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Sunday, March 18, 2007


Chiang Kai-shek's Legacy: Small-minded Minions Struggling to Maintain His Image

A guest post by Jerome F. Keating, Ph.D.

Taiwan's Strawberry Generation (草莓族) is often blind and/or oblivious to the oppressive past that their parents endured. The then Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government regularly suppressed information and forbade certain discourse under penalty of jail, torture and even death. It even tried to deny the history of the world. Remnants of that controlling past remain and can easily be found for those who have eyes to see.

Given this past, it is all the more ironic that many members of the KMT and its lesser spin off parties try to downplay past reality, pretend that it never happened and even complain at the removal of their hero-like statues of Chiang Kai-shek (CKS, 蔣介石).

Most would agree that encyclopedias have a certain level of objectivity. The facts presented in them reflect the researched world at the time of their publication. Historians can challenge these facts and sometimes cause them to be changed. Only the smallest-minded dictators would try to deny them, alter them, and even censor them. Only the smallest-minded minions would carry out such directions. Yet in many university and public libraries around Taiwan, one can still find remaining instances of Chiang Kai-shek's legacy.

When one discovers such examples, the natural question arises. What kind of threatened egoist would issue orders to expunge or alter the past? Further, what kind of minions would carry out those orders?

The pictures attached to this post are true examples of such hypocrisy and deceit practiced by the KMT minions in trying to preserve their entitlement under the CKS legacy. These photos were taken in March 2007 from four separate censored encyclopedias published between 1977 and 1985; these encyclopedias are still on the shelves of university libraries:

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Click the above image to go to page one of Jerome's album

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Click the above image to go to page two of Jerome's album

Look first at the dates of this censorship. These are not examples of what was done in the 1950s when one might try to excuse it with the rationale that CKS was still in the throes of fighting for survival against Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) Communist Party. These come much later. If one grants that these western encyclopedias would take a year or so to reach Taiwan after publication, they almost all came and were censored when James Soong was Director of the Government Information Office and responsible for all censorship (1979-84).

Examine the publication dates (1977 to 1985) further. The Republic of China under CKS had lost its UN seat to Mao's China (1971). CKS and Mao were now both dead (1975-76). The United States would transfer its embassy to Beijing (1979) and the Kaohsiung Incident would demonstrate the KMT government's attempted suppression of the democracy movement (December 1979). Three high profile murders of those opposing the KMT would be carried out in Taiwan and the United States (1980 to 1984). The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would be formed in 1986. Martial law would finally be lifted in 1987 and Chiang Ching-kuo would die in 1988.

This was the Taiwan when the Strawberry Generation was being born (1979 onward); this was the Taiwan where so many were still being sent to Green Island (綠島). This was the time the KMT still refers to as the good old days. Look, therefore, at the censorship and see who is facing reality and who is not.

First to be noticed is the refusal to still admit that Mao, then dead, ever existed or defeated the KMT in China [Photos 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6]. Zhou Enlai (周恩來) and others also get the axe [Photo 11]. The false dream was still fostered that the KMT would liberate China; only under this dream could the KMT attempt to claim legitimacy for its government and justify its refusal to allow democratic elections at any serious level of government.

Next is the alteration of history. According to the censors, China still belongs to the KMT [Photos 7, 8]. Mongolia is still part of the KMT's China even though it already had a seat in the United Nations [Photo 9]. Tibet's history is altered to deny its history as a nation [Photo 10] and facts about CKS are both sanitized and changed [photo 13]. Note in particular in photo #13 that a censor crossed out the 'not' in a sentence. The sentence originally said "He (Chiang Kai-shek) was not concerned with the social and economic transformation of Chinese society. . ." The censor changed this sentence to read the opposite, "He was concerned with the social and economic transformation of Chinese society." Many similar alterations were made.

Some of this censorship was done by Formosa Magazine Press which imported western magazines to Taiwan. This was the same press that the government regularly ordered to censor information coming into the country. It censored Mao as TIME's man of the year in 1967. A shocked TIME editor then responded with the following to distance TIME from the censorship:
"TIME has been tampered with by censors and other officials in many countries, but never to our knowledge has anyone stamped a rub-out X on the cover. Last week we learned that in Taiwan authorities had ordered the Formosa Magazine Press, TIME's distributor, to stamp a three-inch blue cross upon the puffy features of Mao Tse-tung on the Jan. 13 cover. The distributor hand-stamped the thousand or more copies (exclusive of those for the U.S. military) that circulate in Taiwan."
To those in the Strawberry Generation, I suggest that you be a detective; go into the libraries and examine books and encyclopedias from that period and see for yourselves if there remnants of the censorship are still there. Try to imagine living in such an age of censorship as your parents.

Then you will see why people look askance at those who seek to soft peddle this censored past. There can be no sense of democracy, where denial of history is maintained. The sick privileged mentality remains in some. Many of the minions who supported or carried out the policies of the Chiangs are still in government or positions of power.

When the DPP removes the statues of CKS, it is not trying to deny that he existed in history. At least 120 of the statues have been placed in a park in Tashi, a grim reminder of the megalomania of a despot who preached Sun Yat-sen's government of the people, by the people, and for the people but never instituted it in China or in Taiwan. No, the DPP is not trying to say CKS did not exist; the pain caused by his existence still affects the island. What the DPP is saying is that these statues of intended adulation have no place in the public places of Taiwan.

As you, the Strawberry Generation, begin to grasp the censorship of the past, realize who still defends it and finally whose sacrifice, blood and sufferings bought the freedoms that you all have. Look further and ask why the state assets of the country still remain in the control of the KMT and why transitional justice has not yet been carried out. Then you can better grasp the emotions of today.


This was originally posted on Jerome's personal web site, where you can read more of his essays.

If any of you have seen similar instances of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) censorship, tell us about them in the comments or via e-mail. (The address is in the sidebar.)

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