The Other Chiang's Legacy

Taiwan's Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall has recently been renamed Taiwan Democracy Hall. Taiwan's ruling political party and a majority of Taiwan's population, it seems, are unhappy with a (these are the President's words) murderer being deified in the country's capital 32 years after his death. Dr. Arthur Waldron's, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, letter to the Taipei Times last Tuesday refers to Chiang's son, Chiang Jing-kuo. This is the link to Dr. Waldron's letter:


I decided to write to Dr. Waldron:

"I read your letter to the Taipei Times this morning. I think you make some very good points. It's likely that the island would have been overrun by Communists if Chiang and the KMT hadn't hid out here. The point you make about Chiang Jing-kuo not handing Taiwan to China on a silver platter (as Lien Chan would do now) but instead initiating Taiwan's democratization is also valid.

I take issue with two points: Taiwan being "desperately poor" and the part about mainlanders making up the "core of the army". Actually, Taiwan was probably the second most advanced country in all of Asia going into WWII. It had trains that ran regularly and on time. It had running water. It had modern hospitals. It had a very productive agricultural sector. It had elevators and the people knew how to drive cars, not to mention ride bicycles. This point is often lost on people, especially mainlanders in Taiwan who still tend who look down on the "Taiwanese" as being low-class hicks. Even after the US had bombed about 75% of the islands infrastructure, the island still had rich pickings for the carpet-baggers who showed up at the end of the 1945.

The part in your letter about mainlanders making up the core of the army is also misleading. At the end of the 1950s, some 580,000 men were conscripted into the armed forces here. The majority of these individuals were Taiwanese. They did the bulk of the fighting in the Kinmen Wars. Your letter makes it look like it was otherwise."

This was Dr. Waldron's reply:

"Thanks very much for this. I appreciate correction and additions. On poverty, I understand that Taiwan was relatively advanced and ahead of China in the twentieth century and after the war. But even in 1971 per capita GNP was in the $300-400 range. Poverty is relative, but in those days people thought Africa was going to grow faster than Asia. In any case, I think no one had a clue as to what the future held. Remember, in the US all the discussion was how to keep JAPAN afloat after WWII. On the army, I did note that it was conscript. I have no figures on the casualties, which is why I didn't make a flat assertion. I do believe the officer corps was mainlander dominated until quite recently. The reconstruction of the army by Sun Li-jen was also mainlander led.

I trust you understand my point. I strongly support Taiwan's present course and oppose dictatorship. But I feel that for political reasons the basic fact which is that without CKS the important issues being discussed today would all be about non events. I have always felt the CKS memorial was too much. I hope, however, that this can be dealt with an a way that is appropriate and recognizes the paradoxical nature of his role."

I don't have much use for the "mainlander effort" in the Taiwanese army. They had all of the plum positions, ones that were Taiwanese were blocked from attaining. (I imagine that Chiang was pretty leary of turning the controls of the military over to a Taiwanese lest that individual set his sights on the true enemy of Taiwan!) Waldron's Chiang Ching Kuo angle is, um, special, but I'm still putting my money on Lee Tung-hui as the real oomph behind Taiwan democratization.


It's Official: NCCU OK with Biracial Relationships

I received this letter from National Chengchi University:

國際愛情暨友誼週International Love & Friendship Week
1. 戀愛,不限時空 Love Beyond Boundaries 時間:5月15日(二)12:00~14:00 Time: May 15th (Tue.) 12:00~14:00 地點:行政大樓七樓第一會議廳 Venue: 1st Conference Room, 7F Administration Building Internationalization has created more and more “Interracial Relationships” on campus! Is it mysterious, exotic or truly unforgettable? Let’s take a look at "love that goes beyond boundaries” with couples sharing their stories and experts sharing their expertise on maintaining healthy relationship. 主辦單位:國交中心 Sponsored by: Center of International Education.
Interracial Relationships in scare quotes? "Interracial Relationships" or these so-called relationships - I wonder if that means "some people are now saying it is so, but we're still not convinced"?
In fact, almost everyone in Taiwan is the product of an "Interracial Relationship". It is estimated that at least 80% of the population has some Aboriginal blood (immigration of Han women to the island was banned until 1788 by the Ching Dynasty, so Han men married Aboriginal women). These days, one in five babies born in Taiwan has a mom or dad from a country other than Taiwan.
It's good to see the country is coming to terms with "Interracial Relationships", because it's not nice to go around hating yourself all the time, and it's a bit messed up to see yourself as mysterious or exotic.


You Can Trim Your Toenails on the MRT

(My wife says that the pic below looks like she's just adjusting her shoe, so here's the close-up.)

I saw this billboard at the NTU Hospital MRT Stop. It advises Grandma not to attempt a crossing if she's on a highway. Instead, she should wait until the next morning and find a street with a crosswalk. I've been living in Taiwan long enough to know that this is probably not going to work. Crosswalks in Taiwan are purely decorative.

I've seen some pretty weird stuff on Taipei's MRT; this is about as weird as it gets. This woman is trimming her toenails at Wanlong Station. Nothing fazes her. She continues to trim away, even when a teenager sat down next to her.


Dragon Boat Festival Is Coming Up

The dragon boat festival goes back some 2,300 years, almost to the start of Chinese history.

The locals will tell you that Qu Yuan, an ancient poet, drowned himself in a river to protest an emperor that was so crappy that he, with his low standards, had managed to downgrade Chinese society. Qu Yuan is quoted as saying to the emperor: "You've turned China into a country of beasts and this has broken my heart." At first, his countrymen threw balls of sticky rice into the very same river so the fish would have something feed on other than Qu Yuan's corpse. Later, the Chinese took to racing dragon boats once a year in spring to show their appreciation.

Each dragon boat carries 22 competitors: 20 rowers, a drummer and a steerer. A dragon boat like the one pictured above goes for NT $600,000 (US $18,000). If you're interested, you must put your order in a couple of weeks in advance. Go to Taipei and head down to the Danshui River by the Da Dao Chen Wharf to place your order.


Wikimania Coming to Taipei

My friend Eric has informed me that Wikimania is spreading to Taipei. I'm still trying to figure out what this could mean. A conference will be held August 3-5 in Taipei at the Chien Tan Overseas Youth Activity Center. According to Wikipedia, they are . . .

1. Accepting submissions for posters, presentations, workshops and discussion groups.

2. Accepting nominations for speakers and speaker panels, and suggestions for other activities.

They offer this advice: "Please be bold in your submissions!"

If you're a Wikimaniac, you might want to check out this link: