Chiang Kai-shek (
We shake our collective heads, or recoil in horror, when we hear young Palestinians, young Iraqis, Afghans, Serbs or Chinese tell the camera that Osama bin Laden, the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic or Chinese leader Mao Zedong (毛澤東) were, in similar terms, the saviors of their people.
Aside from the telling fact that it is not altogether outlandish to name Chiang alongside such enlightened murderers, the characterization -- by children born long after his death -- of the generalissimo as any kind of savior reveals that some elements within our society are still passing along a revisionist version of history.
If, as outsiders, we have the clarity of vision, or the advantage of emotional distance, that allows us to pass judgment on youth who see bin Laden and his ilk as saviors, then surely admirers of Chiang cannot be exempt from similar criticism.
And yet, to this day, many are those who refuse to throw Chiang into the pit alongside the multifarious tyrants that pepper the long, sad history of man's inhumanity to man. Instead, as do some misguided parents and teachers in far-away lands, they pour the poison in their children's ears and thereby perpetuate falsehoods out of which no good can come.
While it would be invidious to even conceive of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) trading his jogging shorts for the generalissimo's ever-pristine martial costume, or to imagine that he could make recourse to the same dictatorial methods as his predecessor, his failure -- and that of his party -- to completely break ties with the past and decry the crimes for what they were belies a continuation of a mindset of oppression, the epitome of which is the teaching of youngsters that Chiang was, and remains, a hero.
If, heaven forbid, Chiang were still alive today, Taiwan would be an entirely different place. In this alternate universe, the generalissimo would conceivably still be at war with China, as a result of which the powers in Beijing would likely be more repressive and more bellicose than Chinese President Hu Jintao (
In fact, it is not too far-fetched to imagine that, with Chiang still in power today, Taiwan and China would by now have come to blows and the 1,000 missiles pointed at Taiwan as you read this would appear like a minor day-after headache.
All this to prove that Chiang, the old savior revered by some, wasn't good for Taiwan, as his presence today would mean more dangers for the country and a hotter conflict than the Cold War that haunts us every minute.
The only reason Beijing has softened its stance on Chiang and, to a certain degree, refashioned his image, is that he is safely long dead. In so doing, by rehabilitating its old nemesis into a character worthy of -- granted, mitigated -- reverence, Beijing has once again demonstrated in no uncertain terms that it doesn't have the interest of Taiwanese at heart. A true friend of Taiwan would never change his line on a murderous dictator, or choose to visit Taiwan for its last remaining monuments to this man's dreams of grandeur.
With elections looming, Ma and the KMT cannot pretend to stand for Taiwanese if they continue to refer to the Martial Law era and the White Terror as mere tactical "mistakes," or to encourage so-called historians to portray Chiang as a savior. Anything less than a full repudiation of what the generalissimo stood for, a complete denunciation of the crimes he and his followers committed against a people, will be -- should be -- insufficient to convince Taiwanese and the world that the KMT is worthy of the people's trust.
The beauty of elections, inasmuch as there can be beauty in the process, is that they encourage us to review history and see if, indeed, our purported leaders are worthy of representing us.
Irony of ironies, by calling for rapprochement -- if not unification -- with China, Ma and the KMT have been betraying Chiang, who would never in a million years have brooked such efforts. Heaven knows what such treasonous activity would have implied for Ma and his like-minded group had they endeavored for such ends when Chiang was in power.
But the beauty of democracy, that which the generalissimo denied the people he claimed to represent for almost 30 years, is that Ma is allowed to strive toward the ultimate betrayal of his old master's wishes without fear of persecution. We may not agree with his objective, but as a citizen of a democratic country, he has the right to fight for his goal.
That he chooses to ignore the great irony at the core of his understanding of history is his decision to make.
One thing the Ma cannot be allowed to do, however, is betray Taiwanese by telling them lies about their history.
J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei.
As the incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone intensify, the international community’s anxiety has risen over the question of whether the US military would become directly involved in the case of an attack on Taiwan. Washington’s long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” does little to ease the trepidation. The rationale universally espoused on “strategic ambiguity” is that an announced commitment from Washington to directly defend Taiwan would encourage Taiwanese independence and consequently bring forth a Chinese military attack and a possible nuclear confrontation between two superpowers. However, this line of argument could soon lose steam if the subject is viewed from
Having deceived the world about its nuclear capabilities while preparing for an arms race, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using its increasing nuclear forces for virtual nuclear coercion. This new threat will continue until the United States, Japan, and Taiwan can restore the CCP’s sense of fear. This dynamic is a familiar one for Taiwan. As the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities have grown, its inhibitions about conducting larger and more frequent coercive military demonstrations have shrunk. The PLA now more openly practices for the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and the murder of its citizens. In the nuclear realm,
In an unprecedented move, a group of democratic nations led by the US, UK and EU in a joint statement on Tuesday accused the Chinese Ministry of State Security of having carried out a major cyberattack earlier this year and stealing data from at least 30,000 organizations worldwide, including governments, universities and firms in key industries. Western officials were reportedly perplexed by the attack’s brazen execution and unparalleled scale. In an article on the attack, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera wrote: “Western spies are still struggling to understand why Chinese behavior has changed.” The attack raises the fear “that they [China]
At the conclusion of the G7 Leaders’ Summit on June 13, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who participated virtually, called for the reform of multilateral institutions as the best signal of commitment to the cause of open societies. His comments are significant in light of China’s ongoing and successful efforts to control international organizations, and, in particular, to keep Taiwan out of critical health agencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s influence over the WHO is well known. It has used this control to deny Taiwan a place at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decisionmaking body of the WHO. Taiwan’s absence