Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ma and KMT Charm Offensive in Japan

Ma Ying-jeou leaves for Japan this week, after visiting Australia and the US earlier this year. I've been noting that Ma is quietly anti-Japanese, and sure enough, the purpose of the trip...

Taiwanese opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou will visit Japan next week for the first time since taking the helm of the Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, nearly a year ago. Top of his diplomatic agenda: to dispel widely held concerns in Tokyo that he harbors anti-Japan sentiments.
The article contains a rundown of Ma's many foul-ups on Japan that have led observers to conclude that he is anti-Japanese:

As such, many Taiwanese are said to harbor pro-Japanese sentiments. Some Taiwanese even think that Japan's 1895-1945 colonial rule in the region has contributed to the island's current economic prosperity through the universities, roads and other infrastructure the Japanese left behind. According to a recent survey by the Taiwanese business magazine Global Review, Japan topped the list of countries that Taiwanese would prefer to emigrate, travel or think is the "greatest". Former President Lee was staunchly pro-Japan and even defended Koizumi's Yasukuni visits.

However, not everyone in Taiwan shares those favorable sentiments, including elements inside the KMT which favor closer ties with Beijing. Earlier this year, the KMT fumed when Japanese and Taiwanese groups jointly erected a monument in a Taipei suburb honoring thousands of indigenous Taiwanese who died while fighting for the Japanese Imperial Army in Southeast Asia. Most of the monument was ordered dismantled by local KMT officials a few weeks later. Ma reportedly described the incident as a good example of the emotions that could be unleashed if embracing Japan goes too far. Taiwanese who revel in the Japanese colonial period are still "brainwashed," he said.

Ma has waded into the emotionally-charged issue of Chinese and other Asian women forced into sex slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army soldiers. And he has taken a hard-line stance on territorial disputes over the Senkaku islands - or Diaoyutai Islands in Chinese - in the East China Sea, which are claimed by Japan, China and Taiwan. He has also complained Japan should recognize its aggressive history in mainland China. This has led some observers to the conclusion that the KMT and Beijing are cobbling together a sort of united front against Japan.

Ma has consistently denied that he is an anti-Japanese hardliner. At a meeting in January with Japanese journalists based in Taipei, Ma claimed that he is not singling out Japan's historical aggression. He said he is also critical of his own KMT's past "White Terror" crackdown on political dissidents as well as Beijing's 1989 military suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square. Ma also expressed his dissatisfaction with news reports that his KMT is taking concerted action with mainland China against Japan. " I like sashimi, too," he said, while going on to mention his opposition to Koizumi's Yasukuni visits.

Taiwanese who like Japan are "brainwashed." Can an anti-Japanese, pro-China mainlander lead part of a security arrangement centered on Taiwan and aimed at China? Don't think so. Meanwhile Ma's rival Wang Jin-lyng is currently off in Japan where he discussed Japan's recognition of Taiwanese driver's licenses and other issues related to Taiwan-Japan affairs.


Anonymous said...

Ma is clearly anti-Japanese.

Taipei right now is trying to remove all the wooden housing from the Japanese Colonial Period (as if Taipei has a huge surplus of interesting architecture), and last year, Ma had a huge poster of an anti-Japanese Taiwanese during the JCP hanging from KMT headquarters.

The Japanese Era architecture would be a huge loss if Ma's plan goes through, and I plan on participating in protests about it, but the poster is the more especially entertaining one when you think about it. Ma basically would like to remove Japan out of Taiwanese history and identity. Ma would also like to "localize" the KMT. Oh, look, kill two birds with one stone! Yeah, hey Taiwan, there was one dude who fought against Japanese rule in Taiwan! We've localized our preferred half-version of history!

If it weren't for the KMT being so shitty when they came over from China, Taiwanese wouldn't be so fond of Japan. Plus, Japan really was remarkably kind to Taiwan (and it is a good question why, when neither Korea nor the Chinese areas it controlled received such good treatment).

Anonymous said...

"Taiwanese WHO REVEL IN THE JAPANESE COLONIAL PERIOD period are still 'brainwashed,' he said."

Does nuance completely escape you?

Sun Bin said...

1. anti-yasukuni is not anti-japanese. the ring-wing apologists do not equal all the japanese.

2. Wulai Waterfall Park falls into Taipei County, not Taipei City, I believe. So it was the new County Mayor Chou, not Ma, who ordered the shut down

3. "brainwashed" refers to the apologist. that the monument pledged loyalty to the Japanese Emperor (instead of mourning the dead, which should be okay), and that the Japanese "Civiv group" who funded the Monument is no one other than an association very close to the Yasukuni clan.

Anonymous said...

I'm unaware of this demolition campaign that anonymous#1 referred to, but maybe because I'm misinformed.

If it refers to the structure in Wulai, it was taken down because it was built illegally. Also, would anyone be pleased if a wacko group representing another country lay claim to your property on no legal basis?

Finally, echoing Sun Bin's comment, I don't think opposing the Japanese extreme right-wing and their worldview can be equated with being anti-Japanese.

Michael Turton said...

"Taiwanese WHO REVEL IN THE JAPANESE COLONIAL PERIOD period are still 'brainwashed,' he said."

Does nuance completely escape you?

I'm sorry. I must have missed the nuance in a comment that used the word "revel," a word that has absolutely no meaning whatsoever in this sentence except to send a signal to listeners about the speaker's position. Nuance may on occasion escape me, but speaking in code apparently goes right by you.

Perhaps you can explain why it is "brainwashed" to take pride in the Japanese period. I'd love to hear how you explain that in a way that does not also make the followers of the KMT "brainwashed." Since there is no way to do that, it is clear what Ma really means, what position he is actually revealing, and who he is addressing. It's comments like this that display the ideologue in Ma.

Also, would anyone be pleased if a wacko group representing another country lay claim to your property on no legal basis?

You mean like when the KMT built the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial in Taipei? The Anti-Japanese War Memorial in Taipei? Yes, I can empathize. Except that I don't see the KMT tearing down such illegal monuments.

Aborigines remember their service with great pride, as the Taipei Times reported:

“Two Atayal tribesmen, members of an association devoted to the memory of the Takasago Aboriginal units who fought with the Japanese army in World War II, hold up a replica of their flag in Taipei yesterday to claim that it was not a Japanese flag. They also protested reports that called them “Japanese running dogs’‘ and said that a memorial to the group was not a monument to Japanese militarism." Also see the pic here.

Of course, nobody thought the aborigines were running dogs for the KMT when they were remobilized and sent to China to fight the CCP.... being a running dog depends on which colonial regime you're being exploited by, eh?

I am his majesty's dog at Kew
pray tell me sir, whose dog are you?


Anonymous said...

Kind of hard to dismantle the CKS Memorial today, but maybe in another 50 years time? Who knows? Is the property even owned by the KMT?

I think the "running dog" comment was directed at the group, and not to the aborigines as a whole. There are other Ayatal descendents which disagree with what this civic group's goal. War memories are tough to deal with...there's a bit of truth to each side of a story, but in the end, it's tough not to have reason be overwhelmed by emotion.

Michael, I read your comment in another blog that you're currently working on translating original research on aboriginal conscripts in the ROC armed forces. How's that coming along, and can you perhaps take some time to write a post on it?

LA said...

Is Ma anti-Japanese or anti-Japanese history revisionists? Big difference.

I always have a laugh reading all the rationalizations about how Japanese colonialism was a good thing. But, heck, it's the KMT's fault. If the KMT did it, then the evil Japanese nuts get a free pass. LOL.

Michael Turton said...

Yes, it must really hurt that the KMT was so awful it made the brutal Japanese look competent and clean by comparison.

LA said...

Sorry, I make no excuses for evilness; whether it's the old KMT or Japanese colonialism. But, that's just me:)

Jing said...

In response to the first anonymous poster's question of why the Japanese colonial occupation of Taiwan was less bloody than elsewhere, I have a ready answer.

Taiwanese are simply cowards, then as now. You only have to butcher a few sheep to cow the rest into obedience.

You may think this is insulting, and indeed it is meant to be, but it is also quite true. Simply take a look at the general historical record of various organized reactions to colonialism in Asia during the first half of the 20th century. Resistance was far more common in colonial territories other than Taiwan. Oddly unique to Taiwan, collaborationists groups and "home-rule" movements, especially after 1920, were far more common than left-front socialist anti-colonial movements or nationalist groups when in much of the rest of the Asia the opposite was true. Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Korea, etc all had strong and organized movements agitating against imperial rule. Taiwan was an exception to this.

The idea that the Japanese colonial era was a "golden age" from Taiwan is the result of selective memory cultivated as passive resistance against the KMT. The Japanese early on in their rule of Taiwan were no less brutal, by total body count wise, it was more so. However, the elderly of today remember the Taiwan of 1935 and not the Taiwan of 1905. As that generation has already died, there is no one to recall their historical experience.

It wasn't coincidence that Taiwanese resistance to KMT rule collapsed after 1947 after they had a taste of the scourge. I am convinced that Taiwanese as a collective society have a low threshold for risk.

Michael Turton said...

Jing, your comments are very interesting. Organized resistance to Japanese rule continued for more than a decade after 1895, petering out only by the 1920s. I think much of that history has been lost to modern consciousness. Hakkas, as I recall, played a big role in the resistance. There was violence against the KMT regime, but not on a large scale. Su Beng, the leftist historian, led a group of bomb-throwing radicals but they stopped by 1952, and of course, there were killings in the Americas and Japan, in retaliation for KMT murders in Taiwan. There is an ornery element in the Taiwanese character, but by and large I think your reading is correct, at least of modern Taiwanese. I had coffee yesterday with the courtly Jerome keating, who remarked that he was curious to see how the strawberry generation reacts if and when its civil liberties are curtailed. Me too.