Friday, March 23, 2007

Taiwan to turn their backs on Chiang Kai-Shek?

Is Taiwan preparing to turn their back on founding father Chiang Kai-shek?

Recent statements by Taiwan's president Chen Shui Bian of the governing left wing Democratic Progressive Party have started a national dialog on the Chiang's place in Taiwanese history, and the reverence accorded to him by many Taiwanese. At issue are comments by president Chen regarding a possible renaming of the massive Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taipei who noted that a democratic Taiwan has no business honoring "a dictator" like Chiang. Of course, this is seen as an insult to the nationalist Kuomintang party, once led by Chiang himself. Chen recently turned words into action, cutting a giant bronze statue of Chiang into 80 pieces and hauling them away in the middle of the night.

So what's really at issue, here? Politics, naturally. After losing a civil war with Mao Zedong on mainland China, Chiang fled Taiwan in 1949 and seized power in what amounted to a military coup d'etat to claim leadership over all of China. Of course, Taiwan was hardly empty when Chiang and the Kuomintang refugees arrived, and the other Chinese on Taiwan weren't thrilled about the idea of Chiang and his party monopolizing political power for nearly 40 years. The Kuomintang, for their part, clamped down hard on any political opposition, which included the DPP. So when the Kuomintang finally lost leadership of Taiwan, it was natural to think that the new ruling party had some payback in mind for decades of being trampled on by the Kuomintang.

So while we can grant that Chiang was a dictator, it is also useful to acknowledge that Chiang and the Kuomintang also prevented Taiwan from being conquered outright by Mao Zedong and absorbed into an even more repressive Communist China, and indeed, there would be no politically independent Taiwan, or a president Chen Shui Bian without Chiang. How awkward is to to be forced to acknowledge that a dictator was a founding father, or vice versa?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think you have made a mistake by taking Chiang Kai-Shek as the Founding Father of the ROC. If you trace back to the source origin, you will see that Sun Yat-Sen was the one who is recognized as the Founding Father of ROC. (also of PRC? ------funny!)