February 27th 2016

  Buy Issue 2966

Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY SSCA: Check out this inversion of the Parental Control system

CANBERRA OBSERVED Barnaby Joyce likely to give Cabinet a kick-along

ALCOHOL Studies confirm benefit of earlier nightclub closures

HISTORY OF TAIWAN Post-WWII Japan's loss is Chiang Kai-shek's gain

SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT Welfare of children at heart of surrogacy inquiry

EDITORIAL Syria agreement first step to ending the carnage

EDUCATION Discounting Christianity in schools denies history

WORLD CONGRESS OF FAMILIES Diversity's American dream: genderless parenthood and apple pie

ENVIRONMENT Harry Butler: a victim of deep-green politics

EUTHANASIA Legitimate denial of choice at end of life (Part I of two)

ACTIVISM Safer schools or a radical Marxist sexual revolution?

UNITED STATES Big Brother v the Little Sisters: Obama takes nuns to Supreme Court

MUSIC Oppositions reconciled in logical harmony

CINEMA Of heists and hedge funds: The Big Short

BOOK REVIEW Alarms and arms

BOOK REVIEW The human factor


Books promotion page

Post-WWII Japan's loss is Chiang Kai-shek's gain

by Jeffry Babb

News Weekly, February 27, 2016

The history of Taiwan cannot be separated from the history of mainland China or the history of Japan. The central government in Beijing was not particularly enthusiastic about claiming Taiwan as a province of China, but Taiwan was thrust upon it by the Ming Dynasty loyalist Koxinga (1624–62).

Japan sought sovereignty over Taiwan at the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate, since at least 1592. In 1871 a ship from Okinawa was wrecked on the coast of Taiwan. Paiwan aborigines beheaded all 54 crewmen. Beijing, in reply to Japanese demands for compensation, said the aborigines were not under their control. The Japanese undertook a punitive expedition.

Empire and development

Matters come to a head during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95). Under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, China ceded Taiwan and the Pesca­dores (Penghu) to Japan. In response to the treaty, the people of Taiwan proclaimed the Republic of Taiwan, which is claimed by some to be the first republic in Asia.

The Republic of Taiwan (some say “Republic of Formosa”) lasted from May to October 1895.

When the Japanese arrived, it created a dilemma for the Taiwanese elite. Some advocated resistance, while others proposed accommodation. In the end, leading politician and businessman Koo Hsien-jung set out to greet the Japanese in Keelung.

Koo went on to found the Koos Group, which remains today one of the wealthiest business conglomerates in Taiwan.

Incidentally, it is said that the economy of Taiwan is dominated by five or six huge business conglomerates, most of which were founded in the Japanese colonial era.

Indeed the Koo family still has a lot of influence. Koo Chen-fu, son of Koo Hsien-jung, led negotiations with China from 1993–98. His brother, Koo Kwang-ming, was a diehard advocate of Taiwanese independence.

By contrast, the Lee family, once the wealthiest in Taiwan, drained its entire fortune opposing the Japanese occupation.

The Japanese always intended that Taiwan would remain part of Japan. They established the Bank of Japan (1899) to fund Japanese and local companies that they favoured. The Japanese invested heavily in Taiwan – railways, harbours, roads, power distribution, hydroelectric projects, irrigation schemes and urban infrastructure. Not to forget education: education was compulsory, though Japanese was the language of instruction. Some elderly people even today can speak Japanese and Taiwanese, but not Mandarin Chinese. Public health campaigns meant most infectious diseases were eradicated.

In 1935 the 40th anniversary of Taiwan’s joining the Japanese Empire was celebrated with a grand exposition. By then Taiwan had become a valued part of the Japanese economy, exporting tea, grain, timber, camphor, sugar and industrial goods. The Japanese aimed to integrate Taiwan into the Japanese Empire, and to create in the people of Taiwan a feeling of loyalty to the Motherland. Many would die proving that that was no pipe dream.

Japan had traditionally regarded Manchuria too as part of its sphere of influence. In China, this area is known as dong-bei (“the north-east”).

The Manchurians always felt that they were different from the Han Chinese of China proper. In 1937, an outbreak of hostilities provoked by the Japanese led to the invasion of China proper by Japan. The Marco Polo Bridge, where the provocative incident occurred, is on the outskirts of Beijing. From then on, Japan and China were fully at war. The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) was to have a profound influence on Taiwan.

The Japanese had integrated Taiwan into their war strategies. Taiwan was a base for Japanese military forces and was a source for critical war materiel. Allied prisoners of war (POWs) slaved in appalling conditions to mine copper and coal there. Allied planes bombed military targets in Taiwan. Kamikaze pilots were psychologically prepared for their suicide missions in Beitou’s hot springs and bathhouses.

The Japanese sought not only war materiel from Taiwan. They also recruited solders for active service. Some 126,000 Taiwanese volunteered to serve in the Imperial armed services and another 80,000 were conscripted for service. More than 30,000 never returned, meaning 15 per cent were killed in action.

As a point of departure for understanding Taiwan today, this would be a good place to start.

The “Taiwanese” – those speaking Taiwanese (also known as Hokklo or Hokkien) as their native language, comprise 80 per cent of Taiwan’s population – usually think positively of the Japanese colonial period. Many Taiwanese even today think of themselves as Japanese, 70 years after the termination of Japanese imperial rule. Many Taiwanese go to Japan on vacation, including young people. Some 5 to 7 per cent are Hakka, aborigines or other minorities.

Isle of refuge

The “mainlanders” are descended from the Chinese who followed Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949, in flight from Mao Zedong’s communists. This flight has been described as “the largest elite migration in history”. The mainlander refugees numbered around 2 million men, women and children, or 12 per cent of Taiwan’s population at the time.

The remaining Chinese elite – teachers, businessmen, scholars, military officers and authors – who didn’t flee with Chiang ended up in labour camps. Mao Zedong was not an intellectual. He hated intellectuals.

The mainlanders did not view the Japanese favourably. “Hate” may be too harsh a word, but it is not far off. The Taiwanese are different. Many, including the brother of former Republic of China (ROC) President Lee Teng-hui, are commemorated in Tokyo’s war memorial for those who died in the war, at the Yasakuni Shrine.

Taipei’s relations with Tokyo remain sensitive, but are nowhere near as difficult as Beijing’s relations with Tokyo. Riots and destruction of Japanese-related goods are a recent memory in mainland China. Younger people in Taiwan do not take matters of ethnicity as seriously as theirs elders. Young people speak a potpourri of Mandarin, Taiwanese and other languages that only they can understand.

The fate of Taiwan was determined at the Cairo Conference of Allied leaders in 1943. The Cairo Declaration returned Taiwan and the Pescadores (and other islands) to China. “China” meant the Republic of China (ROC) led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who attended the conference. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), a title Beijing seems curiously reluctant to use, did not formally come into being until October 1, 1949.

Most military observers, including the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin, were of the opinion that the Kuomintang (Chiang’s Chinese Nationalist Party) was far more serious, and therefore more effective, about fighting the Japanese than were Mao’s communists. Naturally, if the Chinese were occupied fighting the Japanese, the Japanese would be far less likely to fight the Soviets, which was what Stalin wanted.

The Kuomintang (KMT) took control in Taipei. They named October 25, 1945, the day the ROC (that is, China) regained sovereignty, “Taiwan Retrocession Day”.It was a public holiday up until the time the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took power and downgraded it.

At first, the Taiwanese welcomed the return of the Chinese as governors, but rampant corruption and abuse turned the locals against the KMT. Chen Yi, chief executive and garrison commander of Taiwan Province, was notoriously corrupt. Only a spark was needed to set alight the tinder of discontent.

On February 27, 1947, a middle-aged widow was selling cigarettes on the street, just as you will commonly see all over the poorer parts of Asia even today. The Japanese government had held a monopoly on tobacco products as a fundraising measure. The KMT had retained the tax on tobacco products in Taiwan. Exactly what happened is disputed, but it seems that a scuffle broke out between the cigarette seller and the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau enforcement team. The cigarette seller was pistol-whipped. A shot was fired into the crowd that had gathered, killing a bystander.

The consequent uprising, which spread around the island, was harshly suppressed. Estimates are that tens of thousands of people, mainly Taiwanese, died. Troops brought in from the mainland were brutal in suppressing the rebels. This created bad feeling that continued for decades. The DPP’s creation of 2-28 Peace Park in downtown Taipei went some way to ameliorating the pain many families still feel. Chen Yi, the commander of the Taiwan Garrison, was later executed.

The 2-28 Incident initiated the era in Taiwan’s history known as the “White Terror”. Chiang Kai-shek was an efficient ruler but many people lived in fear of a knock on the door by the Taiwan Garrison Command, his secret police force. Reliable sources speak of torture and extra-judicial killings.

The “White Terror” is generally agreed to have ended in 1987 when Chiang Kai-shek’s son Chiang Ching-kuo was established in power. Chiang junior nominated as his successor Lee Teng-hui, who is Taiwanese. Moreover, he is a former Communist, and is said to have fought against the KMT in the 2-28 Incident.

The 2-28 Incident effectively excluded all except “loyal” Taiwanese from power for 40 years. No effective opposition existed. Members of the Koo family bankrolled the dang-wai (“outside of the party”) movement, but the Chiangs had Taiwan locked down tight. News of the dang-wai movement was kept out of the popular media. Any news outlet that reported on it was quickly suppressed; indeed, anything that showed Taiwan in a bad light was pulled. For example, one magazine ran in its first issue a story on “blood cows”: that is, about the practice of people selling blood to make a living. The magazine’s second – and last – issue was KMT propaganda.

The 2-28 Incident has left a scar on Taiwan’s heart. Mostly, older KMT voters think the younger Chiang did the wrong thing by establishing democracy. They would prefer a dictatorship, perhaps something along the lines of the People’s Action Party in Singapore.

Taiwan, however, depends on free trade, free markets and the free movement of people – it is a high-tech society that depends on education and creativity to make a living in the world. Even if the people of Taiwan could agree on who would be dictator – which is exceedingly doubtful – Taiwan can’t go back to days gone by, when the most valuable attribute was nimble fingers, not brains.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

Join email list

Join e-newsletter list

Your cart has 0 items

Subscribe to NewsWeekly

Research Papers

Trending articles

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

HUMAN RIGHTS A Magnitsky-style law for Australia?

COVER STORY Wildfires: Lessons from the past not yet learnt

COVER STORY Coronavirus: China must answer hard questions

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Bushfires: Never let a good crisis go to waste

CANBERRA OBSERVED Submarine build gives us a sinking feeling

GENDER POLITICS In trans Newspeak, parental consent is a 'hurdle'

© Copyright NewsWeekly.com.au 2017
Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm