Commemorating Victory over Japan Requires Self-Confidence and Ambition
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 10, 2015
Executive Summary: The commemoration of the war victory has put the ROC government in an awkward and passive position. First, it must address Taiwan's de-colonization and its relationship to the Sino-Japanese War. Secondly, it must address Japanese historical revisionism, despite its own lack of confidence and ambition. Thirdly, it must address Mainland China's changes to anti-Japanese history, despite its own lack of initiative. The government's commemoration of the war victory reveals its weakness and timidity. This awkwardness and passivity, if not reversed, will result in historical amnesia and the Republic of China's eternal regret.
Full Text Below:
This year is the 70th anniversary of the Second War of Resistance Against Japan. To commemorate the victory and the retrocession of Taiwan, the government will sponsor a series of events, beginning on July 7. The event organizers include the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the National History Museum. Over a dozen different events will be held. Rumor has it that "It will be an event never attempted in the past." The larger goal of the events is to "shine a light on the facts, and set the record straight."
We know that President Ma Ying-jeou values "setting the record straight". We know that President Ma Ying-jeou strongly identifies with the Republic of China. The government is commemorating the historically significant 70th anniversary victory, and organizing a series of events. We believe it is doing so at Ma Ying-jeou's behest. For this, he deserves recognition. But just because he means well, does not mean the results will be good. Based on existing information, the government-sponsored events are “pro forma" in nature. They evince no sense of ambition or mission.
To begin with, the events are highly introverted. For example, the “Taiwan War of Resistance Symposium” to be held on October 14, and the "Taiwan Compatriots War Forum" to be held on October 25 at the Taiwan Provincial Museum, highlight the relationship between Taiwan society and the Sino-Japanese War. But Taiwan independence groups have blasted this idea. They assert that "The victory in the War of Resistance Against Japan is not part of the collective memory of the majority on Taiwan." According to Taiwan independence movement spin on history, the Republic of China was founded in 1912, but Taiwan became a colony of Japan in 1895. According to international lawa, it was Japanese territory. During the war between Japan and the Republic of China, the people of Taiwan were Japanese nationals. Their memories are not the Chinese people's memories. Taiwan independence elements accuse the Nationalist government of "endlessly, by hook or by crook, imposing anti-Japanese memories on the majority of Taiwanese who have no anti-Japanese experience."
Taiwan independence history is a highly jaundiced view of history. But refuting it requires more than listing the war experiences of a small number of Taiwanese. One must examine the modern history of East Asia from a macro level perspective. One must rethink the colonial experience on Taiwan, how the victory over Japan liberated Taiwan, and de-colonialized Taiwan. Otherwise one cannot go head to head with Taiwan independence “history”.
Next, the commemoration of the war lacks historical depth. It lacks a broader international perspective. The 'Eight-Year War of Resistance" is the traditional terminology used in Republic of China educational texts. It highlights the Sino-Japanese War between 1937 and 1945. According to this traditional view of history, the "Eight-Year War of Resistance" was all about Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalist Government's achievements in the war against Japan. In fact, this is merely one interpretation of history. Taiwan emerged from under the shadow of strongmen long ago. The KMT must extricate itself from the shackles of Chiang Kai-shek's version of history. To deal fully with the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II, it must consider at least four points.
One. China's enemy was Japan. The Sino-Japanese war was actually a "15-Year Sino-Japanese War", that began with the September 18, 1931 Mukden Incident, and ended with Japan's defeat in 1945. For East Asia, the war was actually a "15-Year War”. The Japanese embarked on a fascist path of total aggression. This had a lasting impact on today's East Asia and Japan. The modern history of East Asia must be understood as a "15 Year War". Otherwise one cannot understand the history and reality of the "Eight-Year War".
Secondly, the Eight-Year War, or 15-Year War, if one prefers, is considered the Second Sino-Japanese War. To fully understand the fate of Mainland China and Taiwan, colonialism, anti-colonialism, and de-colonialization, we must understand the first Sino-Japanese War, and China and Japan's relationship with the rest of the world.
Three. The Eight-Year War, the Pacific War, and World War II are closely related, but nevertheless independent. The major nations of the world continue to reinterpret this history. The Crown Prince of Japan recently issued a statement. He said that "The 70th anniversary of the end of WWII offers an opportunity to learn the history of the Manchurian Incident (Mukden Incident), the origins of the war, and what Japan should do in the future." US politicians and academics are also concerned about how the Japanese government approaches war history. The United States was not merely a victor of World War II. It was also a victim of the Pacific War.
The Chinese mainland has long commemorated the war as an "anti-fascist war". After reform and liberalization, it has paid increased attention to how the Sino-Japanese War is interpreted. On the one hand, it fought the Nationalist government for control over China. One the other hand, it fought Japan over the interpretation of history, over the Nanjing Massacre, the comfort women, and other historical facts. In recent years, the Mainland has shown greater respect for the historical facts surrounding the war, particularly in films and television. It has made many breakthroughs. Taiwan must see the commemoration of the war victory as the desire of the two sides to confront the challenges of history, East Asia, and the world.
Each of the nations that participated in the war is interpreting history in its own way. Historical facts have come to the fore. The commemoration of the war victory has put the ROC government in an awkward and passive position. First, it must address Taiwan's de-colonization and its relationship to the Sino-Japanese War. Secondly, it must address Japanese historical revisionism, despite its own lack of confidence and ambition. Thirdly, it must address Mainland China's changes to anti-Japanese history, despite its own lack of initiative. The government's commemoration of the war victory reveals its weakness and timidity. This awkwardness and passivity, if not reversed, will result in historical amnesia and the Republic of China's eternal regret.