The Liberty Times Editorial: Stop fabricating Taiwan’s history

Fri, Jan 07, 2011 - Page 8

AN inaugural speech tells us the most about a president’s policy ideals and attitude. A New Year speech is merely a ceremonial form of greeting and the vast majority are usually written in flashy language while being devoid of meaning.

However, this year’s New Year speech delivered by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was significant for a different reason. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China (ROC), and because of a culture that attaches great significance to numbers, our leaders are spending lots of time and money organizing celebrations.

As a result, this New Year’s speech revealed more about Ma’s thoughts than similar speeches in the past. By looking at the speech in a bit more detail, the public can gain a better understanding of where the government wants to take the nation. Now that the partying is over and we have welcomed in the New Year, it is important to analyze what Ma said in his speech because this provides us with a glimpse of what the government plans to do.

First, while Ma’s New Year speech did contain a few references to Taiwan’s history, like Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) and how he emphasized the need for, and power of, unity among Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial era, such references were liberally interspersed with a great deal of Greater China ideology.

Thus, the first of Ma’s wishes for the next 100 years was that Taiwan would become a leader in Chinese culture.

Second, Ma said that in the next 100 years, he wants the ROC to become the standard by which democracy is measured in the Chinese world.

However, in the 400 years of Taiwan’s history, the ROC has existed on Taiwan for 66 years, only 16 years longer than Japan spent ruling Taiwan. Why doesn’t Ma focus on improving Taiwan’s culture and democratic values so we can become a world leader in culture and democracy?

Why does he want to limit Taiwan to being a model for China only?

Almost nothing good that Taiwan has learned through its history has had anything to do with Chinese culture. For example, during the Japanese era, while Taiwan served as a stepping stone for Japan to further attack and invade Southeast Asia, this was also the time when the modernization of Taiwan started. This launched a process including things like the planning and building of infrastructure, the improvement of education and public health, the promotion of the rule of law and the introduction of modern thought.

These are all things that China, which at the time was wrecked by war, could never have even come close to equaling.

Although Taiwan’s democratization and the cultural innovation that followed did occur under the ROC government, these developments were essentially based on Western democratic thought.

Not only did Chinese culture not bring anything positive, traditional ideas derived from Chinese culture, such as the power of family ties and loyalty to the monarch, were used by the two late dictators, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), as the moral pillars on which they built their authoritarian rule over Taiwan.

In other words, Taiwan would do well to keep a respectful distance from Chinese culture if it wants to become a democratically and culturally advanced nation. If Taiwan cannot extract itself from Chinese culture, it will weigh down democracy, freedom and human rights and current achievements will be rolled back.

However, Ma’s entire New Year’s speech was aimed at linking Taiwan’s history to that of China and attributing Taiwan’s success to the ideals of the late ROC founding father Sun Yat-sen (孫中山).

The ROC was created when Sun led a revolution against the Qing Dynasty. That is a fact.

However, of the things Taiwan has achieved over the years, none of them happened as a result of putting Sun’s ideals into action, but rather because countless members of Taiwan’s pro-localization groups stood in opposition to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), a foreign regime, even in the face of the White Terror. This is why we enjoy the freedom and democracy we have today. These are Taiwan’s achievements as a democratic, advanced society and they have nothing to do with Sun’s ideals or Chinese history.

Worse still, although China’s recent history, one of war, famine and despair, is worthy of our sympathy, none of those incidents have anything to do with Taiwan.

Ma said he feels deeply moved by the Eight Hundred Heroes who took part in the Defense of Sihang Warehouse (四行倉庫八百守軍) in China in 1937, but for the people of Taiwan, that is really just another piece of some other country’s military history and is about as relevant to Taiwan as the 300 Spartans who fought the Battle of Thermopylae against the Persian Empire. Would Taiwanese who know this piece of history suddenly identify with Greece and propose that Taiwan is part of Greece? What’s more, Taiwanese are very clear about how Ma treats the ROC flag in front of Chinese people, and a few “moving” words in his New Year’s speech will do nothing to fool them.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) hit the nail right on the head when she criticized Ma’s speech, saying that the largest single difference between the KMT and DPP is that the KMT believes there can be no Taiwan without the ROC, while the DPP believes that there can be no ROC without Taiwan.

Put simply, the KMT worships “authority and rulers,” while the DPP believes in “the land and the people,” and that involves placing Taiwan first and supporting the majority of the people. Because the KMT worships authority and rulers, they cannot appreciate the importance of Taiwan’s success in terms of democracy and freedom. The KMT knows only how to carry out deification campaigns, whether for the two Chiangs or Chinese culture.

To demand that Taiwanese remember and respect the two Chiangs is really tantamount to treating the people of Taiwan like fools. Taiwan’s pro-localization camp believes the land and the people are the true masters of Taiwan’s history and that the future must be decided by the 23 million Taiwanese rather than some foreign regime or culture. They also believe Taiwan’s future cannot be based on the so-called “1992 consensus,” which was invented by the KMT and is purely fictional in nature.

In conclusion, Ma’s New Year speech to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ROC did not paint a bright future for Taiwan. All it did was repeat a bunch of fancy sounding slogans, like the talk of a “golden decade” (黃金十年計畫), 100 years of peace, a century of justice and fairness and the like, in an attempt to shift public attention away from the fact Ma has not delivered on his election promises.

What is even worse is that Ma is clearly set on using the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the ROC to try and link Taiwan even closer to China. This approach will lead us down a road of no return, and it is imperative that the public sees through the plot hidden behind the fancy words in Ma’s speech, before it is too late.