Thursday, October 1, 2009

1949: Catastrophe or Blessing for Taiwan?

1949: Catastrophe or Blessing for Taiwan?
United Daily News editorial
A Translation
October 1, 2009

Since 1949 the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been under divided rule. According to the rhetoric of Taiwan independence, 1949, the year the Republic of China government retreated to Taiwan, was the beginning of a catastrophe. But from an historical perspective, the larger meaning of 1949 was that Taiwan did not become part of the Peoples Republic of China.
If the Republic of China government had not moved to Taiwan, Taiwan would have inevitably become a province of the People's Republic of China. If so, Taiwan's landlords would have been purged. Taiwan's intellectuals would have been subjected to rightist rectification. Taiwan's streets and alleys would have been filled with backyard steel furnaces. Peoples' communes would have served "da guo fan" meals filled with sand and rocks. Students would have taken to the streets wearing the red armbands of Red Guards. People stigmatized as the "Five Black Categories" would have been paraded through the streets as demons. 1949 ensured that Taiwan did not go down this road, but instead went down a different road than the Chinese mainland for the next 60 years.

1949 has long been a taboo subject on Taiwan. For example, it was obviously a major rout. Yet it is described as a "transfer." Because of these taboos, politicians each use their own biased framework to interpret the events of 1949. The general public has never given much thought to the meaning of 1949, but 60 years later, some people are determined to restore the truth about 1949. They include Chi Pang-yuan, in her book "Ju Liu He" and Lung Ying-tai, in her book "Da Jiang Da Hai." Some scholars have attempted to initiate an academic debate. They are asking whether 1949 a catastrophe or blessing for Taiwan.

If one wishes to be glib and split the difference, one can it was a blessing plagued by catastrophes, or a catastrophe rich with blessings. But viewed from the perspective of history, 1949 ensured that Taiwan would not become part of the PRC. It was not merely a blessing for the Taiwan region, it was a blessing for China as a whole. Without 1949, the Chinese-speaking world would not have a directly-elected president. It would not have a free and democratic Republic of China, capable of successfully prosecuting a former president for crimes against society. The continued survival of the Republic of China on Taiwan since 1949 spared Taiwan three decades of catastrophe, beginning with the Three Antis, Five Antis Campaigns and ending with the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. It made possible today's environment of freedom and democracy.

A few years before 1949, there was talk of "KMT/CCP Divided Rule Across the [Yangzi] River." Had that come to pass, Taiwan would have been the rear echelon. It would not have been spared the consequences of bloody KMT vs. CCP warfare. The KMT retreated to Taiwan and severed all connections with the Communist regime. That is why Taiwan was able to hold out until today. Today this side of the Strait is holding presidential elections, and the other side is undergoing reform and liberalization. During these 60 years Taiwan also experienced catastrophes, including the 2/28 Incident and the White Terror. But seen in proportion, within the framework of history, 1949 was overwhelmingly a blessing for Taiwan. Without 1949, today's Taiwan would never have emerged.

To this day, Taiwan remains mired in debates over whether 1949 was a catastrophe or a blessing. Those who insist it was nothing but a catastrophe have their own terminology. They refer to Japan's surrender as the "Cessation of Conflict." They refer to Mainlanders as "Chinese pigs," who "invaded Taiwan" in 1949 and brought with them an "alien regime." They refer to the "Republic of China" as a "government in exile," one which mired Taiwan in a civil war from which it cannot escape. Those who consider 1949 a blessing on the other hand, remind us that 1949 spared Taiwan from the Red Terror. The Cold War era anti-Communist defense of Taiwan depended upon the Republic of China's military and diplomatic struggles against the Chinese Communist regime. This struggle included the 8/23 Artillery Battle. The post-Cold War lifting of martial law by the Republic of China implemented full democracy and made possible calls for "peaceful development" with Beijing.

Those who consider 1949 a blessing are not prettifying it. They have learned painful lessons from defeat. The overarching framework of "divided government on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait" deserves affirmation, for providing an historic opporunity for Taiwan. On the other hand, those who insist that 1949 was an unmitigated catastrophe, compel themselves to repudiate the past 60 years in toto. To them, even the Republic of China belongs to the Kuomintang, not to "Taiwanese." They make it impossible for themselves to acknowledge the true meaning of the past 60 years on Taiwan.

As a result of 1949, Taiwan experienced much suffering. But as a result of 1949, Taiwan also received many blessings. 1949 was a catastrophe and blessing for China as a whole as well. Over the past 60 years, the Mainland has emerged, through rivers of blood, from Communist dogma. Taiwan has achieved freedom and democracy, becoming an example for Beijing to emulate. The two sides have emerged from a struggle to the death, and are now walking side by side toward "peaceful development." If not for 1949, we would not have experienced the past 60 years. We would not be where we are today.

2009.10.01 04:46 am









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