Monday, August 31, 2015

History and the Economist *sigh* Banyan can't get anything right

Another trip to Lanyu last week, which is why I've not been blogging....

Banyan at The Economist wrote on former President Lee Teng-hui's epic trolling of the KMT the last couple of weeks... let's take a look....
A 92-YEAR-OLD politician may be inured to insults, however outrageous his alleged transgression. Even so Lee Teng-hui, Taiwan’s president from 1988 to 2000, may have been taken aback by the hostility to comments he made to a Japanese magazine this month. [A total misreading -- Lee was trolling and well aware of how the KMT would react: in a way that put them outside Taiwan's mainstream.] He criticised efforts by Taiwan’s present government to mark the 70th anniversary this year of Japan’s second-world-war surrender as meant to “harass Japan and curry favour with China”. Taiwan, he argued [Lee "argues" but Lee was not arguing, he was stating historical fact], had been part of Japan: its young men had fought not against the Japanese empire, but for it (the “motherland”, he called it). Ma Ying-jeou, the current president, led a chorus of outrage in Taiwan. [Note the pro-KMT construction: Ma did not lead a chorus of outrage in Taiwan -- he led a chorus of outrage from the KMT] In China the press heaped scorn on his “absurd remarks”. The angry derision was perhaps all the more intense because, historically, Mr Lee had a point.[Note that no one from the pro-Taiwan side or a historian is permitted to speak on this issue, excepting Lee. Note also how cleverly the article fails to concretely state that the historical fact tens of thousands of Taiwanese loyally and willingly served the Japanese war effort. Instead, Banyan merely says Lee "had a point" as if there was something arguable about Lee's statements. What was that point again? Say it, Banyan.]

Although China insists Taiwan has always been an “inalienable” part of China, it has not been governed from the mainland since 1895, when it was ceded to Japan.[
That is almost correct, technically, since from 1945-1949 Taiwan was administrated by the KMT under the Allied occupation of what was still Japanese sovereign territory until 1952. It's astonishing to read this in the Economist, let alone in a piece by Banyan. Kudos!] When Taiwan returned to China in 1945,[Taiwan was never "returned to China." This is shameful.] it became the last redoubt of the Nationalist or Kuomintang party, the KMT, as it lost mainland China in its civil war with the Chinese Communist Party. Mr Lee was later the KMT’s leader. But after he left the presidency, the party expelled him for his support of Taiwan’s formal independence from China.[Note the misleading "from China" which implies incorrectly that Taiwan is part of China. Independence supporters want independence, period.] Since then the KMT has tended to regard him as an embarrassment—like a gaga elderly relation given to relieving himself in public [What a vile and unnecessary comment.]. Mr Lee’s fondness for Japan is well-known. His elder brother is among those honoured at Yasukuni, a controversial shrine in Tokyo for Japan’s war dead, including some convicted of war crimes. Mr Lee’s views, however, though baldly expressed, are not uncommon in Taiwan. Nor, across Asia, is Mr Lee so unusual in his ambivalent feelings about Japan’s colonial past.
As everyone knows, Taiwanese love Japan, and many in Lee's generation still identify as Japanese in some way, speaking and reading Japanese amongst themselves. Several old men I know can still sing the Japanese national anthem and explain what the words mean. Lee correctly noted that while a few locals headed over to China to oppose Japan (though many more immigrated here during the interwar period, and many who headed to China were looking for work opportunities in the Empire or in China), tens of thousands of Taiwanese troops served in the Imperial Japanese Army as soldiers, laborers, prison guards, or in other capacities. For example, there was a corps of Taiwanese "military farmers" sent to central China to engage in farming in devastated areas under Japanese control, while others were sent as instructors to south China. Still other Taiwanese served as semi-skilled workers in government. For males, the pay was several times what they could make in Taiwan. The enslaving of women for sex began in Taiwan in 1938, and some Taiwanese girls were conscripted as nurses. The draw was so great that labor shortages began occurring in Taiwan after 1941 (for more, see this book).

The erasure of these veterans -- their absence from public discourse, their lack of public notice on the ubiquitous and vile "Martyrs' Shrines" and other memorials, is deliberate, of course, part of the KMT's overall goal of erasing Japan from Taiwan's historical memory. The KMT wishes Japan exists only as a caricature of evil, the "wretched colony" of current presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu's fantasies, and like any colonizer, to substitute its own identities for existing identities.

Another key function of this public denial of their existence was that there was no formal recognized body of Taiwanese veterans with a distinct identity who might take political action against the Chinese colonizers in the formative period of KMT rule. Recall that in the 1947 uprising Tang Shouren of the Tsou people led 100 former Japanese soldiers in an assault on Chiayi, which participants reported, decades later in recounting this incident for oral histories, was apparently part of a larger vision of uniting with local Han to drive out the incoming Chinese. During the 1947 Han people across Taiwan put on Japanese clothing and uniforms and sang Japanese songs -- to this day this Japanese identity is often asserted against the faux Chinese identity of the KMT. The KMT feared Taiwanese uprisings and expended much effort in the early 1950s to eliminate weapons caches, especially in the mountains, where the aborigines made superb soldiers, and where some had even been trained as pilots. It was still executing 1947 leaders well into the 1950s -- Tang Shouren was finally arrested and murdered in 1954.
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阿江 said...

Read a really good article this morning that contrasted the views towards Japan in Asia, and how Taiwan stands out as being different from the rest:

And then on top of that, saw this episode of《正晶限時批》explaining how Lee's statement somewhat got lost in translation from the original Japanese statement into Mandarin.

Anonymous said...

Out of curiosity, why do you consider the Martyrs Shrine to be particularly "vile"?

Anonymous said...

Certainly, Taiwanese love Japan, compared with Chinese, who hate Japan so much they have to go out of their way to Japan to buy out Japanese stuff to cause shortage and suffering by depriving the Japanese of their rice cookers, toilet seats and condoms.

I do feel that blaming the Taiwanese for not beating the Piñata more than the rest of the world is quite unreasonable.

Well, I can't speak for other people. I told my Chinese friends that Taiwan may be a diversified society when it comes to the Chinese problem, but even what the KMTers want is to unite under a Free "China" la-la-land; no one in their right mind wants to be pulled into the river crab society under CCCP. I was proven wrong at every turn by Ma, by Hung, by Lien. So, I am "probably sure" that no one in their right mind want to be ruled by Japanese, however much we love them; which is why KMTers are always making these fact-twisting accusations that DPP or Lee want to sell us to Japan, even with, for example, the Voice article in which Lee clearly stated that Taiwan is Taiwan.

As ridiculous as it sounds for needing to explain why I don't hate a certain race; my generation didn't know Nationalist atrocities back then and could hardly compare them with Japanese atrocities; historical materialists might come up with some economical explanation; but, personally, for me it was because the textbook said that CKS forgave them. And now it is as if the loyal followers of CKS who wrote that textbook are saying that forgiving them doesn't mean they are forgiven.

A German friend of mine said that she was traumatized by German education about Holocaust and spent hours crying after viewing the video. I don't know about Japanese education, but NHK do run those remorseful programs that seems to be self-reflecting. Meanwhile we are still all effed up with these history views about Chinese contribution to WWII, arguing over whose army died more in the war with those who killed more enemeies than Japan has ever sent to China, ignoring the fact that Taiwan was ceded to Japan to save Chinese asses, and therefore on the wrong side of war, much to Chinese Schadenfreude. Well, excuse us, it didn't take the Chinese under Japan occupation fifty years to start helping the Imperial Japan. Anyway, it's all effed up, political triggered, emotions.