The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are working together again and this time it seems that they’re competing to see which is the most Chinese. Neither side is beyond stooping to historical revisionism, instigating fights with neighboring countries or brainwashing their people in pursuit of this goal. It’s a tit-for-tat war of words and deeds that will soon have both sides claiming to be the sole inventor of the printing press, gunpowder and the compass.
Launching this most recent round of vitriol was an editorial by CCP mouthpiece the People’s Daily claiming that the CCP was the true slayer of the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II and that the upstart KMT did little in the fight to save the motherland. The KMT’s own President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) responded on Soldier’s Day by saying that no, it was actually the KMT who defeated the Japanese. He went on to say: “The public must not forget about this period, nor should we allow the history to be altered or distorted,” without at all seeing the irony in what he was saying. It doesn’t take two semesters of world history to know that a substantial portion of the Chinese world would be speaking Japanese now if it weren’t for the bombs rained down on Japan by US planes. Neither the KMT nor the CCP took back Taiwan or any part of the mainland — they were handed over to them by the US.
This united historical revisionism doesn’t just stop at vilifying the Japanese. The KMT is now following in the CCP’s footsteps by rewriting history books as well. On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education unveiled its new pet project to brainwash the youth of Taiwan, namely a revised history curriculum that doubles the amount of Chinese history taught at the expense of both local and world history. It makes one wonder how the edited history textbooks will approach World War II. Will the US even play a role in the text, or will it be a unified Chinese nation that whipped that cur, the Japanese?
The CCP and the KMT aren’t going to simply stop there. Now they’re riling up a fresh dispute with Japan over some extremely important rocks in the East China Sea, saying that it’s a simple matter of fishermen’s rights. After all, doesn’t the united Chinese nation have a claim to any and all territory near its borders, or where any person with a trace of Chinese descent once lived? Ignore the fact that the Ryukyu Islands are part of a contiguous chain that has long been inhabited by Japanese and that they have been used in the past by the US to mount attacks on the Japanese mainland, or that they could be used now to deny US Navy access to eastern Taiwan, and you might wonder what the big fuss is about. The KMT usually claims that it’s just about fish and sovereignty, but it’s obvious that the reasons for sending coast guard vessels to eyeball the Japanese go a lot deeper than that, especially coming so soon after a similar Chinese standoff.
What all this appears to constitute is the dawn of a Third United Front between the erstwhile enemy parties. The First United Front from 1924 to 1927 saw the CCP and KMT working together to end the era of warlordism in China, while in the Second United Front they just agreed to quit shooting openly at each other to fight the invading Japanese instead. In this third, unwritten united front, the goals of the CCP and KMT are unification and regional hegemony. They’ve already gone a long way down the unification road with the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) — and more agreements are sure to follow — and now we are seeing a hint as to the direction these parties will take to gain regional hegemony.
However, KMT leaders should read their history books well, because neither of the first two united fronts worked out in the end, especially with both sides trying to out-Chinese each other and rule the nation they believe is theirs alone.