Civil Wars have No Heroes:
Internal Conflict Prevents a Nation from Developing
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 27, 2012
Summary: Taiwan Retrocession Day was once a red letter day. One invoked deities, honored one's ancestors, held banquets, and received guests. The atmosphere was summed up in the verse, "wang shih guang fu tai wan re, jia ji wu wang gao nai ong." In other words, on such a day we must recall who recovered Taiwan; we must express gratitude to our elders. But since reunification vs. independence confrontations became the "norm," the importance of Taiwan Retrocession Day has been downplayed. This year this newspaper published a special edition discussing Taiwan Retrocesson Day. President Ma wrote a facebook post. Otherwise the public would have completely and utterly forgotten the special significance of October 25.
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Taiwan Retrocession Day was once a red letter day. One invoked deities, honored one's ancestors, held banquets, and received guests. The atmosphere was summed up in the verse, "wang shih guang fu tai wan re, jia ji wu wang gao nai ong." In other words, on such a day we must recall who recovered Taiwan; we must express gratitude to our elders. But since reunification vs. independence confrontations became the "norm," the importance of Taiwan Retrocession Day has been downplayed. This year this newspaper published a special edition discussing Taiwan Retrocesson Day. President Ma wrote a facebook post. Otherwise the public would have completely and utterly forgotten the special significance of October 25.
President Ma spoke in general terms about why Taiwanese have forgotten Taiwan Retrocession Day. He said it was because the Chinese Civil War never ended. President Ma "thanked the nation's men in arms for their sacrifice and dedication. Following Taiwan's retrocession they continued to defend Taiwan, build up Taiwan, and protect Taiwan. They enable us to live on Taiwan, to breath the air of freedom and democracy." What Mr. Ma said was correct as far as it went. But he deliberately avoided mentioning the full significance of the eight-year long War of Resistance against Japan, and the 50 year long struggle of Taiwan compatriots against Japanese colonial occupation.
When the Marco Polo Bridge Incident erupted, the Chinese people on the Mainland were being invaded, and their compatriots on Taiwan were enduring over four decades of Japanese colonial occupation. If the two groups still refused to resist the Japanese, the nation would perish, and they would become victims of genocide. Our forebears had powerful motives to resist the Japanese. It was not only to recover Taiwan. It was also to inspire a renaissance of the Chinese nation, and to ensure the survival of China's venerable culture. Resistance to Japanese colonialism was a shared reaction. It was all Chinese saying no to being abused by another people. Delinking Taiwan retrocession from China's modern history amounts to "contemplating the heavens from the bottom of a well." It also deludes later generations. During the Chiang Kai-shek era, the Black Cat and the Black Bat risked their lives to reunify and strengthen China. They were assuredly not, as today's propagandists would have us believe, concerned exclusively with defending Taiwan and sacrificing for Taiwan. They represented a tragic chapter in the Chinese Civil War. They were heroes who aspired to far more than just the defense of Taiwan.
Ma said, "The Diaoyutai Islands are liked Taiwan's children. In 1895 the Japanese invaded and abducted them. They were like newborn infants who were kidnapped soon after birth. Their names were forcibly changed. Japan's abduction of our flesh and blood has kept them apart from us for 50 years. Those stolen years cannot be reclaimed. For the moment the name remains changed. But the flesh and blood relationship remains an iron-clad fact, a fact of history that no one can change."
Diaoyutai and Taiwan are each others' flesh and blood. Yet they have been forcibly kept apart. But more than just Diaoyutai and Taiwan have been kept apart. Taiwan and the Chinese mainland have also been kept apart. Japan took Diaoyutai, an offshore island of Taiwan, from Taiwan. But Japan also took Taiwan, an offshore island of China, from China. President Ma spoke in generalities. He stressed only Diaoyutai's link to Taiwan. He refused to address Taiwan's link to the Mainland. This would never have happened before the advent of Taiwan independence.
We realize that in today's political climate, President Ma cannot spell out the situation too clearly. The two sides are still in an adversarial relationship. But this is why so many people on Taiwan are unwilling to negotiate a peace agreement with the Mainland based on the one China premise. This is why the de jure state of civil war cannot end. Many people on Taiwan still see the other side as the enemy, rather than as family. A divided sense of national allegiance, historical confusion, the Cold War, and the Chinese Civil War have all taken their toll. Mutual trust, mutual love, and a shared vision for the future have been lost.
Comb through history, and one will discover that many Taiwan independence advocates have prettified Japan's occupation of Taiwan. They were unhappy with early Kuomintang rule. They were subjected to years of anti-communist indoctrination. They witnessed the Communist Mainland's bungling during the Cultural Revolution. The desire of people on Taiwan for reunification has diminished greatly. But can we really throw the baby out with the bath water?
Famous Taiwanese writer Chen Ying-chen found himself in hot water as a result of his leftist ideology. He was imprisoned by a so-called "foreign regime" for seven years. He had good reason to hate the KMT. He had good reason to hate the Chinese Communist Party and Mainland China. He had good reason to champion Taiwan independence. Yet this victimized Taiwanese concluded instead that only Chinese reunification and progress could ameliorate the suffering of people on both sides of the Strait. When Chen was serving his sentence, foreigners came to his rescue. But Chen's father turned down their offers of help. He said the Chinese people's affairs should be handled by the Chinese people themselves. This father had extraordinary insight. When he visited his son in prison he said, "First you are a child of God. Then you are a child of China. Only then are you a child of mine."
Lin Shu-yang passed away a few days ago. He was imprisoned the longest of any political prisoner on Taiwan. This Taiwanese was ungrudgingly and unreservedly pro-reunification. His concern for the long-term growth of the nation, far exceeded any concern he had for his own suffering.
Consolidate national allegiance. Improve the political structure. Implement public policy. These are the Three Peoples Principles: National unity, civil rights, and the public weal. National allegiance is the foundation. Only when allegiance is consistent, can people share both the bitter and the sweet. Only on such a foundation can one construct a sound political structure. People speak of "ballots instead of bullets." But the necessary precondition is that people must perceive each other as members of the same nation, and as members of the same family. If their allegiances clash, if they are determined to fight to the death, how can democracy possibly flourish? Only within a sound political structure, can one hold rational discussions, and implement sound economic policy. Therefore one cannot shelve differences over national allegiance. They are even more pressing than issues of civil rights and the public weal.
China has endured a prolonged civil war. This has led alienation on both sides of the Strait. This has led to military confrontation as well as economic weakness. This has enabled the US and Japan to take advantage of our weakness. We must not repeat our folly. Only a return to the one China premise can restore reason to cross-Strait relations, and truly end the civil war. Only then can we end internal conflict. Only then can we live normal lives.