Statues of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) dotting school campuses and public spaces nationwide are the subject of fierce debate at this time of year — the anniversary of the 228 Incident — and increasingly so in the past five years.
On Wednesday, National Sun Yat-sen University announced it was establishing a committee to determine the fate of a Chiang statue on its campus. The university is using the opportunity to get students, faculty and alumni talking about the issue.
On Tuesday, the Tainan City Government removed a statue of Chiang from a roundabout, the third such removal in the city this month.
Last month, National Chengchi University passed a motion calling for its statues of Chiang to be removed as part of efforts to promote human rights and transitional justice.
These are not isolated incidents. Two years ago, the Tainan City Government removed statues from 14 elementary and junior-high schools as part of a concerted effort to rid the city of symbols of dictatorship.
The Cihu Memorial Sculpture Garden, adjacent to Chiang’s mausoleum in Taoyuan’s Dasi District (大溪), where many of the statues and busts of the former president removed from schools, parks and other places have been discarded since 2000, is getting pretty crowded. There are already more than 200 orphaned statues there.
There is plenty of debate surrounding whether these statues should be removed. Does it constitute historical vandalism, a whitewashing of Taiwan’s past? What purpose do these statues serve? They are memorials to a late dictator.
All memorials are political spectacles. It is one thing to have these statues at Chiang’s mausoleum or premises specifically to commemorate him. However, placed in schools, the statues legitimize Chiang and condone his actions. In parks and other public spaces, it enforces a sense of shared narrative.
Over the past few years, more young people have rallied against this narrative, in many cases when marking the 228 Incident anniversary.
Last year the dictator’s statues were defaced in numerous locations, including Yilan, where someone wrote “Taiwan’s Hitler.”
When a nation’s schools and public spaces are dominated by images of mostly one person, specifically a national leader, it starts to look suspiciously like the trappings of a personality cult, a symbol intentionally employed to legitimize a regime. When that leader came from outside and headed a foreign regime, it looks like a symbol of colonialism.
When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) first came to Taiwan, having statues and busts of its leader erected at schools and in public spaces served a definitive purpose. This same need led Chiang to order the 228 Massacre. That is why it is unconscionable that the KMT opposes efforts to have those same statues removed.
The government is attempting to bring about transitional justice. It is seeking the truth, holding those responsible for wrongdoing to account and introducing a more desirable social reality, allowing people to move on.
This is an opportunity. Local governments can remove the statues of a dictator, symbolic of a cruel and unjust past under a foreign regime, and replace them with meaningful celebrations of individuals or events that have made real, positive contributions to Taiwan. Better still, recast these symbols from the melted-down bronze or steel of the dictator’s statues. What more fitting symbol of transitional justice could there be?
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
To say that this year has been eventful for China and the rest of the world would be something of an understatement. First, the US-China trade dispute, already simmering for two years, reached a boiling point as Washington tightened the noose around China’s economy. Second, China unleashed the COVID-19 pandemic on the world, wreaking havoc on an unimaginable scale and turning the People’s Republic of China into a common target of international scorn. Faced with a mounting crisis at home, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) rashly decided to ratchet up military tensions with neighboring countries in a misguided attempt to divert the
Astride an ascended economy and military, with global influence nearing biblical proportions, Xi Jinping (習近平) — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China — is faithfully heralded, in deeds and imagery, as a benevolent lord, determined to “build a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Rather than leading humanity to this Shangri-La through inspirational virtue a la Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, the CCP prefers a micromanagement doctrine of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guiding light. A doctrine of Marxist orthodoxy transplanted under a canvas