Even though 70 years have elapsed since the events of the 228 Incident, every year, on the anniversary of the massacre, Taiwan descends into a kind of collective anxiety. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) was the first leader to apologize, setting up memorials and allocating compensation, and presidents Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have followed suit, marking the anniversary with speeches expressing their regret over what happened.
Unfortunately, this has done little to dispel the enmity. Tensions are proving to be so persistent because everyone has their own version of events. This year, even the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commemorated the Incident, demonstrating that it has its own version, too.
Everyone having their own version has made it difficult to establish the facts or apportion responsibility. On Sunday, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced that all archived documents related to the Incident have been declassified. This is a good first step, giving everyone access to historical documents in order to get at the facts of what happened all those years ago. Of course, nothing will change overnight, but at least it gives hope that a version of the truth that everyone can accept will be established.
The roles played by then-Taiwan governor-general Chen Yi (陳儀), Kaohsiung Fortress commander Peng Meng-chi (彭孟緝) and Taiwan Garrison Command secret police chief of staff Ko Yuan-fen (柯遠芬) are well-known. The controversy surrounds the role former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) played.
In recent years the public has been given access to Chiang’s diaries and these have brought some new clues to light. There are not many entries in these diaries related to the 228 Incident, suggesting that it simply was not a priority for Chiang at the time. However, they do tell us what considerations were guiding his strategy.
The entry for Feb. 28, the day after the incident flared, read: “In the absence of a national army, with the government left without a military force, the Taiwanese protesters started rioting throughout the island in what was a completely unforeseen incident.”
On March 3, Chiang wrote: “The Taiwanese have risen in protest about a matter involving a cigarette vendor and have taken to killing our compatriots throughout the province of Taiwan, and the area of rioting is gradually increasing. The removal of the armed forces from the island has to be the only major reason for this.”
It is quite clear that Chiang was aware of the flare-up of tensions right from the beginning and that it was his opinion that an insufficient military presence was the cause.
Even though Chiang was dissatisfied with Chen Yi’s poor governance, his failure to report the situation and, indeed, to try to pretend all was peaceful, when Chen on March 2 sent a telegram asking for troops, Chiang answered three days later: “Do not worry, a regiment of infantry has been dispatched, together with military police who should be in transit on the seventh of this month.”
The entry for March 7 says: “The Taiwanese have long been enslaved by the Japanese foe and have forgotten who their motherland is. They fear only power and do not know how to cherish virtue.”
Then, after the uprising was brutally suppressed, his entry for the 15th reads: “The incident on Taiwan, following the arrival of the army, has already ended, but the root cause has yet to be solved. It is thus abundantly clear that military force will be needed to maintain peace in the province.”
Chiang believed in military might. He believed that the people needed to be shocked and awed.
On March 10, Chiang laid the blame at the feet of the CCP, deflecting the blame from Chen Yi’s poor governance. As the highest authority in the nation, for protecting Chen Yi and putting his trust in military might, Chiang must take some responsibility for the massacre.
As a person raised in a family that revered the teachings of Confucius (孔子) and Mencius (孟子), I believe that both sages would agree with Hong Kong students that people-based politics is the only legitimate way to govern China, including Hong Kong. More than two millennia ago, Confucius insisted that a leader’s first loyalty is to his people — they are water to the leader’s ship. Confucius said that the water could let the ship float only if it sailed in accordance with the will of the water. If the ship sailed against the will of the water, the ship would sink. Two
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just dropped the other shoe in the White House’s multidimensional response to the hydra-headed existential challenge from communist China. Yet his sweeping address at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum on Thursday was the most powerful yet — a virtual declaration of a new cold war and a call for global delegitimization of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) rule through what amounts to regime change. Although he did not explicitly mention either a cold war or regime change — terms that send shudders through the foreign policy establishment — Pompeo made it clear that
The US Navy’s aircraft carrier battle groups are the most dramatic symbol of Washington’s military and geopolitical power. They were critical to winning World War II in the Pacific and have since been deployed in the Indo-Pacific region to communicate resolve against potential adversaries of the US. The presence or absence of the US Seventh Fleet — the configuration of US Navy ships and aircraft in the Indo-Pacific region built around the carriers — generally determines whether war or peace prevails in the region. In the immediate post-war period, Washington’s strategic planners in the administration of then-US president Harry Truman shockingly
This year, India and Taiwan can look back on 25 years of so-called unofficial ties. This provides an occasion to ponder over how they can deepen collaboration and strengthen their relations. This reflection must be free from excitement and agitation caused by the ongoing China-US great power jostling as well as China’s aggressive actions against many of its neighbors, including India. It must be based on long-term trends in bilateral engagement. To begin with, India and Taiwan, thus far, have had relations constituted by various activities, but what needs to be thought about now is whether they can transform their ties