Taiwanese independence activists made headlines last week by hurling red paint at the statue of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei.
While Chiang is an often-reviled figure whose reign during the White Terror era caused much damage to Taiwanese people and culture, here is the thing that does not make sense: Chiang is long dead, his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is not even in power. What is really stopping Taiwan from being independent is the Chinese Communist Party (CPP), with its petty tactics and threats to Taiwan’s very existence.
The pro-China contingent in Taiwan is not even looking toward Chiang anymore — their attention is directed toward the CCP and gaining its favor.
Instead of focusing their energy and time on combating Chinese pressure or helping to build a Taiwan strong enough to at least stand up to the real enemy, these pro-independence and pro-China groups are further dividing a Taiwanese society that, despite an emerging Taiwanese identity, is still plagued by ideological and political squabbles that simply do the nation no good.
There is not much point in attacking an already hated dead person — an easy target — and risking jail time just to make the headlines.
The bulk of the Chiang statues in the nation have already been removed and placed in a park where visitors can sit on his head and do whatever they want with them.
It is understandable that Taiwanese also want the memorial hall rededicated, but that would take time and cost a lot of money.
Transitional justice is important, but defacing Chiang statues does nothing toward the purported goal of Taiwanese independence.
If drastic action is what they want, why not target those who are really damaging Taiwan’s sovereignty? The politicians who are willing to sell out Taiwan for Chinese favors, the companies that list Taiwan as part of China on their Web sites, or even the pro-China demonstrators who wave the People’s Republic of China flag in public.
It is exactly this delusion and shortsightedness that led to Taiwan’s situation today.
In the 1970s, as Taiwan was losing its international clout, Chiang refused to do what was best for Taiwan due to his ideological mental block of insisting on being the ruler of both China and Taiwan.
Instead of trying to compete with the CCP as Taiwan or Formosa, which was his best chance of success, he backed out of the UN entirely and now Taiwan cannot get back in.
That decision still bites Taiwan today, and the CCP is now strong enough to pressure major nations and corporations to pretend that Taiwan does not exist as a sovereign nation.
The inability of Taiwanese to unite and stand against China as a whole is largely created by the ideological differences created by Chiang and his cohorts’ misrule.
The best way to stick it to Chiang is to abandon these ideological absurdities that are no longer valid in today’s political climate and move forward together in a constructive way as Taiwanese.
Taiwan is already de facto independent, and its citizens should use that to their advantage to keep improving the nation and combating outside threats so that Taiwan has a chance of eventual international recognition and de jure independence.
Only a stronger, united Taiwan has a chance of competing against Chinese influence and surviving.
The bottom line is that all these ideological battles and campaigns mean nothing if there is no longer a nation left to fight over.
We need to proceed sensibly and intelligently.
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