At the end of World War II, 68 years ago, the government of the Republic of China (ROC) occupied Taiwan on the orders of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. Having taken over control of Taiwan, it ordered newspapers to stop referring to “what is commonly called Japanese rule” (日治) and call it “Japanese occupation” (日據) instead. This is why President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has used the phrase “Japanese occupation” since his childhood and why Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) memorized lessons incorporating the same phrase in his history textbooks at school. It also explains why we now hear a certain political scientist calling for the phrase “Japanese rule” in today’s textbooks to be changed back to “Japanese occupation.”
The first of these three people majored in international law, while the other two studied political science. They are all highly qualified intellectuals, but they are lacking in intellectual honesty. Ma fooled enough people to get voted into office, but even some members of his own Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) say he is incompetent and selfish. Now, he expects a single order to overturn the consensus that historians in Taiwan arrived at about using the term “Japanese rule.” It would be fair to say that although Ma lives in a glass house, he is keen on throwing stones.
When Ma and Jiang were schoolboys memorizing their lessons about the “Japanese occupation,” they must have also learned about the “Communist bandits seizing control of the mainland.” They can hardly have forgotten, either, about how KMT founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) decided to foment revolution because the Manchu ancestors of former KMT secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), had “occupied” China for more than two centuries.
In 1894, the Manchu-ruled Great Qing Empire got itself into a war with Japan over the issue of Korea, but, after suffering heavy defeats, it sued for peace the next year. The war ended with the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed by Chinese secretary of state Li Hongzhang (李鴻章), in which it was written down that “China cedes to Japan in perpetuity and full sovereignty” Taiwan and the Penghu islands. After the treaty was signed, Japan commenced its colonial rule over Taiwan and Penghu.
Taiwanese may be “common,” but the common term they use for this period — “Japanese rule” — is an honest one. Taiwanese historians grew up under the KMT’s brainwashing education system, but after Taiwan became a democracy they reached a consensus on using the term “Japanese rule.”
Ma, however, is more concerned with pleasing the Chinese government. He is willing to let political scientists who put ideology first overturn the consensus established by historians. From this, we can see that Ma is as devoted to brainwashing as the KMT was.
The procedure by which Japan gained possession of Taiwan and Penghu was in full compliance with international law, unlike the KMT, which occupied these territories on behalf of the Allies, but whose occupation was not confirmed by the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) wanted to use Taiwan’s democratization to turn the KMT and the ROC into Taiwanese institutions, but the Chinese government and pro-unification forces in Taiwan both labeled his efforts as maneuvers aimed at Taiwan independence.
Ma, in contrast, has a “one-China” consensus with the People’s Republic of China — the very regime that the KMT tells us “seized control” of the Chinese mainland. China says it wants to “take back” Taiwan, and the truth about Ma is that he would not mind letting China occupy Taiwan in the not-too-distant future.
James Wang is a political commentator.
Translated by Julian Clegg