Statues of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) dotting school campuses and public spaces nationwide are the subject of fierce debate at this time of year — the anniversary of the 228 Incident — and increasingly so in the past five years.
On Wednesday, National Sun Yat-sen University announced it was establishing a committee to determine the fate of a Chiang statue on its campus. The university is using the opportunity to get students, faculty and alumni talking about the issue.
On Tuesday, the Tainan City Government removed a statue of Chiang from a roundabout, the third such removal in the city this month.
Last month, National Chengchi University passed a motion calling for its statues of Chiang to be removed as part of efforts to promote human rights and transitional justice.
These are not isolated incidents. Two years ago, the Tainan City Government removed statues from 14 elementary and junior-high schools as part of a concerted effort to rid the city of symbols of dictatorship.
The Cihu Memorial Sculpture Garden, adjacent to Chiang’s mausoleum in Taoyuan’s Dasi District (大溪), where many of the statues and busts of the former president removed from schools, parks and other places have been discarded since 2000, is getting pretty crowded. There are already more than 200 orphaned statues there.
There is plenty of debate surrounding whether these statues should be removed. Does it constitute historical vandalism, a whitewashing of Taiwan’s past? What purpose do these statues serve? They are memorials to a late dictator.
All memorials are political spectacles. It is one thing to have these statues at Chiang’s mausoleum or premises specifically to commemorate him. However, placed in schools, the statues legitimize Chiang and condone his actions. In parks and other public spaces, it enforces a sense of shared narrative.
Over the past few years, more young people have rallied against this narrative, in many cases when marking the 228 Incident anniversary.
Last year the dictator’s statues were defaced in numerous locations, including Yilan, where someone wrote “Taiwan’s Hitler.”
When a nation’s schools and public spaces are dominated by images of mostly one person, specifically a national leader, it starts to look suspiciously like the trappings of a personality cult, a symbol intentionally employed to legitimize a regime. When that leader came from outside and headed a foreign regime, it looks like a symbol of colonialism.
When the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) first came to Taiwan, having statues and busts of its leader erected at schools and in public spaces served a definitive purpose. This same need led Chiang to order the 228 Massacre. That is why it is unconscionable that the KMT opposes efforts to have those same statues removed.
The government is attempting to bring about transitional justice. It is seeking the truth, holding those responsible for wrongdoing to account and introducing a more desirable social reality, allowing people to move on.
This is an opportunity. Local governments can remove the statues of a dictator, symbolic of a cruel and unjust past under a foreign regime, and replace them with meaningful celebrations of individuals or events that have made real, positive contributions to Taiwan. Better still, recast these symbols from the melted-down bronze or steel of the dictator’s statues. What more fitting symbol of transitional justice could there be?
Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Forward Forum in Taipei, former Singaporean minister for foreign affairs George Yeo (楊榮文) proposed a “Chinese commonwealth” as a potential framework for political integration between Taiwan and China. Yeo said the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait is unsustainable and that Taiwan should not be “a piece on the chessboard” in a geopolitical game between China and the US. Yeo’s remark is nothing but an ill-intentioned political maneuver that is made by all pro-China politicians in Singapore. Since when does a Southeast Asian nation have the right to stick its nose in where it is not wanted
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has released a plan to economically integrate China’s Fujian Province with Taiwan’s Kinmen County, outlining a cross-strait development project based on six major themes and 21 measures. This official document by the CCP is directed toward Taiwan’s three outlying island counties: Penghu County, Lienchiang County (Matsu) and Kinmen County. The plan sets out to construct a cohabiting sphere between Kinmen and the nearby Chinese city of Xiamen, as well as between Matsu and Fuzhou. It also aims to bring together Minnanese cultural areas including Taiwan’s Penghu and China’s cities of Quanzhou and Zhangzhou for further integrated
During a recent visit to Taiwan, I encountered repeated questions about “America skepticism” among the body politic. The basic premise of the “America skepticism” theory is that Taiwan people should view the United States as an unreliable, self-interested actor who is using Taiwan for its own purposes. According to this theory, America will abandon Taiwan when its interests are advanced by doing so. At one level, such skepticism is a sign of a healthy, well-functioning democratic society that protects the right for vigorous political debate. Indeed, around the world, the people of Taiwan are far from alone in debating America’s reliability
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and