Taiwan Dilemma

It’s time for everyone’s favorite topic. This is a guest post from my friend in Taiwan, Dr. Jerome Keating. As always, it’s well worth your careful attention.

A Taiwan Dilemma: Honesty with the Past
Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

On May 17th political prisoners of Taiwan’s White Terror period were being brought back to Green Island. They came back, not as prisoners but as free men to participate in the “2005 Green Island Human Rights Music Festival.” The festival coincided with the 54th anniversary of the opening of the island as a prison for political prisoners.

While this was going on, an exhibit documenting the suffering, pain, and horror of Taiwan’s White Terror period also began touring the island. In the summer months, it will be displayed in the island’s major railroad stations as Taiwan continues to come to terms with its past.

How a nation deals with its past is crucial for its growth and relations with its neighbors. Witness the current controversies stirred by the visits of Japan’s Prime Minister to the Yakusumi Shrine and the historical content of certain seldom used textbooks.

“Those who ignore their past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana’s sobering words highlight the importance of this issue.

“What’s past is prologue. What to come in yours and my discharge.” Antonio’s words in Shakespeare’s Tempest, add the further nuance of what next? How can a nation best make the past serve the future?

Examine Germany. War trials treated guilt. Preserved concentration camps with their taunting words “Arbeit mach frei” (work makes you free) have been kept as grim reminders. Subsequent strict laws protect the citizens’ rights to privacy.

However, where Germany has set the bar in honesty with its past is in the preservation and accessibility of the Stasi (Staatssicherheit or State Security Service) records.

After the Berlin wall fell in 1989, citizens of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) immediately occupied the Stasi offices. They did not want the files of their past with its secret police, informants, spies and victims to be destroyed or lost. By 1991, the German Bundestag had passed the Stasi Records Law and citizens could for the first time have free access to their files and the truth of the past. German citizenry would not let the past be hidden or distorted.

Dictators distort the past; that goes without saying. Any one-party state or nation where minority and opposition voices are muffled and silenced never honestly deals with its past. Taiwan recognizes the need for such honesty; China is nowhere near it.

Taiwan began to approach this honesty with its past in the early nineties when it broke free of its one party state domination and moved towards democracy.

As landmarks in this process, in 1995, President Lee Teng-hui made formal apology for the 2/28 Incident and a memorial park was established in Taipei.

On December 10th 1999, the Green Island Human Rights Monument was dedicated coinciding with Human Rights Day. While not as well known as Robben Island Prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, Green Island was the main Kuomintang (KMT) prison for political dissidents of the White Terror period.

The island had been called Fire Island under the Japanese and it served as a prison for both hard core prisoners and political prisoners. The KMT renamed it Green Island on August 1st 1949 and expanded its use as a well-isolated prison camp.

If one did not know of the many that suffered there, the island would have a romantic charm. Surrounded by Blue Ocean, its rugged volcanic rock and sandy beaches provide stark contrasts in beauty. Lush green foliage bears witness to its name. It could easily be an isolated retreat for honeymooners.

“In that era, how many mothers spent long nights crying for their children locked up on Green Island? These words on the Green Island Human Rights Monument cry out against the injustices of that past. Over 20,000 political prisoners spent time there; many were tortured and over 1,000 executed.

The author Bo Yang lost twelve years of his life there because the KMT government took offense to one of his cartoons. For him and for many others who spent even longer time there, the island brings back tears. So too with the families and relatives of the 20,000 plus prisoners who suffered there.

In the past decade Taiwan has begun to recognize its many victims of the White Terror period, but ironically there still has been little acknowledgment of specific perpetrators of these crimes. With so many crimes and so many victims for so many years, where are the criminals? Where are the records? Why is access often denied? Taiwan has not yet crossed the bridge of “Stasi Honesty.”

This is why it is so surprising to recently see members of the opposition party trooping blithely across the Taiwan Strait to talk of unification with one of the largest human rights violators in the world.

There is a strange irony in the pan-blue position. Now that they are out of power in Taiwan, they say it is time to let bygones be bygones both with those that defeated them in China and with those that they imprisoned in Taiwan.

This irony deepens when one realizes that the two pan-blue leaders have been noticeably absent in any ceremonies where Taiwan admits to guilt in its past.

The pan-blue media instead have touted photos and images of Lien and Soong’s trips to China as if they were the ones who could lead to the wealth of the future. Amidst talk of pandas and prosperity, we have seen politicians of this party that abused human rights in Taiwan’s past being feted by those whose prisons abound with political prisoners.

Seemingly ashamed to mention or dwell on democracy, the name of Taiwan and/or Taiwan sovereignty issues while they were in China, the Blues seemed bent on relegating the past to the dustbin,

Is it no wonder then that despite their media hype and fanning of “China Fever,” the pan-blue parties did poorly in the recent National Assembly elections? The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) replaced the People First Party (PFP) as Taiwan’s number three party. With the low voter turnout, the public that cared enough to vote had obvious questions, suspicions and doubts. “Are the pan-blues bargaining for a place in history? Are they wanting to or willing to turn Taiwan into a new Green Island? Is the past, prologue?”

Jerome F. Keating Ph.D. has lived in Taiwan for over 16 years and is co-author of “Island in the Stream, a Quick Case Study of Taiwan’s Complex History and other books. Other writings can be found at http://zen.sandiego.edu:8080/Jerome

The Discussion: 38 Comments

Hm, both party’s (CCP and GMD) ideas on how to govern weren’t that differnt in the past. They both see Sun Yatsen as their ancestor and he was in no way a democrat, but fought for a strong state with limited or no rights for it’s citycens.
Seems a lot of GMD supporters still cherish this way of thinking.

June 12, 2005 @ 5:20 am | Comment

shulan, I think you’re right. Another similarity between the CCP and KMT is that neither party followed through with the very cornerstones of Sun Yat Sen’s Three Principles. Well, apart from the nationaism part I suppose.

I also agree with the fundamental differences between Germany (Stasi honesty Mr. Keating calls it) and Taiwan (e.g. there are no criminals as such to bring to justice for The White Terror period).

This highlights a fundamental difference between Asian and European cultures. For example can anyone imagine a Japanese leader, say Koizumi, going to Beijing, collapsing on his knees, breaking down in uncontrolable tears and begging forgiveness for war-time atrocities?

That’s exactly what West Germany’s Chancellor Willy Brant did when visiting the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial in Poland in 1972. His actions were both spontaneous and extremely moving at the time.

Looking back, this possibly heralded the beginning of the present era of normal relations between Germany and her war-time opponents, including Israel.

June 12, 2005 @ 9:04 am | Comment

Re Lian Zhan’s recent mainland visit. It appeared to be more of a face-saving exercise following the KMT’s recent election defeat and prior to Lien’s imminent retirement than anything else.

The supposed 5-point plan agreed with Hu contained nothing but regurgitated conditions long since rejected by the present democratically-elected govt of Taiwan and the one before that.

Goodbye Mr Lian Zhan, your party is quickly losing relevance.

June 12, 2005 @ 9:05 am | Comment

I seem to recall that Chiang’s White Terror killed as many Taiwanese, per capita, as Mao’s Red version in 1949.

There’s always reasons for revolutions, you know?

June 12, 2005 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

He was right up there with some of the very worst mass murderers. How come the very worst people always end up in control?

June 12, 2005 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

In the past decade Taiwan has begun to recognize its many victims of the White Terror period, but ironically there still has been little acknowledgment of specific perpetrators of these crimes. With so many crimes and so many victims for so many years, where are the criminals? Where are the records? Why is access often denied? Taiwan has not yet crossed the bridge of “Stasi Honesty.”

1st question: doc, do you know which party is holding the power right now. Are you blaming DPP denying access to the files and setting those criminals free? Totally absurd! By the way, if you knew “many victims of the White Terror period” are communists, you wouldn’t be surprised that DPP and TSU don’t want 100% truth either.

This is why it is so surprising to recently see members of the opposition party trooping blithely across the Taiwan Strait to talk of unification with one of the largest human rights violators in the world.

This post is crazy! The author don’t even understand the reason why more than half taiwanese support Lian’s visit to China. Let me tell you, doc, it’s PEACE!!! Lian is a respectful politician. He has integrity which most other politicians in Taiwan are lack of. You are not gonna label Lian as the one who sell taiwan to communists, are you?

This irony deepens when one realizes that the two pan-blue leaders have been noticeably absent in any ceremonies where Taiwan admits to guilt in its past.

Now this is a relentless personal attack! They may sue you, doc! Stop spreading rumors.

Is it no wonder then that despite their media hype and fanning of “China Fever,” the pan-blue parties did poorly in the recent National Assembly elections? The Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) replaced the People First Party (PFP) as Taiwan’s number three party. With the low voter turnout, the public that cared enough to vote had obvious questions, suspicions and doubts. “Are the pan-blues bargaining for a place in history? Are they wanting to or willing to turn Taiwan into a new Green Island? Is the past, prologue?”

This is totally out of the mind! You know why PFP lost? You know how insignifcant of this election? Do you know this election might be the last big one for TSU? Do you know TSU leader is saying that they may not support DPP but KMT in the future? Do you know the reasons? be frank, doc! If you don’t know, please watch your mouth carefully.

Actually KMT, which has led taiwan to the wealth and democracy, is now having its first democratic election of the party leader. doc intentionally neglect the facts.
Besides, talking about the “true to the past”, what immediately comes to my mind is “two bullet president”. Now it seems that DPP and TSU are not gonna touch this case anymore.

June 12, 2005 @ 2:20 pm | Comment

I agree with you on this martyn

This highlights a fundamental difference between Asian and European cultures. For example can anyone imagine a Japanese leader, say Koizumi, going to Beijing, collapsing on his knees, breaking down in uncontrolable tears and begging forgiveness for war-time atrocities?

, but I strongly disagree with you on the next judgement

Goodbye Mr Lian Zhan, your party is quickly losing relevance.

June 12, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

sorry, the last one is also by me.

June 12, 2005 @ 2:26 pm | Comment

Speaking of Lien, what about rumours of his desire to serve a third term as leader of the KMT? If he does, the KMT is finished as a relevant political party in a modern democracy.

June 12, 2005 @ 2:31 pm | Comment

Hi, schtickyrice, if you read taiwan news daily, you might have known that Lien has no desire whatsoever.

June 12, 2005 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

Since you seem so passionate in your objections to Dr. Keatings remarks, why do you give us your answers to those questions. If you truly are interested in “light” and understanding you should give us the facts and not just the white heat o angry disgreement.

BTW, PhDs are not called “doc” like a medical doctor.

June 12, 2005 @ 10:29 pm | Comment

that is “…why DON’T you give…”

June 12, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

With the growing sense of “Taiwanese-ness” increasing every year and now that Taiwanese history is taught in schools I think that the brutal KMT are becoming more irrelevant in Taiwan politics.

Especially since their butt-kissing trip to the mainland has pushed them further along the unification road.

Taiwanese youth know and care nothing of China and certainly don’t consider themselves Chinese, that’s my observation anyway.

Taiwan is a country and I’m not surprised that China are getting worried that it’s drifting away.

It is.

China’s only reponse is whip up the population into a frenzy and talk bollocks about national unity and China greatness.

Let’s face it, given the chance, half of China would flee the country and the other half would split away because they don’t want to be Chinese.

June 13, 2005 @ 3:39 am | Comment

“China’s only reponse is whip up the population into a frenzy and talk bollocks about national unity and China greatness.”

Paul, yes it’s sad that you can’t even mention the word “Taiwan” in China now without people foaming at the mouth.

Mr. Keating’s article contains more truth in it than the CCP’s entire interpretation of it’s own history.

June 13, 2005 @ 6:35 am | Comment

Ok, Pete
I am trying to answer my own questions in the last post, or you can easily google the answers from recent news. Sorry for my poor english. I wish one day I can translate a long chinese story into english in a few minutes without looking up words in dictionary.

Ironically, one of the main reason that PFP have lost in the election is that PFP leader chose to cooperate with DPP, rather than the reason that they prefer to visit China or the unification of chinese people.
About the election mentioned in Dr. Keating’s post, I don’t have short answers because it’s a long story.
But the outcome of this election may result in the sudden death of small parties, such as PFP and TSU. That’s why TSU is so angry about DPP’s strategy and threating to support KMT in the future.
I noticed that some of you pay a lot of attention to taipeitimes either because you can’t understand or you don’t want to read chinese newpapers. Actually taipeitimes is an english version of libertytimes, which is one of most biased news media in Taiwan. It’s more like Lee Teng-hui’s personal amplifier in my opinion. But in order to be more objective as a bystander, I suggest you read all top 3 chinese daily newspapers from taiwan if you are really interested in her. I assume that Dr. Keating is reading at least 2 newspapers, because he has lived in Taiwan for 16 years. That’s why I am so angry to see a man who has been there long enough can come up with such a biased post which intentionally neglected and twisted facts.
The last thing I should mention is that almost no unbiased news media exist in Taiwan. The top 3 newspapers in chinese are Chinatimes, Libertytimes and UDN. The top 2 english newspapers probably are chinapost and taipaitimes. They either prefer independence or unification. Other than this sensitive issue, Chinatimes may be close to be objective.
Personally I read Chinatimes a lot and glance over editorials in libertytimes and udn on a daily base. Hope these information can help.

June 13, 2005 @ 10:57 am | Comment

the elections? what elections? this was not a real election about electing national representatives. it was about rewriting an outdated constitution. who cares about this election anyway? the turnout was just over 20% as opposed to the 80% for a presidential election. who cares? who is going to interpret these election results to mean anything in general? stay cool.

June 13, 2005 @ 11:49 am | Comment

Let’s face it, given the chance, half of China would flee the country and the other half would split away because they don’t want to be Chinese.

Stop lying, Paul. Dig yourself out of the sand. Now many developed countries are open to chinese tourists. Did you see half of them flee away. If you don’t, shut up. The cause of the illegal immigration is nothing to do with so called freedom but money. In the world of capitalists, one thing supposed to freely flow in and out of a country does not do right now because…….
It’s the labor.
Personally I don’t think it’s fair while seemingly other things can be constantly flow in and out in the frame of WTO. It’s all economy, stupid.

BTW, eswn tell the truth about the election

June 13, 2005 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

“Stop lying, Paul. Dig yourself out of the sand. Now many developed countries are open to chinese tourists. Did you see half of them flee away. If you don’t, shut up. The cause of the illegal immigration is nothing to do with so called freedom but money.”———-Lin


Put it this way, if I offered every mainland Chinese a western passport how many would rip my arm off?

I’d say 50%, and I think I’m being very, very generous here, extremely generous. Remember 80% of China are poor peasants with the prospect of a crap life and not much else. Fact.

The other 50% splitting away from China would be XinJ, Tibt and Inn Mong…..possibly Manchuria as well.

Hey, given the chance, why should Guangdong go on subsidizing the rest of China? The Chinese govt have done little else here apart from collect taxes. Maybe they’d jump ship as well?

Lin, I so want you to argue with me on this. I’m begging you. You continue with your book-ish claptrap and I’ll keep on hitting you with the harsh reality. Keep it coming.

June 13, 2005 @ 3:30 pm | Comment

When are you going to start thinking for yourself,and stop regurgitating all the brainwashing you received during your KMT designed education?

June 13, 2005 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

Dear me. Lin says the Kuomintang (KMT) are going to sue me for posting critical remarks. I think someone needs to tell Lin that the era of Martial Law is over when people in Taiwan who were critical of the government could be called “communists” and thrown in jail or “sued and brought to the courts.”

In my post I was light on the KMT; if anyone wants my unadulturated views they can go to my website and look at the postings of March 22, April 23, and May 1 where I have a 3-part series on the history of the KMT. The Title is “Power, Privilege, and Entitlement, the KMT: Unlearned Lessons, Unacknowledged Baggage” Believe me, it is not what Lin learned. Put simply, the KMT party history is a of party that is “of the privileged, by the privileged and for the privileged.”

Shulan and Martyn, you are on target, the difference between the CCP and the KMT is very narrow and if I can make a pun off of another author, “it is a thin red line.”

Other Lisa, I have not been able to access figures to back up what you say, but I will say that the Taiwanese have a saying that “Chiang Kai-shek would kill ten Taiwanese to get one Communist.”

Schtickyrice–believe me, Lien’s old cronies tried to get him to run; in the past months, about every two weeks some group would come out and say “Let’s keep Chairman Lien” and run it up the flagpole. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it; no one saluted each time.

My read is that Lien Chan who–now get this–has never won a free, open, democratic election in his life–did not want to risk another defeat in his swan song. For my views of Lien Chan, I have a posting on my website of July 12 entitled “Who Moved My Cheese?”

As for the issues coming up in the KMT July 16 Chairman elections; it will be worth watching as the new blood of the party favoring Ma Ying-jeou for the first time face off against the old guard favoring Wang Gyn-ping in an open election. One of the issues here I wrote about in “Protecting the War Chests or Choosing Democracy, the KMT is still Deciding” on May 10th (my website–sorry for the unabashed referencing but it is easier than trying to put this on a thread)

One thing Lin is right on is that the media in Taiwan is either Blue or Green, but it is only recently that the Green have been (post martial law) been able to print opposing thought. Hence among many of the Blue camp, they still feel they have the right to say what they want with complete license. They are slowly finding out that the playing field is leveling.

If anyone is a professor/teacher out there you should therefore not wonder why your students only take notes and rarely question the teacher. The patriarchal/authoritarian roles still dominate and are echoed later by students. Note how when Paul disagreed with Lin, he was unceremoniously told “to shut up” if he was going to voice a differing view.

Lin, don’t you see that there is a difference between wealthy Chinese who have money to travel as tourists and are kings in their roost in China and the poorer majority who have to get families to go into hock to pay a snakehead? If I were that kind of tourist, why would I run, I have the best of both worlds.

Furhter Lin, you speak as if in pride that the KMT is “now having its 1st democratic election of the party leader” coming this July 16.

Did you never stop to think about asking the most basic question, “Why in over 100 years of existence, has this party that claims to be “of the people, by the people and for the people” never yet had a free democratic election of its party leader?”

Enough said,

June 14, 2005 @ 12:07 am | Comment

Jerome, I am not here to fight against you because your standpoint won’t change anyway. However I believe that I have done enough to let other people know that you were conveying biased information. Actually you already found yourself being unable to properly deal with my questioning. Although in the last 50 years, very few other government around the world has led their people from poorness and colonization to the wealth and democracy, I still agree with you that KMT does not have a clean history. (However political parties has it anyway?) However this is not the point. The point is that you are intentionally extracting negtive portion of KMT’s history and use it to accuse today’s KMT no matter what they are doing. (for example, a peace seeking visit can be viewed as selling taiwan to communists, and the insignificance of TSE being a third largest party in an insignificant election can be viewed very differently and personally, etc) You keep imposing your narrow view on things and intentionally twist facts. (for instance, “your read” about Lien’s desire to be the next party leader even if Lien never stop saying that he won’t race for a long time, and you still mock upon the KMT’s first democratic election)
Again, I won’t argue against your standpoint, but I will continue disclosing the FACTS which you absolutely don’t want to include in your posts.

BTW: Paul, keep dreaming until one night you found yourself holding the power issuing passports.
or keep your mouth comforting battle here. I beg you continuing too. It’s funny to watch in my spare time.

June 14, 2005 @ 10:04 am | Comment

Thanks Jerome for coming here and responding to the points made, it’s much appreciated. I’m busy reading your site these days and it’s a real treasure trove.


I disagree with your assessment of Jerome Keating. I strongly feel that he is open to opposing points of view but you are yet to provide any.

Lin—you said:

“you are intentionally extracting negtive portion of KMT’s history and use it to accuse today’s KMT no matter what they are doing.”

Re KMT history, it isn’t really difficult to find negative aspects to their rule. It’s no accident that older Taiwanese sometimes look upon Japanese rule (1895-1945) with nostalgia when compared to the jackboot of the KMT and their mixture of anti-Communism and sino-cization.

Obviously, the KMT and Jiang Qingguo, CKS’s son, did initiate political and economic reforms that started Taiwan on it’s current road but how much of that was forced upon it by internal pressure? Quite a lot I think.

Lin, I would ask you a question here:

What can the KMT be proud of 1948-1992?

I’m certainly willing to give you a fair hearing on this as there may well be holes in my knowledge and understanding.

June 14, 2005 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

I remember when I used to live in Songjiang Road, Taipei.

I saw a streetsign once saying “Beiping Road” and I remembered that this was where the DPP’s (Chen Shuibian’s political party) headquarters were. So I ventured forth, found the building, wandered in and asked the man on the ask if the DPP office was upstairs.

“Yes” he said and pointed to the lift. I took the lift and stepped out into the party headquarters of the DPP. No guards, no passes, nothing.

The woman greeted me and after a short chat, apologised that there wasn’t anyone of note present who I could meet. She said that there was a Kaohsiong delegation in town but they were all out at that moment.

Can you imagine wandering into the CCP headquarters of a provincial town, never mind Beijing? I’d have been rugby-tackled by a dozen guards before I got 10 feet into the compound.

I just think that anecdote sums up Cina and Taiwan…and the fundamental differences.

June 14, 2005 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

Lin, I would ask you a question here:

What can the KMT be proud of 1948-1992?

Martyn, it’s a simple question to answer. But I write a little more here. I still remember a while ago, when an American professor did his comparative study in political economy between most developing courtiers (African Latin American South Asia China) and East Asia Four tigers. A major conclusion of his study is that today’s difference between these two groups is mainly due to the different government policy. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the link now.

But the short answer to your question is:
KMT should be proud of its role in the economical development of Taiwan. Taiwanese now are living a better life at least partially thanks to KMT!

Regarding to Japan’s contributions to Taiwan, I add a little bit more here too.

I won’t deny Japan did some modernization stuff for Taiwan. However, is that something substantially different than what Brittan did for India? No I don’t think so. Everything is for Japan’s interests, not for Taiwan’s for sure.

Under Japan, almost no Taiwanese were allowed to receive education higher than the level of elementary school in Taiwan. About half of produce (mainly sugar and rice) has gone to Japan. There is no democracy at all.

This changed a little bit after the pacific war started. Taiwan became a part of Japanese war machine and a critical base for Japanese to expand their empire to Southeast Asia. As a result, Japan suddenly speeded up Taiwan’s industrialization process in order for it to serve their bloody war, in another words, to help them to kill more. Japan also needs Taiwanese manpower to fight along with them against US and China. As a result, Japan start giving out carrots to Taiwanese…. At the same time, Japan tried to destroy the heritage of culture and forced everybody to speak Japanese for the sake of better control. Their strategy worked and still works today, at least partially. Ironically, even nowadays, some old man in Taiwan still like bluffing how Taiwanese serving for Japan in WWII are the bravest people in the honorable Japanese Army, PROUDLY. Is that amazing? Strange enough that seemingly very few people feel guilty about it. How many people have these “brave Taiwanese” killed in WWII. Nobody knows or care to pay attention to it. Actually it’s not my point. The point is Japanese teach them to kill and today still some are proud of it.

Still, back in 1940’s Japanese controlled almost all high positions in management, technology and administration. After the war, when more than 30,000 governing Japanese went back home, Taiwan would found itself in a sad position if mainland talents wouldn’t join them after 1949. Among them, many are experienced managers, educators, engineers and scientists. Unlike Japanese, KMT established many high schools and universities. After the higher education, Taiwanese gradually hold the high positions in the society. There were even some semi-democratic elections allowed. In 1964, Henry Gao, an independent candidate won the election and became the mayor of Taipei. Many Taiwanese joined KMT. In 60’s there were more than 1 million KMT members including a former communist Lee Teng-hui who became one of five who led the “land reform” for peasants? (Lee betrayed communist party at that time and KMT more recently. He is no new traitor:) The chair of this 5 people committee is Chiang, who was the president of Peking University and once led the China’s educational department. Later, as we know, Lee became the mayor of Taipei and vice president of ROC and was assigned the president position of ROC by Chiang Kai-shek’s son in 1987) No doubt the land reform is the base of the Taiwan economy development. Taiwan’s successful economy story can also be contributed to many other factors, such as Japan’s industrialization process in WWII and earlier, all kinds of talents from mainland in 1949 or earlier, uncle Sam’s green bills after 1949, education, export oriented policy, the policy of encouraging private enterprises, conservative but flexible currency and finical policies and expert management of the nation. As you can see, among them, the government policy plays a critical role in the modernization of Taiwan. Without the economical development of Taiwan, the democratic reform of Taiwan won’t succeed, period.

BTW: for the negtive portion of KMT’s history, please refer to Dr. Keating’s writing. I am here to fill in the positive portion of KMT’s history. This doesn’t mean I support them 100%. Frankly it’s still a corrupt party. Hopfully they will do better job after its own democratic election. But when you tell people about KMT, please tell all of the story.

June 14, 2005 @ 6:23 pm | Comment

Furthermore, the theory of internal pressure simply can’t explain why most of developing countries are not doing as well as East Asia four tigers. Take india and China as examples, basically government policy failed these 2 great nations 30 years ago. Their internal pressure? Huge!

June 14, 2005 @ 6:32 pm | Comment

While this post has come up many times in the past on other threads,I think it is still relevant here.Don’t give the KMT (or the CCP on the mainland)too much credit for economic growth.Chinese People have prospered where ever they’ve gone.They seem to do that on their own.

June 14, 2005 @ 8:49 pm | Comment


Many thanks for that fantastic reply, I just read through it now.

I have to crack on with something else now but will likewise reply tomorrow.


June 15, 2005 @ 8:12 am | Comment

Ah yes, Lin complains that we don’t tell the whole story.

Let’s go back and see what Lin left out.

Japan did “some” modernization, not quite; Japan’s modernization was the solid basis for what Taiwan’s industrialization was built on. What happend to it, I will get to shortly.

Taiwan was not a democracy, of course it was Japan’s colony. The problem Taiwan faced and objected to is that in switching from Japan to the KMT, it simply switched colonial masters and switched to a much more corrupt one.

Japan destroyed Taiwanese culture–again, of course, they were colonizing it. What Lin omits is that the KMT also destroyed Taiwan’s culture. While the Japanese made them learn Japanese, the KMT also forbade them to speak their native dialect “Taiwanese.” They had to learn the language of the new colonial masters. Most Taiwanese can recall being beaten in school if they spoke Taiwanese and not Mandarin. Plus all Taiwanese literature was not allowed.

The Japanese conscripted them into the arumy and taught them to kill in a war that was not theirs; yes they were colonial subjects–many British colonials fought for them. What Lin omits is that as soon as the KMT came on board, they also conscripted the Taiwanese to go and fight Chinese in the mainland. Because Taiwanese loyalty was suspect they were put in the front line, “cannon fodder” positions and many were unfortunately left on the mainland when the KMT retreated. The war on the mainland was not Taiwan’s war, no more than Japan’s war was; but they were taught to kill just the same–I seem to recall Bing Feng commenting on that once.

Taiwanese did not get education beyond elementary and high school? Hello? What KMT books is Lin reading? Taiwanese were going to study at University in Japan as early as the 1920’s; most found a freedom there far beyond what they had as colonials in Taiwan and they built up an educated elite.

Taiwan was in a sad position after the war? Not quite, Taiwan was in a sad position after 2/28 when the KMT killed off a majority of the Taiwanese elite.

Taiwan came through World War II relatively unscathed; it was in the years of 1945–49 when the KMT raped and pillaged everything including what was nailed down and turned it into its losing war effort on the mainland; that was when Taiwan really suffered its losses and the destruction of what Japan had built up.

Taiwan had “democratic elections as early as 1964” true but of course that was on a lower level that did not affect national policy. That is like saying China has “democratic elections” on the village level which is true, but anyone care to comment on how democratic China is.

But now let’s get into what Lin really did not tell in the whole story.
Yes Taiwan did have the Taiwan miracle and yes the KMT did start to build up Taiwan when they realized (among themselves–but not telling the people) that their dream of retaking the mainland was a false dream perpetuated to justify them staying in power.

But to the Taiwan Miracle; it did happen. Let us compare it to the German Mircale and the Japanese Miracle post World War II.

After WWII, Japan and Germany were devastated by the war. Taiwan was devastated after 1945–49, anyone want to guess who by?

But Japan and Germany were well on their way to achieving their economic miracles within 10 to 15 years; Taiwan took a little longer.

Now comes the second part Lin omits. Somehow Imperialist Japan and Nazi Germany also managed to achieve functioning democracies at a national level in less than 12 years after the war. They also lifted martial law within that time.

Taiwan? That is a totally different story; somehow it took this party that professed government “of the people, by the people and for the people” over 40 years of martial law, white terror and poplitical prisons like Green Island to achieve democracy. Finally after many deaths, imprisonments etc. martial law was lifted. When would democratic national elections take place–that would be over 50 years.

But the story is not over yet. What Lin also omits is that after WWII, the KMT confiscated all national property and has kept most of it as KMT property. Some has been sold off at profit to KMT members, most still is kept by the KMT. Was any party in Japan or Germany allowed this “privilete”, not quite. This is why the old guard in the KMT wants to hang onto power. Also what Lin omits is that the KMT controlled most of the media until recently, that is why it cannot understand when opposing viewpoints are expressed.

Check these facts out and then see who is not telling the whole story.


June 15, 2005 @ 9:59 am | Comment

Jerome, if I found your post mentioning that the democracy of taiwan has a Japanese root earlier, I wouldn’t have waste my time on long posts to reveal your biased mind. Your narrow view has been exposed by other commentators already.

But I can’t help wasting my time once more, just once more….

“Dialect “taiwanese”??” hahaha, have you been to south Fujian province? Force them to speak mandrin? All students have to say mandrin at school in mainland too. Otherwise how would chinese from different regions communicate? Otherwise you gave me a policy.
They were beaten? Hardly. If you say sth like spank, probably yes, but it’s heritage of chinese education culture (or for you to understand better use taiwanese culture ), nothing to do with government policy. At least taiwanese can speak south fujian dialect(for you to understand, of course, it’s taiwanese!) after classes or in any ther informal occations. That’s why dialect called dialect, right?

KMT also destroyed Taiwan’s culture?
while Japan force taiwanese eat their foods, believe in their gods, even behave and think like them…Please please please list what taiwan’s culture has been destroyed by KMT? What is the difference between so called taiwanese culture and chinese traditional culture anyway?

You mentioned taiwanese can go to Japan to get education. Do you know how many percent? (if you say 1% students even at the peak time when Japan gave out carrots to taiwanese, I would label you as a bluff ) Do you know the prerequisite for this opportunity? Only those in the family who speak in Japanese in everyday life, notice EVERYDAY LIFE!!! The fact is that under KMT, high school graduates increases over 5 folds and college graduates increase over 20 folds from earlier 50s to earlier 70s. You can figure out the opposite side of the facts by yourself, right?

“Taiwanese elite?” How many are scientists, engineers anyway? Are you talking about those japanesenized landlords, poets, day dreamers…? They can run government, industry and education? I doubt it.

Those early days’ elections (as early as early 50s, at the peak time, independent can grab 3 mayor positions of the 5 biggest cities including Taipei) were not important? Who gave you credit to say that? Probably the lift of martial law in the mid 80s is not important either in your mind because the credit of democracy goes to Japan anyway.

“Taiwan came through World War II relatively unscathed?” 3/4 of industry, 2/3 electric, over 1/2 traffic system have been disabled by US bombers. It’s call unscathed?Unfortunately you didn’t mention, KMT, a winner of the war, has to pay for this.

You are comparing Taiwan to Japan and Germany? I have to laugh out loud. Do you know the size of economy, or scientic & engineeing level, or the democratic foundation of J and G before the war?

Chiang finally gave his power to Lee, Now how about that? “New colony master…” keep lying, Dr. Keating, but it won’t get you far. ..

KMT confiscated all national properties? LOL, “national” or Japanese?

Be honest, Dr. Keating, you probably need another 16 years in Taiwan to know the truth.

June 15, 2005 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

Just thought I throw a quick quip in here, since I’ve been thinking recently about the U.S. involvement in post WWII around the world. However, I know nothing about Taiwan, excepting the bits about it being rowdy even in the Qing dynasty.

Marshall Aid really helped pick Europe up onto its feet. And the U.S. gave a lot to Japan too. Just thought I’d give that as part of the basis for why Germany and Japan recovered so quickly, and for why England isn’t still a bombed out mess.

Germany and Japan, and England, were truly f*cked by the war. Without Marshall money it would have been a much longer time to recover, even with the foundation you mention, lin.

anyway, kind of a tangent. carry on, chaps.

June 15, 2005 @ 7:33 pm | Comment

While you criticize Jerry Keating on World War 2,it would probably do you good to get your facts straight.When Jerry says relatively unscathed,you need to look at the state of many other countries to appreciate what he is saying.Taiwan was still functioning at the end of the war.It was bombed a lot,but not to the same extent as many other areas.Taiwan’s cities never suffered the fire and carpet bombings of cities on Japan for example.Taiwan was bypassed by the Allies,thus was never invaded,and no land battles were fought on its soil.Taiwan was liberated by the Americans and Brits,and then handed to the KMT to administer.The Japanese used Taiwan as the area to keep the highest ranking POWs captured in the fall of the Philippines,Singapore,Hong Kong,The Dutch East Indies etc for most of the war.The reason that most of these POWs were sent to Taiwan was it was quite safe.Many normal Allied POWs spent the war on Taiwan for the same reason.They worked as slave labourers often having to repair the damage of Allied bombings.After the war the KMT did rape Taiwan for its war effort against the Communists.The money the KMT used for development of Taiwan after 49,was mostly given to them by other Allied powers like the U.S.and Canada,and it was only part of the money given because much of that money disappeared into the private accounts of KMT officials.

Lin,one last thing I think I need to mention is that Jerry Keating has done a lot to have Taiwan’s role in WW2 remembered.He has been involved in the erection of memorials to those that gave their lives for the defeat of Japanese Imperialism.Yes,Lin he has never forgotten the sacrifice that soldiers of the R.O.C.made as part of the Allied war effort,that’s why he has served as MC for so many international memorial services on Taiwan.

June 15, 2005 @ 10:30 pm | Comment

Thank you, Mark. and thank Jerome for his contributions and I appreciate that. I am new to this website and didn’t know. I apologize that probably I got a little personal but I did consider Jerome as a propoganda machine of TSU (not even DPP).
I am angry because a lot of history has been twisted in Taiwan for years. As you said, KMT might have raped Taiwan, but in other mainland provinces, KMT did the same thing. The only difference is that Taiwanese lived higher standard than most mainland provinces at that time. It’s all about high expectation stuffs. So the experience seems more painful. However because KMT has been painted as a symbol of mainland chinese, the conflict between taiwanese people (should include dissent mainland groups in taiwan) and KMT government has been interepted as the conflict between sth like races (Of course the race can only be defined by the dialect) in order for independence to gain its momentum. There is also a impression as if the white terror is all about mainland chinese torturing and killing taiwanese. Once you got this impression, natually comes something like “new colonial master”. However is this prespective truly fair?
Often Bo Yang mentioned by you guys as the symbol of KMT’s relentless torture. But smarter independence seeking group wouldn’t use that. Is he not a dissent mainland chinese in Taiwan? Never mention White Terror actually started in early 30’s in mainland. Left wing groups (including CCP) have been slaughtered since then no matter where is your hometown. After 228, some taiwanese anti-KMT leaders fled to HongKong. Then they split because of different opinion. One group went to communist China, one group wen to Japan. (In Japan, there was one more split, (10? 20?, sorry I don’t remember) years later, some went back KMT taiwan again) If it’s really about mainlander slaughtering taiwanese, why some of them decided go to mainland anyway? (Unfortuately, some were tortured again to death latter in the Culture Revolution. not due to the racism, Ok?) “Class struggle” between the corrupt ruling class and ruled class has gone to the level of something like racism. A big warning sign here for taiwanese: some one IS INTENTIONALLY dividing the people into different race behind the scene! Is that scary? Then “taiwan south Fujianese” Populism will work.
It is absurd that in today’s taiwan, a young politician born in a mainlander’s family may find himself in a great disadvantage competing with others, especially in south taiwan, even if he is no different than any other taiwanese except his family. I think the credit goes to the twisted history.

About KMT, one anti-revolutionary arguement for pekingduck.org is:
KMT by all means (you may think by tortuing, killing, I think it take more than that:P) had created a very stable political enviroment for business to grow. It may mean nothing to us probably. However, it is crucial for businessman to know that things are predictable.

BTW: I found some old posts arguing about the unification or seperation stuff. A view from a taiwanese businessman, is very inspiring and realistic.

1. Let mainland engage with Taiwan in a normal way without clarifying those sensitive issues.
2. Sit back and grow economy together
3. Enjoy the relationship, wait and see.
4. 50 years later, when people on both sides get more matured, let them start talking about unification and seperation again, see what will happen.

CCP and DPP have done little but probably in the right track now. If so, neither will spend big money on weapon development anymore. However…..US government may lose, she wants to sell weapon………she wants play taiwan card with chinese…….
Darn, too bad………. 🙁

June 16, 2005 @ 2:18 pm | Comment

Well, I am glad that Lin and his friends are not quite ready to assign me to Green Island for criticizing their idols; and no, I have not yet received any lawsuits from the KMT.

It seems that Lin has been on a TSU hunt throughout the blogs.

I must admit however that it has been a bit hard to follow the frequent mood swings of Lin as he vacillates from telling people to shut up, to name calling, to alternately castigating and then defending the KMT etc. Finally however his true hunt is revealed. I guess I should have noticed it earlier from the telltale sign of his calling Lee Teng-hui a “traitor.”

Much of what we have seen is what I term the “Rhetoric of Justification.” We have seen this in several threads where people’s idols are attacked and they counter with either “everyone else did it sometime” or “this group did it in the 19th century” or find some spurious or disassociated example etc. It is something like saying, “You can’t call Hitler a bad man, because after all, he once helped an old lady across the street.”

Involved in this is the inability to separate “tokenism” or “window dressing” from what is substantive.

For those who have the endurance to wade through all of what Lin has written, go back and see how he gives examples of how independents won elections in the 50’s and 60’s as defense as to how I am not giving the “whole story” on how caring the KMT really was.

Now ask yourself the basic question, even if you are an independent candidate and win an election what are your chances of getting anything done where you have a one-party state and you are not allowed to have a party to support you; where the KMT control the military, the KMT control the police, the KMT control the media and the KMT control all the government property etc. etc. and you know that the KMT regularly imprison, torture and even execute anyone that is critical of them. You can either join them as many did since they are the only show in town; or you can be on their payroll for “not rocking the boat” or you can risk investigation by the Garrison Command and residency on Green Island.
So when Lin insists on giving the “whole picture” what do you think he is leaving out.

Now go further, go to Google and simply type in the words “Kaohsiung Incident” and see what comes up and choose what you want to read about it. These entries will talk about what still existed in Taiwan some 15 to 20 years after what Lin states are independents winning elections and showing how fair the KMT was and how the whole story is not told. Lin, you never did mention the Kaohsiung Incident when a whole new wave of imprisonments, tortures, assassinations, and deaths took place.

There are many other examples but that should give you the picture; at another time I will comment on Lee Teng-hui who interestingly is seen as a “traitor” by both the CCP and the KMT. Shulan you may want to pick up on that.

And as for the many so-called Chinese historians who are still unable to fathom the diversity and influence of the many schools of political thought that developed roots in the Japanese Taisho Period, ask yourselves again the basic question, how could a milatarist Japan develop a funtioning democracy within 12 years after World War II, when China still does not have it and Taiwan was able to–albeit 50 years later–and for reasons I have given in postings on my website.

I know some favor the “magic wand” theory of history where you explain what does not fit in with your biases and hatreds by attributing it to such; i.e. somehow MacArthur, like the tooth fairy, was able to change the mindset of a nation overnight with a magic wand.

I don’t see history that way, but I will be willing to read your justifications–perhaps on another thread. This is especially so since, China with its claims to Sun Yat-sen espouses the background of a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”


June 17, 2005 @ 10:35 pm | Comment

I am afraid that you didn’t catch my earlier post very well. I said that you tell the half story of KMT (actually the history of KMT), and I intended to tell the other half. Readers will have their own judgement. That’s why I left out something that you are very interested in. Another reason is that we all know KMT tortued and killed a lot of people in its history as I also stated in my post. Of course sometimes, you overestimate sth like japanese influence etc, I think it’s unfair. It seems that you use double standards towards KMT and Japanese.
About the earlier elections, one thing that I would like to say:
A real democratic establishment takes time and efforts as you can see from the history of UK, France, Germany, Russia, Japan….For example it took France 100 years to reach democracy after battling forth and back. It took Germany two world war and Japan one world war to know the essence of democracy. Never mention it took Russia almost a century. Besides, UK and US….all starts from partial democracy…..
That’s why partial election is a very important practice for Taiwanese before they really a full democracy. No nation can change overnight to a full democracy.
Also please check out Japan’s democracy before the war, also their basis for a new democracy after the war like freedom, law……etc.

June 19, 2005 @ 5:33 pm | Comment

The original title of my writings on the KMT was “What happens when good men are silent?” But the problem is a number of those good men are still silent.

Most of Taiwan’s current politicians were very much involved on one side of the fence or the other when the Kaohsiung Incident went down. And if we look at what was the original article in this thread , it dealt with Taiwan trying to come to terms with its past.

Taiwan has plenty of victims and plenty of crimes, but as of yet, none of the criminals or perpetrators from that period have to my knowledge ever been brought to trial. The crimes are acknowledged but it is as if a group of aliens committed them and then left the planet.

Instead I see leading generals of the time of the Kaohsiung Incident and before and after as well as those in charge of Garrison Command being feted at KMT dinners. Where are the responsible parties for the deaths, imrisonments, assassinations etc.? There is a blind eye for that period and none (understandably) want to acknowledge their involvment; it makes interesting reading to see who was where, and who was defending what by the state-controlled media.

Martial law was lifted in 1987; what files disappeared between then and 2000 when the KMT went out of power? There is a vacuum in Taiwan’s past where we have an abundance of crimes and no criminals yet the people that many that committed the crimes and certainly the many who know are still walking the streets.

Do I hammer the KMT on this; yes I do, but that is because in Taiwan I have to constantly listen to the pan-blue media as it clamors and cries for “truth and justice” but only for issues that came up in the past five years when they went out of power.

By the way, was I always this way? For those that want to know, I grew up in the days where the KMT state controlled media dominated what was sent to the States and I came to Taiwan thinking that Chiang Kai-shek was a nice guy.


June 21, 2005 @ 7:53 am | Comment

Before 2000…hmm…. then the president at that time is LDH. You are saying that LDH is responsible for the missing files? However you support TSU.
As I mentioned before, now DPP is in power. Why didn’t they bring those criminals to justice? I think probably because most people just like me already found out that the major criminals like ChenYi and CKS died already. What’s the point to dig out some minor criminals with the price the society. This may sound not right politically, but is the realistic practical attitude toward the past.

June 21, 2005 @ 5:27 pm | Comment

“now DPP is in power”

Sadly the DPP doesn’t have enough power.The KMT just disrupts whatever the DPP tries to do.Come on Lin,you know this.I really thought you would have a more sound argument than “now DPP is in power”!

As a person that comes from a country where we have had to confront our own violent past.I think it is very important that the truth must be known and then discussed.Both the victims and the oppressors need to tell their stories for the nation to come to terms with its past.


June 21, 2005 @ 11:08 pm | Comment

Well, I am always amazed at what people think I say and who they think I support. Remember, just because I don’t express the dislike you have for your enemies with the same venom and hatred you sometimes do, that does not mean that I support them.

Lin, we certainly view history differently. To lump all the crimes committed from 1945 to 1987, that is all the deaths, tortures, assassinations, corruption etc. as due to Chen Yi and CKS and everyone else is a minor criminal is quite a stretch.

So punishment should be meted to those two who are responsible (fortunately they happen to be dead albeit Chen Yi went quicker than he would have wanted.)

Everyone else gets a get out of Jail free card and if they pass go, they can keep the national property they took when the KMT was a one-party state. To me that is not realistic.

I belong more to the school of accountability and let the chips fall where they may. If LDH was involved in the cover-up, let him bear whatever responsibility he has. For sure there are plenty of people who would not want what they approved or went along with to be known.

But I lived through the years when Nixon was brought down by Watergate, a minor breakin, but a major attempt at cover up and it did not disturb the society but gave it strength. What was considered disturbing by many was rather when Ford’s almost immediately pardoned Nixon. Ford was not re-elected for good reasons.

I don’t think Taiwan will suffer from some Stasi honesty; I think it will move further on the path to democracy. And I don’t consider Chen Yi and CKS to be the only ones that are culpable.


June 22, 2005 @ 8:46 am | Comment

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