On March 27, the Ministry of National Defense held a ceremony at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei to add the names of five officers who gave their lives in service to the nation.
One of the names added was that of major general Chao Chung-jung (趙仲容), who refused to surrender to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) forces and died a martyr, executed in 1951 aged 46.
Despite the significant changes that have taken place in Taiwanese politics, the ultimate sacrifice made by Chao is still worth reflecting on today.
Chao fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Chinese Civil War. During the latter, Chao suspected that general Fu Zuoyi (傅作義), then commander of the Republic of China (ROC) Army’s anti-communist group in northern China, was planning to defect to the communists.
Chao remained loyal to the ROC right to the very end and refused to betray the government to which he had sworn allegiance.
Given the tumultuous nature of the era, the fact that Chao stuck by his principles is remarkable and a demonstration of the highest values of military honor and service to the nation.
Chao’s only surviving daughter, Chao An-na (趙安娜), emigrated from China to the US in 1997, but through the assistance of former minister of national defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬), she was finally able to have her father’s name added to the Martyrs’ Shrine.
Alongside the nation’s other fallen heroes, he will now be remembered for generations to come.
Chao An-na extended her gratitude to the Presidential Office, defense ministry, the Legislative Yuan and Feng for their help, and said that the fact that this was achieved under a Democratic Progressive Party administration — and not a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government — made it feel as if history has played a trick on us all.
Today, it feels as if Taiwan — and the ROC — is on the cusp of another important generational shift. It is sad that Chao is not here today and so is unable to speak up for the nation that he gave his life to protect. Instead, there are those who loudly clamor that the “ROC must be defended,” but through their actions show that they are really only interested in burying the ROC.
This is especially true of Taiwan’s retired “turncoat” generals, whose only concern for the ROC seems to be that it continues to pay their fat pensions. The remainder of their energies are spent shuttling back and forth across the Taiwan Strait to sell out their compatriots by pushing for unification with China.
The continued survival of the ROC appears to be of little concern to these traitors.
There is the notorious remark made by retired air force general Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲), who told a gathering of retired military officers in China that the ROC Army and the People’s Liberation Army are “Chinese armies.” Then there is the case of retired general Hsu Li-nung (許歷農), who last year announced that he no longer opposes the CCP and will push for unification across the Strait.
These two, and other generals like them, have ungratefully bitten the hand that feeds them and possess nothing of Chao’s outstanding qualities. It seems there is nothing left of the old ROC military’s so-called “Whampoa spirit.”
Despite Chou’s daughter having left China two decades ago, she wanted her father to be included in the ROC’s Martyrs’ Shrine. Those of all political persuasions — blue, green, pro-independence or pro-unification — should feel moved by her identification with and emotional bond to the ROC.
As for members of the pan-blue camp and advocates of unification with China, they should recognize that Taiwan is the final piece of territory held by the ROC — any retreat from Taiwan spells the end of the ROC.
They should also understand that the inevitable endpoint of the so-called “1992 consensus” and the “one China” principle is the death of the ROC, and that if the ROC disappears, the Martyrs’ Shrine in Taipei would disappear with it.
On the other hand, pan-green camp supporters and advocates of independence need to open their eyes to the international and cross-strait situation, and think pragmatically about how Taiwan can continue to uphold its sovereign status.
Taiwan has certainly received assistance from the US in the form of the Taiwan Relations Act and more recently the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which contains a provision for military exchange visits with Taiwan, including the US Navy making port calls at Kaohsiung or other Taiwanese ports.
The US Taiwan Travel Act has gone one step further, encouraging unlimited visits between Taiwan and the US, including high-ranking officials.
However, the US maintains a strategic ambiguity over Taiwan’s sovereignty and it is far from certain that the US is in tune with the shift in Taiwanese mainstream opinion.
An objective analysis of the facts of Taiwan’s diplomatic situation leads to but one conclusion: that China, acting in concert with the wider international community, effectively stifles both Taiwan and the ROC on the international stage.
Of course Taiwan should aim to become a regular nation, but while China and the international community persist in stifling it, does it make sense to continue directing Taiwanese energies outward and repeatedly charging into a brick wall? Or should Taiwanese instead look inward and work to unite the nation?
Although President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) does not need to pay heed to Beijing’s “one China” blackmail, she does need to find a way to overcome divisions in Taiwanese society and arrive at a consensus that the majority of the population can unite around. This requires political vision, careful thought and long-term planning, and cannot be achieved during one term of office.
A shared community of 23.5 million Taiwanese, the nation’s dreams and realities, and many years of political experience tell us that the majority of Taiwanese make decisions based upon dynamic developments.
Politicians on both sides of the political divide must be pragmatic, face up to what the majority of the electorate wants and establish a grand plan that seeks common ground and respects differences.
If Taiwan is unable to create a national identity that surpasses its domestic divisions, a “Taiwan-centric ROC” would at least be an improvement on the current “China-centric ROC.”
The unspoken meaning behind the Tsai administration’s policy of “maintaining the ‘status quo’” is just that.
The difficulty for this administration is that a pincer attack of internal revolt and foreign aggression has sowed discord in society.
Ironically, after the nation’s democratization, fewer people are willing to take up the fight to defend it.
Defenders of the ROC are becoming fewer in number because they are investing their futures in China.
On the other hand, the Taiwan-centered political movement, although originally hostile toward the ROC — which it viewed as a foreign-imposed party state — is taking an increasingly rational approach toward the international and domestic situation and has therefore become a supporter of the “status quo” — a Taiwan-centric ROC.
Which path should Taiwan follow in order to become a regular nation?
Perhaps the US and its allies recognize that Taiwan is a sovereign and independent nation, but are not yet ready to accept a Taiwan-centric ROC, renamed as simply “Taiwan.”
Faced with a formidable enemy on its doorstep, such a transitional movement based on “realpolitik” might provide an opportunity for politicians to come together to find a solution and a sustainable path forward for the nation.
Translated by Edward Jones
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