s international position from the KMT’s point of view. They must completely free themselves from the historic perspective of China and the KMT.
Instead, they should re-examine the past and commemorate events that are significant to Taiwan, such as Lin Shuang-wen’s (林爽文) revolt against the Qing Dynasty in 1786, the establishment of the Republic of Formosa in 1895, the Wushe Incident (霧社事件) in 1930, the raid over Taipei by US bombers in 1945, the 228 Incident in 1947 and so on. These are significant events that Taiwanese should remember and commemorate.
Consider a hypothetical scenario: In 1930, when Taiwan was still a part of the Japanese empire, civil war erupted in Japan and Japanese communists took over the Japanese home islands, declared the establishment of the “People’s Republic of Japan,” earned the recognition of a large number of countries around the world and joined the League of Nations. The government of the overthrown Japanese empire fled to Taiwan, claimed that it was the legitimate government of Japan and fought with the People’s Republic of Japan over the right to represent Japan. In such a situation, which government would have the right to represent Japan? If the same model is applied to the situation of the PRC and the ROC, the answer becomes obvious.
Why, then, should Taiwanese take on the historic construct of the defeated KMT regime that fled to Taiwan?
Taiwanese should follow their own path, construct our their historic point of view, face their own history, have confidence in themselves as a nation, thoroughly rid themselves of leftover ideologies from the Chinese Civil War that the KMT brought with it and free themselves from brainwashing.
This is the only way for the nation to be reborn.
Lim Kuan-tsi is a student at the Graduate Institute of National Development in National Taiwan University
Translated by Ethan Zhan