Taiwanese Not Forced to Serve

On May 31st, 2007, Taiwan's former president Lee Tung-hui announced he would visit Japan's Yasukuni Shrine to pay homage to his elder brother, who perished serving in Japan's Imperial Navy during WWII. Lee's proposed visit is considered provocative to say the least as Yasukuni visits by Japanese Prime Ministers Koizumi and Abe have already raised the ire of Beijing. Some of Japan's nastiest war criminals are honored at this site, men who have the blood of the Nanking Massacre, Singapore Massacre, Changi Prison Camp, Hong Kong Massacre, Hellships and Bataan Death March on their hands. But the shrine's English Website makes the following claim under the title of The Correct View of History: "There is no uncertainty in history. Japan's dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia. We cannot overlook the intent of those who would tarnish the good name of the noble souls of Yasukuni."


All revisionist history aside, Lee's visit is important. First, it is steeped in historical significance. 200,000 Taiwanese fought against China and the Allied Forces – more than 27, 000 died and they are enshrined at Yasukuni. It seems this fact has been forgotten here in Taiwan in the frenzy to decry Japan's foul misdeeds against China and to spend much time celebrating the Generalissimo's achievements as the "supreme commander of the victorious Allied forces during WWII" (China Post, June 2nd).


That Taiwanese men did not fight for China and that they did volunteer for service in Japan's Imperial Forces – they were not forced to do so as Japan did not conscript soldiers from Taiwan – speaks to how much the Taiwanese considered themselves to be Japanese (and not Chinese) half a century ago. Second, that a single old man can still ruffle so many feathers shows much of what he started during his time in office remains unsettled, and how far apart China and Taiwan (or any other democratic country for that matter) are. In Taiwan, citizens enjoy certain rights. These include the "freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication" (Constitution of the Republic of China "Taiwan". Chapter II. Rights and Duties of the People, Article 11). China doesn't really get it. By Taiwan's own rules, though, Lee should be able to go wherever he wants and say whatever he pleases.


Kaminoge said...

Good post. The politics behind Yasukuni-jinja are unpleasant to say the least, though the shrine and adjacent war museum are worth visiting if you're ever in Tokyo.

Imperial Japan is long gone, and Japan today is a democracy that guarantees its citizens a number of rights, including the freedoms of speech and religion. These same rights are granted to visitors from abroad as well. If Lee Tung-hui wishes to visit Yasukuni, and happens to make a statement supporting Taiwanese independence while he's there, he's well within his rights to do so.

Anonymous said...

One China, two systems? Once again, we will see that China can't respect freedom of speech.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Lee Tung-hui has pointed out that during his presidency, he made two trips to a 1911 martyr's shrine in Taipei to commemorate the ROC's victory over the Ching Dynasty even though it had nothing to do with Taiwan.

I remember talking about this point -- when the Ching Dynasty fell Taiwan was a colony of Japan -- with a Taiwanese friend. I told him: "The Ching fell in 1911. Taiwan wasn't handed back to Japan until 1945. Double 10 Day has nothing to do with Taiwan."

My friend countered: "Taiwan sent people over to fight."

It sounded dubious: Why would have Japan wanted to stabilize the Ching? "Where'd you hear this?" I asked.

"A teacher," was the reply.

Anonymous said...

Taiwan's president has stated that Taiwan might not go ahead with 10/10 Day this year.

Richard said...

"That Taiwanese men did not fight for China and that they did volunteer for service in Japan's Imperial Forces." Voluteer? What's the source?

Patrick Cowsill said...

Peng Ming-min talks about the draft in A Taste of Freedom: "At first Formosan students were merely harangued on the moral obligation and glory of service for the emperor . . . but soon they were invited to sign individual applications for volunteer duty" (Peng, 1972).

Anonymous said...

Japan did indeed institute conscription in colonial Taiwan, but it was no until the 1940's, and by that time PMM was studying in Japan. If you have access to a library, you can find more about colonial period military and labour conscription in March, 2001 China Quarterly pp. 130.

For an Internet reference see,

Anonymous said...

Taiwanese soldiers in the Japanese army were never sent to fight in China. They were all sent to the Pacific Theater. In fact, many of the soldiers from Taiwan who fought there were aborigines. Some number of the Japanese soldiers who refused to give up following the Emperor's statement and unconditional surrender were Taiwan aborigines.

Patrick Cowsill said...

Annonymous, I am really interested in finding out more about this topic. Any further tips would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

A Taste of Freedom is an interesting book, but it's limited by PMM's lack of personal experience living in Taiwan during that period and his political stance toward the Japanese and the KMT.

In 1927, the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan instituted the Kominka, which literally means 'Becoming a citizen of the Emperor'. The goal was to encourage Taiwanese into becoming more loyal toward Japan. You can read about this in the work of Chou Wan-you
She's a wonderful person if you ever get the chance to talk with her.

I can't remember when, but sometime during the war, Japan granted Taiwanese citizenship in their bid to promote loyalty in the fight against the Allies. I suspect it was 1942 and that's what resulted in conscription.

Much of Taiwan's colonial identity was created not by the Japanese but by the KMT's response to Taiwan. as PMM points out, Taiwanese were ready to embrace the KMT, but their was so much bitterness toward Taiwan's collaboration with the Japanese that this was not possible.

Despite this, there was fierce resistance against the Japanese. It took until 1915 for the Japanese to declare Taiwan "free of bandits". The fierce resistance to the Japanese during this period has been credited with the lack of resistance later on in comparison with Korea. The 20 years of fighting with Japan killed off most of the local leaders who might have otherwise gone on to create a Taiwan-based resistance. But this portion of Taiwanese history is the most poorly documented, leaving the impression that Taiwan rolled over, when it did not.

Patrick Cowsill said...

According to Hung Chiao "A History of Taiwan," [The Japanese] opened the military volunteer service for Taiwan Chinese in 1942. He writes: "It was not exactly voluntary. All Taiwanese at the age of 20 were required to apply for voluntary service. Less than two years later, in September 1944, conscription started on the island" (Hung, 235).

In Peng Ming-min's "A Taste of Freedom", Peng explains that lists were posted on university walls in Japan (Peng went to university there), listing all of the Taiwanese students that had yet to apply for service. That was as far as it went, and how Peng avoided joining the army.

My friend Gloria told me her mother was recruited as a nurse, to go to SE Asia. Gloria's grandparents didn't want here to go, however, as she was an only daughter. And she didn't go. Her best friend did, and ended up becoming a sex slave (comfort woman). She returned to Taiwan (Miaoli) years later. She had had VD; it left her sterile.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean Hung Chien-Chiao and the article in American Asian Review?

Regardless, it's pretty clear that many Taiwanese volunteered to serve and that many were involved in military roles. But I think the reasoning behind all of this seems clearer to use today than it did for the Japanese at the time. After all, none of the Taiwanese soldiers, conscript or volunteer, were sent to China to fight.

Patrick Cowsill said...

The main reason that I'm interested in this because there is so little information about it, plus it seems like something the KMT has whitewashed in its Double Ten celebratory mood. I've read that just before the 2-28 Massacre, some Taiwanese veterans protested by putting on their Japanese uniforms and singing Japanese songs in the streets.

I don't think that we can confirm or deny that Taiwanese fought in China. If we deny it, does this include the 30,000 Aborigines that served, the coolies, nurses, doctors, construction workers and sex slaves?

Maybe I will write a paper on it for school. I would like to interview some people who served overseas. I need to think about how to locate them.

Hung was a journalist. But he also wrote a book, called "The History of Taiwan" (Il Cherchio, 2000, 367 pages).

Anonymous said...

I understand where you're coming from. I do disagree that it's impossible to confirm if Taiwanese fought in China. There has been a very large amount of research done on this period in Japan. Much of it is now written in English. The point is frequently made that the Japanese did not want to risk having Taiwanese fight in China and hence no Taiwanese units were sent there. I have heard of Taiwanese being sent to China to act as translators and there may even have been the occasional Taiwanese involved in combat, but it would have been impossible to conceal large numbers of Taiwanese fighting in China. Following the Japanese surrender, Japanese troops stranded overseas had to be repatriated. If there had been large numbers of Taiwanese repatriated from China, it would have common knowledge among Allied personnel.

Of course I would encourage you to conduct your own interviews to confirm this, and if you find anything to the contrary, please post this.

Anonymous said...

The relationship between colonial Taiwan and China is often understood. In fact, there continued to be a great deal of contact with China up until the outbreak of fighting. Migratory workers would come over from Fukien to pick tea and do other kinds of labour. There was a sizable number of students from Taiwan who went to China to study and upon returning to Taiwan became some of the most vocal opponents of Japanese colonialism.

I highly recommend you try and get ahold of Chou Wan-you's work on Taiwanese identity during the Kominka.

Anonymous said...

It is great that you are so interested in studying the history of Taiwan. I quite enjoy visiting and reading your blog.

My grandfather was sent to fight in Southeast Asia. He once said that they were sent there to be the disposable manpower because they had to take on all the hard labour jobs. He did not volunteer to go and there was no glory about his service. In fact, many ordinary young men, who were not rich enough to study overseas, I guess, simply had no choice but to follow the rule of the occupied land.

Is it just my impression, or somehow some people in Taiwan seem to romanticize the period during Japanese occupation? It was the time when my grandparents (and even my parents) were forced to take Japanese names and Japanese education. They had no cultural identities and had to study Chinese (Han Wen) secretly.

I guess if Lee Tung-hui wishes to do whatever he wants, he can always find an excuse to justify it. It is his personal choice; however, many people (the group is getting smaller as they age) still have mixed feelings about the past history, something we can forgive but not forget.

Please do keep us posted about your further findings.


Anonymous said...

Julie, keep in mind that LTH's brother is interned in the Yasukuni Shrine. While there is always a political sense to someone of his stature visiting the shrine, he does have strong personal reasons for going there.

I was quite disturbed by my own visit there. The feeling is not at all like the war memorials in Canada or Taiwan. The visitors seem more like they're at the zoo or on a picnic. While there you can by books in the bookstore that clearly depict such events as the Nanking Massacre, it is just as easy to find monuments that glorify the 'Great Pacific War'.

I do agree, though, that the Taiwanese have come to glorify the events of the time. Even Peng Ming Min's autobiography readily admits this. In a sense, this is not a secret and every source I have reviewed of the period makes the same observation.

While I understand the sentiment about the KMT's whitewashing of Taiwan history, this is not one of those episodes. Taiwan was not the happy colony of Japan and the citizens not craving for the modern civilization the Japanese had to offer.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"Taiwan was not the happy colony of Japan and the citizens not craving for the modern civilization the Japanese had to offer."

A lot of Taiwanese elites went to study in Japan. On the other hand, when Taiwanese were in China during the early parts of the 20th Century, they looked down on the Chinese. When they misbehaved, they used their "Japanese status" to protect themselves against Chinese laws and regulations. Some Chinese in China managed to procure these Taiwanese IDs so that they could add a new dimension to their own misbehavior.

It seems that the Taiwanese were glad to see the Japanese leave in 1945. To them, they were the “four-legged" (四腳仔) meaning impure dogs. The Taiwanese even cheered on KMT soldiers arriving in Keelung. It was the coarse behavior of these soldiers (not to mention 2-28) that turned the Taiwanese against the Chinese in the late 40s and that led to the saying "dogs leave, pigs rush in". In some ways, nostalgia for the Japanese can actually translated as dislike for the KMT.

Julia, was your grandpa conscripted?

Anonymous said...

Many extremely wealthy Taiwanese studied in Japan. Some smaller group sponsored by the Presbyterian Church were also sent to Japan for clerical training. Generally, it was from this group that leaders of the Taiwanese anti-colonial movement developed.

A smaller group of Taiwanese went to China to study. This group was much more virilantly anti-Japanese upon their return to Taiwan.

I agree with you completely that much of the pro-Japan sentimentality one hears today is in fact anti-KMT feeling.

Anonymous said...

You are right on, Patrick. I totally agree with you on your last post.

My grandfather, being the only son in the family, was indeed drafted to Southeast Asia. When he got back, he was extremely ill. In fact, he was lucky to get out alive. My great-grandfather, who was born and raised during the occupation, and his father operated a successful inn in Chiayi. I remember my grandmother showed me many old photos with Japanese visitors and Japanese police and military officials. There used to be many sugar plantations and factories around Chiayi, which made this agricultural city somewhat important at the time. My family was reputable and might be financially better than some, but we were still not well connected enough to avoid the conscription for my young grandfather, I guess.

There are a lot of interesting underlined sub topics that we can derive from this particular discussion.

Under 50 years of Japanese rule, Taiwan was a colony and people were considered as secondary citizens, which I don’t even know if they would fit the category of a “citizen”. However, fifty years of occupation was a long time, long enough for a generation born and raised during the occupation to establish a different mentality. I am not trying to be cynical here, but it is quite obvious that “elites”, no matter where in the world, often depends on the money power and/or political collaboration with the people in power. Traditionally, Chinese rely on using “connection” to operate business at different levels in public and private sectors. So, incidents as you have mentioned would be quite common among people with Japanese connections. The island was reclaimed from Japan right after WWII. Although the low and middle classes might have a glimpse of hope, the island had been ruled for 50 years and, as you could imagine, there would be resistance by some to new changes of political power transfer and rules. (That’s why I am not surprised if there is still a group of Japanese sympathizers in Taiwan.)

Chiang Kai Sheik and his troops did not retreat right away to the island after WWII. There was actually a lap of four years and the civil war before the KMT troops finally retreated to Taiwan in 1949. It was a power struggle for different “warlords” and a difficult trying time for the people in mainland China. Taiwan, being an island, eventually became the last resort for Chiang. The large number of people retreated with the KMT troops contained people from different “colorful” groups and many social classes from mainland China. I personally think that it was a trying time and there was a need for martial law at the time under the circumstances. Of course, the battles, between China and the outposts of Jin Men and Ma Ju islands, which later became only somewhat symbolic, did not help but reinforce the needs for the martial law and mandatory military service. It certainly was not fair to the peaceful island and her people to live through such a long and extended period of military rein. However, the initial rationale for the martial law might be the only reason why Taiwan is as free as all we can enjoy now.

To tell the truth, I think it is quite naïve and could be dangerous for people to mix the Pro-Japan sentiments with anti-KMT feelings. I certainly hope that Taiwan will not lose her own cultural identity to modern Japanese culture. I am shocked that there are still some people who think it is better to be subordinate citizens living on a colony under foreign rulers. What were they thinking?

Vince said...

Interesting, that Lee appears to have been raised a loyal Japanese subject (with a Japanese name); his brother died in World War II fighting with the Japanese Imperial Army; he has visited the Yasukuni War Shrine in Japan; he became President of ROC, although not part of the original KMT leadership from China. Now he's left the KMT in protest against having closer ties with China?

Does Taiwan have a position about their involvement in World War II? I don't think Japan has ever apologized for the War (or their attack on Pearl Harbor). Isn't the Japanese position that the War had tragic consequences, but that they were forced into it by Western (including U. S.) policies. I suppose Taiwan says that they had no choice, but have they ever offered an apology?

Of course the U. S. has never apologized for Hiroshima or Nagasaki (widely popular with the U.S. public) or for Viet Nam (although they once promised reconstruction aid, which was reneged on when the War went badly for them).

I don't think Germany has ever apologized for World War II (except to Israel for the death camps). I suppose most Germans think that they fought the War out of duty to their country, but that Hitler made some mistakes (by invading Russia).

I'm looking for historic apologies and not finding many. The U. S. and Canada have apologized to Japanese citizens interned during World War II.
Anything like that between Japan, Taiwan, China, or Korea?

Anonymous said...

Vince, I am not sure what you mean by an apology.

Knowledge of the Holocaust and the role of Germany in WWII is common among Germans. Students are taught about this in school and there are museums constructs to inform citizens about this. In fact, Germans do not think of what happened in the War as an issue of duty. The understanding of the vast majority of Germans, particularly in the West, is not different at all from the understanding of citizens in countries they occupied and attacked.

If we understand this as an apology, Japan has not apologized. Nevertheless, there have been many formal statements from Japanese at the highest level apologizing for the war. Wikipedia has a list of there here
But there are others not listed.

Lee Tung Hui's situation would not be different from the huge number of Canadians, Indians and other Commonwealth citizens whose relative fought and died in both world wars.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I certainly hope that Taiwan will not lose her own cultural identity to modern Japanese culture. I am shocked that there are still some people who think it is better to be subordinate citizens living on a colony under foreign rulers. What were they thinking?"

I think Taiwan must first find her cultural identity before she'll be in a position to lose it to the Japanese. This means sorting through tonnes of b.s. Needless to say, much of the b.s. is created by the pro-China camp. But the other side has a hard time with certain parts of the story, Taiwan involvement in WWII being a good example of what I'm talking about.

My purpose in bringing the Japanese up again and again in my posts is to say that Taiwan took a step back when the KMT arrived. What I mean is the trains stopped running regularly, cholera and malaria resurfaced, corruption spread like wildfire through the bureaucracy, inflation was starting to look like something out of Weimar Germany, etc. It went from being Asia's second most modernized "country" to an almost third world backwater in the matter of two years thanks to the leadership of China, said to be wise beyond comprehension because of 5000 years of glorious history.

Taiwan has always been in a situation of "subordinate citizens living on a colony under foreign rulers", at least the Taiwan as we know it, which is from 1600 when Chinese and Japanese settled down in the Tainan area, and definitely after 1624 when the Dutch showed up. At first, the Dutch with the help of Aboriginal militias (and Spanish in the north) held the Chinese down. It's worth pointing out that the Dutch were not "foreign invaders" as far as the Chinese settlers were concerned as it was the Dutch who brought most of them here in the first place. As far as Taiwan is concerned, both the Dutch and the Chinese, were "foreigners". The non-foreign "sub-ordinate citizens, meaning the Aborigines, by and large seemed to get along with the Dutch (massacres such at Ma-tou 麻豆 in 1635 are definitely an exception). In 1661, 50,000 "foreign" Chinese arrived under Koxinga (鄭成功). They ruled the locals for 22 years, all the while preparing to retake China.

When China re-entered the picture, it did so as a "foreign ruler". Beijing immediately tried to sell Taiwan back to the Dutch. When the Dutch didn't bite, it considered repatriating locals it considered to be "Chinese". Finally, Beijing decided to keep a presence in Taiwan. It was an imperialist set-up from the get-go, with the Chinese Emperor calling Taiwan a "muddy blob floating in the ocean". Just like any imperial ruler, Emperor Kangshi sent officials to oversee things. These officials looked down on the locals and mistreated them, and were repaid with "an uprising every three years, a rebellion every five". All told, there were 159 rebellions in 212 years of Ching rule. Some of them were created by Aborigines, who were sick of corvee. The "Taiwanese" were also tired of their foreign rulers, who couldn't protect them, who were corrupt and who banned them from bringing their families here.

Of course, Japanese Taiwan represents "a colony under foreign rulers". People think this applies to KMT Taiwan as well.

Anonymous said...

While I don't disagree with you, it's not a linear zero-sum kind of problem. One of the grave problems created by any kind of colonialism and particularly in Taiwan was local citizens were not given the know-how of running things. There would have been virtually no Taiwanese who had any supervisory of management experience. Despite the widespread literacy created by the Japanese, they also created a two-tiered education system that relegated even the most talented Taiwanese children to schools with less prestigious labels. Even after the Japanese built Taida, the only majors students could study were in applied disciplines like forestry or agriculture. Popular majors of the time, like Politics or Law, could not be studied in the colony's university.

This lack of opportunity was the reason why anyone with other options left the colony for education or opportunity in Japan or China. Wealthy intellectuals like Peng Ming-Min and Lee Tung-Hui were forced to study in Japan because that's the only place you could study these subjects.

The result of this was that in 1945, virtually no one in Taiwan knew how to make things work. Observers of the situation immediately following the war reported on the deteriorating conditions. Justifiably this was blamed on the KMT's starving Taiwan of money and expertise, as well as looting as much as they could. The fact that there was virtually no one with experience in strategic planning or government can not be left out.

The entrepreneurial spirit that we credit Taiwan with was not created until after the 1949 defeat of the KMT and the flight of millions of refuges with business, professional, and management knowledge into Taiwan.

The point of this is not that the KMT created prosperity in Taiwan. They did not; prosperity occurred inspire of them. The point is that Taiwan is neither the KMT nor a pro-Green political faction. Taiwan is composed of millions of people with a diverse ethnic identity and history. They created the prosperity that Taiwan now experiences, not the political process or an historical description that leaves a large part of them unrepresented or undescribed.

Anonymous said...

To Patrick:

Taiwan was definitely a target for many imperial power struggles as you have stated. So did many other countries (and islands) in Asia during that exploration and colonization eras, all thanks to the Imperialism from Europe. That was why Meiji, the emperor of Japan, determined to modernize his country and then simply mirrored what the other Imperial powers did and took whatever “trophies” he could get his hands on. Taiwan was a merely a colony under 50 years of slow cultural assimilation.

My ancestors came along with Koxinga (鄭成功), and we used to have a family book (Jia Pu) to prove it. I think, other than the aborigines who could called themselves true Taiwanese, all of us were just simply “occupants” on the little dot of the history timeline on the island. Now, after hundreds of years of inter-racial mix-marriages, who can call themselves a “pure Taiwanese”?

I think the definition of Taiwanese should simply be based on birth right as well as democratic process and citizenship. As far as I am concerned, if you are so passionate about Taiwan and determine to make Taiwan your home for life, there should be no reason why you can not be a Taiwanese citizen through the civil process; however, your cultural identity (where and how you were brought up) remains the same. If you intend to raise your cute little daughter in Taiwan, the culture she will grow up in would be different from yours because she would receive the nurture from both of her parents, you and your wife, with the mixture of two cultures, East and West.

The similar “culturalization” process also applies to Taiwan. Although we maintain a mainly Chinese culture, Taiwan has taken in so many influences throughout its history. Consequently, the unique part of Taiwan is that you can find traces of many historical cultural influences and imported cultures on this small island and need not to go far. (Hong Kong could be a good example of this as well.) This could also be a negative point about Taiwan because SOME (but not all) people have the tendency to get into frenzy with many things “foreign” without discerning thoughts. That’s why; we have a saying of “Monks who came from afar can chant louder.” (wai lai de he shang hui nian jing.), which is a sarcastic interpretation of this kind of mentality - imports are better than domestics.

A little interesting side story happened to me a few years ago. When an acquaintance asked me to put an ad in the newspaper in Canada to find an English teacher for his bu-shi-ban, he requested for a Caucasian teacher. I told him that I could be in deep trouble if I put that kind of ad in any Canadian newspaper. This guy knew that he could find good teachers from all races and creeds. He simply believed that a teacher, preferably Caucasian, would be an advertisement for his business and helped attract more students, a mere reflection from his market and potential clients - imports are better than domestics. (BTW, with so many foreign teachers in Taiwan, I probably won’t be able to get my old teaching job back. LOL)

We can not deny that Taiwan does have her own resilient Chinese cultural identity, which may be slightly different from another one in a region, or any region, in China. Ours is a kind of Chinese culture that has been localized, somewhat assimilated and evolved on this island. My concern about losing our cultural identify is no different from my forefathers’ concerns when Japanese came; however, they were under pressure to conform, but now some Taiwanese people are doing it willingly for the sheer fashion. That, in my view, is a concern.


I have to agree with the Anonymous above. (Too many Anonymous, which could be difficult to quote. Hehehe)

Politically, Taiwanese citizens might have lost many rights under the martial law during the rein of the old Chiang. Taiwan also went through its economic glory as I was growing up. When Japanese occupied Taiwan, Taiwan was poor. When they left, Taiwan was still poor. My paternal great grandfather lost his business when the Japanese left. I guess it was because of no more Japanese visitors. My grandmother used to joke about the economy then, “from eating yam chunks with little rice to eating shredded yam”. Life was no better for a poor family under either rule. My mother lost her father, and lived her formative years through the turmoil of WWII with little education, and later through financial strain with a widowed mother, who had no right to her husband’s estate. (Women had no right under many circumstances.) My grandmother, however, was able to lease a piece of land for farming after the agriculture reform. Unlike the rich elites, the poor people had little means to a higher education under either rule. Many people actually thanked the compulsory education reform.

I think Chiang, K.S’s son Chiang junior was really the one who had some foresight for this island in the past. His efforts, however, were often overshadowed by his father’s fame, but he was the one who really had a long term vision for Taiwan. I don't think he was credited enough for establishing the path for Taiwan to become an economic power, by orchestrating all kinds of modernized infrastructure during our economic recession. Not too many leaders after him had the similar long term vision. As Anonymous pointed out, KMT may not have created all the prosperity in Taiwan; however, we can not deny that any political party in power may have helped shape the direction the country was heading. It seems like many political leaders nowadays, no matter in the East or the West, are only concerned about their political agenda for their term, not the future. Or as my husband says, “They’re trying to look good, not do good.” Sometimes, I wish the politicians can look beyond their political party line to work for the people in Taiwan. (This sentiment also applies to politicians in other countries such as Canada and USA.)


I am very pleased that I accidentally came across your blog. It is always great to find people who are so passionate about Taiwan, whether by blood or by choice.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to put my name for my post above.
Julia (refuse to be nameless)

Anonymous said...

It's hard for me discuss Chiang Ching-kuo. On one hand, he's worshiped like the deity of democracy here. On the other hand, he was the director of the KMT Blue Shirts http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2000/03/17/28124
and directly responsible for the widespread abuses we all now call White Terror. I am not sure that his work building national infrastructure projects was as much a reflection of his will as it was a lack of trust of his father's (CKS) in appointing someone else.

The economic growth during Taiwan's martial law period is sometimes explained as the result of the insightful policies of the KMT. I have trouble seeing this. During this period, the ROC was a recipient of vast amounts of US aid that dwarf the amounts pumped into places like Africa. The only place in the world that has ever experienced the magnitude of aid dumped on East Asia following the end of WWII is Europe and strangely these are the only regions in the world that were able to recover from the carnage of the war.

I'm sorry. It's hard to speak poorly of CCK and be taken seriously, but I really hesitate. he and the KMT happened to be in control of Taiwan while the US dumped billions on the island. They were in control when Jimmy Carter recognized Beijing. They were in Power while democratic neighbour Japan became an economic powerhouse. I can think of all kinds of reasons other than the benevolence of KMT colonialism to explain prosperity in Taiwan.

Anonymous in Taiwan

Anonymous said...

If you think the Taiwanese people, CKS or CJG had a power to change the decisions made by US President Nixon, Ford and then President Carter, then you are seriously mistaken. I still remember vividly the day when Kissinger’s car was showered with eggs and tomatoes at the airport in Taiwan. USA had to use China as an ally to block the Soviet Unions and Taiwan was only a pawn. Years later, I got to admire President Carter for many of his humanitarian work, but I still hold grudges against his decision to normalize relations with China. We were angry as hell, but the political diplomacy on the world stage was not as simple as what one person could decide in Taiwan. Or, we (Taiwan) wouldn’t have any problem getting recognized by WHO, would we? BTW, USA would never pump tremendous amount of money into a region if they have no political interest or benefits to gain from the region. For that, you can easily find plenty of evidence to prove the facts.

The point is Taiwan was very much in isolation then, and now we continue to struggle in order to be recognized by the organization once had denied us. Years ago, many foreign countries simply did not expect this little island of Taiwan to survive after China and US had established their formal relations. I think the economic miracle of Taiwan was very much recognized because of many unsung heroes, those small and average sized companies and businessmen carrying their little briefcases around the world to promote “Made in Taiwan” label. As one anonymous blogger has posted, the ordinary people in Taiwan were the ones who helped drive the island itself towards prosperity; however, we did have a government that took the lead to point our country to a direction, and at least moved the country out of that dire economic slum.

My immediate concern now is China has been systematically to get his hands on many sectors around the world, not only in economic sectors or natural resources, but also in diplomacy and cultural exchange missions. (Look at their relief missions to Africa and the sprouting of Chinese Cultural Centres at universities everywhere around the world set up by the local Chinese embassy.) They are doing exactly the same thing that Taiwan did when we used to operate our financial power to assist the third world countries. To tell the truth, I am not only concerned about Taiwan. I am also worried about the economy of many developed countries including Canada and the US of A.

We (not to give the age) all lived through the political tough time in Taiwan. If we, as a nation, want to move ahead, we have to learn from the experiences of the past, but not to dwell on issues or individual political agenda that could only hinder the future of our nation, whether to unify with China or not is beside the point. If we truly think the people are the ones with power to make a difference, then we need to look at Taiwan’s political future with honesty and do just that again.
(Cheering for Taiwan from the outside.)

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I think the definition of Taiwanese should simply be based on birth right as well as democratic process and citizenship. As far as I am concerned, if you are so passionate about Taiwan and determine to make Taiwan your home for life, there should be no reason why you can not be a Taiwanese citizen through the civil process."

I agree with that; unfortunately, the government in Taiwan is steadfastly opposed to your point of view. For starters, citizenship is conferred by the parents and is not a birth right in Taiwan. This reminds me of my friend David, who was born in Taiwan and who speaks fluent Taiwanese. He is denied Taiwanese citizenship because his parents are white. His adopted Taiwanese brothers, interestingly, are allowed Taiwanese citizenship because, I suppose, race here trumps the law. David phoned a government office recently to complain. He is in Taiwan on a work visa, you see. When he told the person on the other end of the line that he was white, the official replied "that's impossible" and hung up the phone.

My friend Brook and his wife (both American) recently gave birth to a child here in Taipei. When they applied for the birth allowance provided by the labor insurance dept., they were turned down because their child is "not Taiwanese." Both Brook and his wife have been paying their insurance monthly as well as their taxes.

Even my own child, born to a Taiwanese mother on Taiwan soil would've denied citizenship prior to 2002, as it was only then that women gained the right to confer citizenship to their offspring.

President Chen constantly talks about reciprocity. When I look at immigration statistics, however, I feel confused. On average, 10,000 Taiwanese are naturalized in the US (for example) every year. To this point, only 11 Americans have ever been naturalized in Taiwan. Chen is an advocate of human rights, Amnesty International, etc., but he doesn't let this get in the way of policy proposals. I'm thinking about how he has proposed a lower standard of minimum wage for foreign laborers than for local laborers, or his repeated calls to cull the amount of foreign workers here. Every time I hear his rhetoric, I can't help but think: "We are all foreigners, pal," unless you're admitting that you are Aboriginal.

Anonymous said...

Julie, what I meant was that Chiang Ching-kuo was not responsible for the events that created development, prosperity, and democracy. He was coincidentally the military president of the ROC at that time, but he should not be given credit for this. It is doubtful that had not died suddenly and Lee Tung-hui become the president that Taiwanese democracy would look anything like what it does today.

There are many nations in the world that confer citizenship through birthright rather than residence. he ROC has a very particular security problem they are trying to address with the selective bestowal of passports that they have historically practiced. The interesting thing to me is that the DPP has made virtually no move to alter the organization established by the KMT.

Anonymous in Taiwan

Patrick Cowsill said...

Chiang Ching-Kuo brought a lot of young bright technocrats into the bureaucracy and wasn't nearly as autocratic as the old man. People argue all the time that he played a role in Taiwan's prosperity, and they're probably right. But there are gray areas. For example, he oversaw Taiwan's secret police. Political assassinations carried on well into the eighties, and I don't remember reading about anyone ever being arrested for them. There is also the issue of student spies in America; higher-ups in the KMT today have allegedly taken part in this program. I agree: Chiang gets to much credit for Taiwan's democratization. When did the people of Taiwan ever elect him to anything?

"The interesting thing to me is that the DPP has made virtually no move to alter the organization established by the KMT."

Is it that interesting though? Creating cultural divisions in Taiwan has been the DPP's bread and butter over the past decade. Listen to Chen; his slogan is "we are Taiwanese [and they are not]." I would think that he doesn't just mean the 1949 refugees by this. His actions as President seem to support this. But who knows? He says a lot of different things. Sometimes, he's pretty hard to follow.

Anonymous said...

While standard histories and the folklore of commoners make CCK out to be the man who brought us all democracy, even if this is so, he brought Taiwan other things.My point is not that CCK did not oversee good works or that even that he can not be linked to them. My point is that you can not accurately separate him from whatever you perceive White Terror to have been.

The DPP was not initially an ethnic party. When it was founded, it was organized as the opposition to the KMT. Its transformation into the voice of the Hoklo has occurred primarily since the implementation of democracy. It is not merely an issue of how Chen Sui-bian has run the party. It has been a complex process involving a general consensus of the party and the voting public. In some ways, the ethnicization of Taiwan party politics is the direct result of the formation of party politics during martial law. Parties are formed and rise to prominence. Even if the social situations change, you're stuck with the same old guys.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"I'm looking for historic apologies and not finding many. The U. S. and Canada have apologized to Japanese citizens interned during World War II.
Anything like that between Japan, Taiwan, China, or Korea?"

Lee Tung-hui apologized for the 2-28 Massacre of Taiwanese that happened 60 years ago. I'm not sure if he was apologizing on behalf of the government (meaning the Republic of China) or KMT (the pro-China party here in Taiwan). Lee also spoke with student protesters at Taiwan Democracy Hall (it used to be called Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall) who were frustrated with the pace of democratization in Taiwan.

Patrick Cowsill said...

"My grandfather was sent to fight in Southeast Asia. He once said that they were sent there to be the disposable manpower because they had to take on all the hard labour jobs. He did not volunteer to go and there was no glory about his service."

Julia, if possible I'd like to meet your grandma or someone from your family who is acquainted with your Grandpa and his years as a soldier.