Co-authoring of History Must Begin with Official History
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
October 21, 2015
Executive Summary: This year is the 70th anniversary of the victory of the War of Resistance against Japan. Officials and private citizens on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have held several meaningful commemorations. But the two sides still differ on many aspects of modern Chinese history. This is particularly true regarding the history of the war, the two political status of the ROC and PRC, and cross-Strait relations, and leads to political controversy. Fortunately despite such disputes, the two sides have decided to co-author a history of the war. A common understanding of history is important to cross-Strait emotional and spiritual understanding. We hope officials and private citizens on both sides will act promptly, and reach a common understanding of history. Such an understanding will provide a social foundation of cross-Strait peace.
Full Text Below:
This year is the 70th anniversary of the victory of the War of Resistance against Japan. Officials and private citizens on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have held several meaningful commemorations. But the two sides still differ on many aspects of modern Chinese history. This is particularly true regarding the history of the war, the two political status of the ROC and PRC, and cross-Strait relations, and leads to political controversy. Fortunately despite such disputes, the two sides have decided to co-author a history of the war. A common understanding of history is important to cross-Strait emotional and spiritual understanding. We hope officials and private citizens on both sides will act promptly, and reach a common understanding of history. Such an understanding will provide a social foundation of cross-Strait peace.
Consider the bloody War of Resistance against Japan. According to Nationalist Government Chairman Chiang Kai-shek's speech in Lushan, the war lasted eight years. But if one takes the Mukden Incident as the war's starting point, it lasted 14 years. If one takes the First Sino-Japanese War, or the Japanese Peony Society invasion of Taiwan in 1874, it lasted 100 years. Victory may be glorious. But the tens of millions of deaths must never be forgotten. Unfortunately, the War of Resistance against Japan was almost immediately followed by the KMT CCP civil war. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait found themselves under divided rule. As a result, the history of the War of Resistance against Japan has yet to be fully written.
Years of peaceful cross-Strait exchanges have now taken place. This is the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance against Japan. Both sides of the Strait are commemorating the victory simultaneously. Both sides have extended olive branches. Both sides have proposed co-authoring a history of the war. This of course is the best way for the two sides to commemorate the tragic history of the war.
On National Day, President Ma Ying-jeou delivered a speech. He said the two sides should co-author a history of the war. President Ma has long argued for this. President Ma was responding positively to Mainland President Xi Jinping's recent remark that historians from both sides of the Strait should share historical data, co-author a history of the war, and safeguard China's national dignity.
During official talks between cross-strait affairs directors, Mainland Affairs Council Chair Hsia Li-yan and the Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office Director Zhang Zhijun agreed. Non governmental organizations from both sides should come forward. They should invite scholars from both sides and overseas to share historical data and begin cooperation.
The two sides are currently co-authoring a history of the war. They are taking advantage of this critical moment. Many elderly people who took part in war are still with us. They can provide direct testimony. Each side has precious historical material. Both must work together to rehabilitate and reconstruct historical truth. Co-authoring a history of the war will help make things right. It will refute ridiculous distortions of history. It will honor the sacrifices and suffering of compatriots. It will provide the world with an accurate, in-depth understanding of this period of history. It will teach the world a lesson regarding militarism, and help avoid the repeat of a major human tragedy. Leaders from both sides have reached a high degree of agreement regarding the events. Therefore we urge the two governments to treat the project seriously, and promote it energetically. They must not merely go through the motions.
Non-governmental organizations must come forward. But if the two governments fail to act, their leaders' promises to co-author a history of the war will remain empty talk. Why? Because the majority of first-hand testimony is under government management. Information disclosure requires bilateral agreements. That is why the two governments must act.
The governments on the two sides of the Strait are currently managing their own historical documents. They should immediately inventory their archives and upload the material they have onto the Internet. Governments have their own approach to managing important documents. The Republic of China government on Taiwan has a Government Information Disclosure Law. Article IX states: citizens may apply for access to government archives and other information. Non-citizens "may request information not limited to ROC citizens by the government." In other words, the government opens its archives only to countries or regions with which it has reciprocal disclosure agreements. So why not conclude a cross-Strait agreement? It is difficult for Mainland scholars to come to Taiwan and read government files. Taiwan scholars have even less opportunity to access Mainland files. Without an accelerated information disclosure agreement and consultations between the two sides, accessing historical files and co-authoring a history of the war will be impossible.
To co-author a history of the war, the two sides must first complete three important assignments.
First, governments on the two sides must make historical documents related to the war fully accessible by the end of the year. They should provide an easy to use index which researchers can consult to examine the material.
Second, the two sides must simultaneously conclude a disclosure of information agreement. If it is too late for full disclosure, then at least documents pertaining to the history of the war should be made public. This is the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance against Japan. There is no longer any reason not disclose historical data. Openness and joint research will provide a sound basis for co-authoring a history of the war.
Third, private academic institutions are coming forward to co-author a history of the war. This is of course very good. But the two governments cannot remain aloof. Both governments must help non-governmental organizations conduct research into war history. They must offer long-term war history research grants, encouraging valuable research into war history.
Having the two sides co-author a history of the war is a far-reaching and urgent task. We must seize the opportunity. Once the two governments open their archives, once the excitement in academia subsides, diversified research will enable the early completion of this history of the great war.