President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) takes his work seriously, but unfortunately that seriousness has led to many strange things.
As a negative result of Ma’s battle for power in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the party disregarded Taiwanese history. Later, he set about finding a group of “academics” with an interest in Taiwanese history who would develop a new theory to show that Taiwan belongs to the Republic of China (ROC).
He could not get academics who support independence, and the KMT’s own academics don’t have a clue about Taiwanese history. Instead, he found people such as former Academia Historica president Lin Man-houng (林滿紅), a formally trained historian and National Taiwan University philosophy professor Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波), who has no training as a historian.
Regardless of their training, their approach to the study of history is too strange for words. For example, Lin has always believed that the Treaty of Taipei between the ROC and Japan can prove that Taiwan belongs to the ROC as well as establish Taiwan’s international legal status.
However, this implies that apart from Lin, nobody else in the world — neither academics nor governments — has heard of this document or if they have, they do not understand it. This must be the case, for otherwise, how could people refuse to recognize the ROC in the face of such a powerful document? That would mean that not one country in the world is international law properly understood.
Under Lin, the Academia Historica arranged an online poll to find the greatest figures in the 100 years of the ROC — and came up with a list that included Chinese Communist Party leaders Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平). While it is not surprising that Lin would do something to connect Ma’s Taiwan with China, the KMT still has to deal with the 2012 presidential elections and this is why Lin had to resign after an uproar erupted over the listing of Mao and Deng.
As for Wang, who has managed to get on the commission that oversees the compilation of history textbooks, his mission is to “re-sinicize” Taiwanese history teaching materials.
How should this be done? Not long ago, one controversial project involved proving that Taiwan has belonged to China since ancient times by tracing the relationship back to the Three Kingdoms period when China sent troops to Taiwan. This idea created a backlash among trained historians in Taiwan. Even Ge Jianxiong (葛劍雄), a Chinese authority on China’s historical geography and a full-on unification supporter, ridiculed this claim in his work Unification and Division: The Enlightenment of Chinese History.
“Sun Quan’s [(孫權), founder and emperor of Eastern Wu, one of the three kingdoms] dispatch of soldiers to Taiwan was a stupid attempt to take captives and plunder people,” Ge wrote.
Real historians call this a stupid thing, but the new school of historians employed by the KMT view it as the best thing that ever happened, because it provides a basis for linking Taiwan to China. This is a somniloquy induced by dreams of dominance, not history.
The new “history curriculum” has made historians shake their heads in disbelief, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. It is not a bad thing that Ma knows that the KMT’s understanding of Taiwanese history leaves a lot to be desired, but finding unorthodox historians to come up with whatever he wants just invites ridicule.
The Academia Historica’s online poll has been pulled, but the creation of new teaching materials continues. In the future, history will be taught with the aim of presenting an ideology based on false history, not disseminating knowledge.
Lin Cho-shui is a former Democratic Progressive Party legislator.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON
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