06/01/2020 No. 156
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Establishing the Cross-Strait Community View of History (I): What Are the Existing Problems?
By Yazhong Zhang Translator Sheng-Wei Wang
June 1, 2011


Editor’s Note: The article first appeared on www.ChinaReviewNews.com (12/05/2010).



Views of History: How to Look At the Past and the Future

History is dead, but history education is alive; history is past, but views of history can be futuristic. Yesterday’s politics is today’s history, and today's politics is tomorrow's history.


Our view of history allows us to grasp the way we interpret our past and naturally its impact on the choice of our future. Different views of history can have different theories and therefore produce different policies and consequences. Of course, those who experience the impact of these consequences include not only the political elite, but also the majority of the people.


China was united and divided many times in history. From the long river of history we can see views of history from different political regimes and leaders. Within their conceptions, some insisted on unifying the country, some selected to hold a small part of the territory for escape, some attempted to rule the Central Plains, and some were willing to concede defeat in order to seek protection. Among all these choices of united or divided regimes, is there still an option to be "united but with distinctions, divided but seeking unification;" a view and road that does not resort to war and stays in line with the national interests?


This article aims to present a “community view of history” that is in line with history, reality and future needs so that people on both sides of the strait can develop together under the same view of history. Limited by length, this topic will be dealt with in two articles. The first article analyzes the existing views of the cross-strait history. The second article will cover the substance of the “community view of history.”


The current cross-strait views of history include the "civil-war view of history" and the "unification view of history" shared by the Nationalists (the Kuomintang, abbreviated as the KMT) and the Communist Party. In addition, there are the “Taiwan independence view of history" and the “Taiwan being already independent view of history“(content to hold a small part of the territory view of history) that are uniquely held by Taiwan. Prior to discussing them, let us first understand the view of history of the elite in Taiwan during the period of the Japanese occupation.


Nationalist View of History: View of History of the Elite in Taiwan from the Period of Japanese Occupation until the Retrocession of Taiwan

The fifty years of Japanese occupation of Taiwan can be divided into three periods. The first period was from May 1895, when the Yi-Wei War started, until 1915, when the Hsi Lai Temple Event ended (also known as the
Chiao-ba-nien Slaughter or the Yu Ching-fang Incident that occurred in the present Yujing (Yuching) Township, Tainan County), which was the last armed uprising against Japanese rule in Taiwan. During these twenty-odd years, the Office of the Governor-General of Taiwan and primarily the Japanese military rulers encountered stiff resistance by the Taiwan people.


The second period of the Japanese occupation was from the beginning of 1915 to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937. The basic ruling guideline was the assimilation policy. The spirit of the assimilation policy was to extend the domination of the Japanese mainland. Namely, the policy treated Taiwan as the extension of Japan. It aimed at making the people in Taiwan its complete subjects to be loyal to the Japanese imperial court and through education and good guidance nurtured their concept of fulfilling national obligations.


After the failure of the armed anti-Japanese movements, Taiwan students studying in Japan launched in 1920 the publication of The Taiwan Youth. In 1921, Jiang Weishui (Chiang Wei-shui, 蔣渭水) promoted the establishment of the Taiwan Culture Association on the island and began a ten-year period of cultural enlightenment and social movement for anti-Japan. He introduced into Taiwan from the motherland the New Culture Movement and a new way of thinking. This resulted in the improvement of the New Taiwanese Literature, drama and arts.


On the other hand, after the Japanese occupation, poetry societies were established all over Taiwan. After the retrocession of Taiwan, the Taiwanese writer Wu Zhuoliu (Wu Cho-liu, 吳濁流) recalled and said: "After I entered the Chestnut Society, I discovered that scholars who read traditional Chinese writings had a different kind of integrity. I gradually sensed the inspiring Han pride deep in their hearts; because of this pride, the older generation of scholars had studied a large number of patriotic poems. Some of them were afraid of making mistakes, did not dare to teach others with pen and paper, but only read poems for me to listen.” In addition to the poetry societies, there were also private schools by the common folks, which still insisted on the teaching of traditional Chinese culture to the next generation.


In addition, since "the state may perish, but history cannot be destroyed," there were books like The General History of Taiwan, Lexicon of the Taiwanese Language, and the Taiwan Poetry Collection by Lian Yatang (Lien Ya-tang, 連雅堂). From The Taiwan Youth to The Taiwan Monthly, The Taiwan People’s Newspaper (The Taiwan Minpao) and The Taiwan New People’s Newspaper (The Taiwan Hsin Min Pao), Taiwanese intellectuals insisted that the seeds of Chinese written language should not be extinguished. In 1936, Kobayashi Seizo (小林躋造) was made the Governor-General of Taiwan. He announced the assimilation policy. Apart from the poetry societies, he banned all the Chinese teachings and publications. But some young people still secretly learned the Mandarin Chinese.


The third period lasted from 1937 until 1945 when World War II ended. Due to the needs of the war that was launched against China, Japan began an assimilation policy in the hope of making the people of Taiwan go along with it. Namely, Japan tried to make the people in Taiwan totally Japanized and strongly facilitated them to become loyal to the various measures under the Emperor of Japan. So the assimilation movement was equivalent to an extreme form of Mainlandization.


During the 1937 period, the assimilation policy was strongly implemented by the Japanese colonial rulers. Despite the severe political pressure, most people in Taiwan still showed intense resistance in their consciousness. From the poem “Motherland” written by Wu Yongfu, (Wu Yung-fu, 巫永福), later a Taiwan independence supporter, we can see that the nationalism in the hearts of the people in Taiwan during the later period of the Japanese occupation, which did not disappear. This poem is filled with a nationalist view of history. The first paragraph reads:


My unmet motherland across the ocean

Is as close and as distant

In dreams I saw her

The way she was in my book


The shadow flowing in my blood

And residing in my chest

For a few thousand years

Echoes in my heart


Yeah! Is the motherland calling me?

Or it is me calling her!


After he indicted the motherland for abandoning Taiwan to the Japanese, he still did not give up on her and cried out: “Customs and languages are all different. Equal treatment under the alien rule is clearly hypocritical talk. Too much hypocrisy creates depression. Give us back our motherland! Call out to the sea to give us back our motherland! "


After the Treaty of Shimonoseki ceded Taiwan to Japan, even though Taiwan was geographically isolated from the rulers of the Chinese mainland, the fate of Taiwan and the Chinese mainland was more closely tied together. Just as the then scholar Zhang Shenqie (Chang Shen-ch'ieh, 張深切) of Taizhong (Taichung, 台中) said: "I think if we cannot save the motherland, Taiwan will truly extinguish. Our hope is only tied to the rejuvenation of the motherland. As soon as the motherland dies, we not only cannot deter colonization, even we ourselves will be eliminated by the assimilated new citizens!" What Zhang Shenqie presented was exactly a nationalist view of history and a community of destiny view of history. He recognized that the fate of Taiwan and the mainland were completely tied together; if China could not be revived, it would be difficult for Taiwan to get away with the colonial oppression of imperialism.


The resistance and retrocession movements during the late period of the Japanese occupation at least proved that the people of Taiwan at that time were courageous to be Chinese. It was unlike the misrepresentation by the Taiwan independence view of history, which claimed that the origin of the so-called Taiwan independence consciousness started during the Japanese occupation. Taiwan is a "local consciousness," while China is a "national consciousness." Upgrading the local consciousness of Taiwan to the level of national consciousness did not meet the country's historical development at that time.


During the early period of Taiwan’s retrocession, the social elite of Taiwan were still full of aspiration towards China. Take the song of anti-Japanese invasion "March of the Volunteers" as an example. It was a passionate song written for the war against the Japanese aggression and had been sung from person to person by the intellectuals in Taiwan under the Japanese colonization. According to the recollection of the son of Xiao Daoying (Shaw Tao-ying, 蕭道應) who was a Taiwanese underground fighter for the anti-Japanese movement in the Chinese mainland during the late period of the war against the Japanese aggression, he said this: “He [Xiao Daoying] originally had a strong awareness of the motherland. He heard that there was such an opportunity of learning the mother tongue, he was pleased and went to register. … In addition to general teaching, there were also teachings of the patriotic Chinese songs for the war of resisting the Japanese aggression. For example, the famous March of the Volunteers was popular among the students. ... The passionate outpouring of the anti-Japanese sentiment rose day by day and germinated his idea of returning to the motherland to participate in the war" (in “History of Resisting the Japanese Aggression by the Xiao Family, Jiadong (Chiatung, 佳冬) Township, Pingdong (Pingtung, 屏東) County" published by the Newsletter of the Association for Advancement of Relatives of Anti-Japanese Patriots, Volume 1, p. 20, August 10, 2009; author Xiao Kaiping (Shaw Kai-Ping, 蕭開平), son of Xiao Daoying).


When the people of Taiwan sang the March of the Volunteers, they all knew that the song was resisting the Japanese aggression and came from the Chinese mainland. On the one hand the people of Taiwan were sympathetic to the people on the mainland for resisting the war; on the other hand their own memories of escaping from the Japanese colonial rule were still fresh. Coupled with the ease to learn and the lyrics being capable of exciting people, it has become a widespread Mandarin song.


During the late period of the war against the Japanese aggression, the song that people sang across the mainland for the anti-Japanese movement was the March of the Volunteers; before and after the retrocession of Taiwan, the people of Taiwan also sang the March of the Volunteers. This demonstrated that the two sides shared the same fluctuations of history and at that time confirmed the Chinese identity of the people. But this national identity, unfortunately soon suffered rapid modification following the political system of the civil war and the authoritarian rule of the Nationalist Party (the KMT).


Civil War View of History: View of History of the KMT and the Communist Party during the Cold War Era


After the victory of the war against the Japanese aggression, China soon entered into the civil war between the KMT and the Communist Party. In 1949 the KMT Government was forced to move to Taiwan. By December that year, the United States already published a White Paper stating the “hands-off policy” to abandon the KMT Government in Taiwan. Since the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the precarious KMT Government then became the United States bastion for containing the expansion of communism and Taiwan became the US’ unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Western Pacific. From then, both sides of the strait entered into the stage of “civil war view of history.”


The internal structure of the civil war view of history was that the KMT and the Communist Party did not give up the elimination of each other and each insisted on being the orthodox regime. The external environment was the Cold War of the East-West conflict; each of the two parties represented the opposing ideologies and interests of the Eastern and Western camps.


The characteristics of the cross-strait civil war system were that the two sides disputed the legitimacy of the regimes and the political lines; but concerning the "state" and "people" recognition and the "national identity," they did not have any difference. Both sides insisted that they were the real Chinese people. Concerning the "state identity," while both sides had different country names, in fact, they were just different governments. What the two sides disputed was the "internal conflict” of "who is China’s" orthodox regime rather than the "external" conflict of "relationship with others."


Under the civil war system, the KMT and the Communist Party gave as much as possible a negative interpretation of all things on the other side. Take the March of the Volunteers as an example: At the time the civil war was fierce, according to the report of the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News in December 1948, the Taiwan Provincial Government announced a list of forbidden songs and The March of the Volunteers was on the list. It later became the National Anthem of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and disappeared quietly in the memories of the people in Taiwan. Since then it turned from a patriotic song of resistance against foreign aggression into a "bandit song” under the view of history in the civil war system.


Beijing’s policies in the mainland also gave Taipei reasonable grounds to disagree. The Marxist-Leninist line, the people’s communes, the Three-Anti campaign, the Five-Anti campaign, the Great Leap Forward, criticizing Confucius and promoting Qin Shihuang, the Cultural Revolution, all led the Government of the Republic of China (ROC) in Taipei to more confidently believe that it should represent China. In order to eliminate the "Communist bandits" and save the mainland compatriots, the ROC became more hostile or derogatory towards Beijing’s deviation from the Chinese culture. At this time the KMT Government naturally did not give up the "unification view of history."


Following the breakdown of all ties between the two sides, the ideological confrontation of the Cold War, and the lengthening of the civil war, people in Taiwan began to have problems with their identity. On the one hand they identified themselves as Chinese, but on the other hand they had been taught to “antagonize the Communists" and "hate the bandits.” And when the PRC Government became the synonym of China, the education of the KMT Government on identity began to have a problem. Was "anti-Communist" equivalent to "anti-China"? The education and political propaganda of "antagonizing the Communists," "hating the bandits" and the later cross-strait political and economic developments have created a huge and deep trench for the identity of the two sides. When the policies and principles change, the differences between the identities of the two sides begin to surface.


The ROC Government owed thanks to the Cold War and the United States for their support of its legitimacy of representing China. But starting from US President Richard Nixon sending Henry Kissinger for a secret visit to Beijing, the international legitimacy of the Taipei Government began to waver. The ROC Government was forced to withdraw from the United Nations in 1971 and suffered the loss of its international legitimacy. The United States broke off diplomatic relations with the ROC at the end of 1978 and Taiwan lost the support of the United States. This was equivalent to a complete defeat in the competition for international representation. Taiwan’s "civil war view of history" collapsed almost entirely.


Under the civil war view of history, the KMT Government inevitably formed an authoritarian rule through the civil war system in order to emphasize its orthodox regime. In order to provide more space to spread the culture of the central Chinese plains and the Chinese awareness, the government relatively neglected and even suppressed the locally and regionally diversified elements in its long-term national consciousness and educational policies that represented the orthodox status of China. Therefore, things that were not classified as among the traditional Chinese culture including various types of language and history, and cultures of different ethnic groups were often not encouraged, not spread, and even repressed or suppressed, etc. to different degrees.


In the 1970s, although Taiwan still had an authoritarian regime, its economic development already picked up. After devoting thirty years to land reform, employing capitalism of the developed countries and implementing policies for small-medium enterprises, some results of the modernization appeared. When the economic strength of Taiwan rose, it was natural that the pressing social force accompanying it was anxiously waiting to break out.


In early 1979, Beijing and Washington established diplomatic relations. As a defeated party of the civil war, the people of Taiwan began to raise another voice. They tried to make self-examination. They challenged, overturned and expelled the ethnic identity and national blueprint led by the Chinese awareness. This included the history awareness, literature writing and so on. Since then, the "civil war view of history" began to unravel in Taiwan and the "unification view of history" was even seen as unreal and impractical. What followed were the appearance of a "Taiwan being already independent view of history" or "Taiwan independence view of history" in Taiwan. The basis of them lied in the democratization produced by the open society in Taiwan. The formation of Taiwanese consciousness in early 1980 was supported externally by the United States through the Taiwan Relations Act and weapon sales.


Taiwan's civil society was ready to break off from the civil war view of history, but Beijing still used it to handle the relationship with the KMT. On the international diplomatic front, it continued to isolate Taiwan and on the military front, it suppressed Taiwan.


Separate Administrative Power View of History: Only Existed for a Short Period of Six Years

In July 1987 Chiang Ching-kuo (
蔣經國) announced the abolition of the Temporary Provisions Effective during the Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of the Communist Rebellion, thus no longer regarded the mainland as a rebel group. By the end of that year, the door for public visits to the mainland opened. Taipei unilaterally ended the civil war view of history, but the Constitution did not give up the ultimate goal of reunification. In 1991 the National Unification Guidelines were adopted to emphasize that "promoting national unity should be the common responsibility of the Chinese people." The National Unification Council subsequently adopted in 1992 “The Meaning of ‘One China.’" This paper had two focuses. First, it emphasized that the sovereignty covered the whole of China. Namely, "we think that ‘one China’ should refer to the Republic of China set up in 1912 until the present, its sovereignty covers the whole of China." Second, concerning the right to rule, it advocated that both sides ruled separately. The paper said: "Starting from the 38th year of the Republic of China (1949 AD), China is in a temporary state of separation with two political entities ruling the two sides of the Taiwan Strait separately. This is an objective fact. Any advocacy seeking reunification cannot ignore the existence of this reality."


These statements represented the fact that the KMT Government at that time already changed from the "civil war view of history" to the "separate administrative power view of history." Separate rule is different from "separation." The former emphasizes the superposition of the sovereignty and the separation of the administrative power; whereas the latter regards the sovereignty and the administrative power of each side not subordinating to each other. In the "separate administrative power view of history," only “the sovereignty of the ROC covering the whole of China" would appear in the cross-strait relations instead of "the ROC being a sovereign independent country." The reason is very simple. In the “separate administrative power view of history,” whom is the "sovereign independence" from? Is it independent from the PRC? If the ROC is a sovereign independent country relative to the PRC, then what does the PRC stand for? "Superposition of the sovereignty, separation of the administrative power" means that currently the two sides are "united (in sovereignty) but stay separately (in administrative power)" and should strive “from staying separately (in administrative power) to unification (a united governance).”


The separate administrative power view of history only appeared in the politics of Taiwan for about six years, namely from 1987 to 1993. When Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1993 began the promotion of joining the United Nations, and when he expressed in 1994 "the tragedy of being born as a Taiwanese” during an interview with the Japanese reporter Ryotaro Shiba (司馬遼太郎), it was already clear that he wanted to pursue a "separation view of history." The separate administrative power view of history was used by the KMT only to explain the ROC Constitution and as a compromise made by Lee Teng-hui to consolidate his power within the KMT; it was also the product of multiple factors such as the drastic changes in the international post-Cold War era and the legal system that must be established for the tidal waves of the cross-strait exchanges. After Lee Teng-hui consolidated his power, Taiwan continued to receive support from the United States, and the system for the cross-strait exchanges was established, the "separate administrative power view of history" seemed to have come to an end. Even Ma Ying-jeou who has the Chinese cultural awareness, is a loyal KMT party member and Chiang Ching-kuo’s follower, after gaining power in 2008 has made no further mention of the National Unification Guidelines nor held any National Unification Council meeting. And on the discussions of sovereignty and the future of Taiwan, he has also converged with the Democratic Progressive Party.


The constitutional amendment to include direct presidential election can be considered as a deepening of democracy in Taiwan. However, such a system has also made the "separation view of history" gain certain legitimacy in democracy. After the 1996 presidential election, the separation view of history formally stepped on stage. What Lee Teng-hui tried to do was to consolidate this separation view of history.


The separation view of history has two forms: one is the "Taiwan independence view of history" and the other is the "content to hold a small part of the territory view of history" that can also be called the "Taiwan being already independent view of history." Both views share the same point of regarding the two sides as having a "relationship with others." The "Taiwan independence view of history" wishes to establish a new Republic of Taiwan, whereas the "Taiwan being already independent view of history" is willing to accept the Republic of China as the name of the country; each stresses that it is a sovereign independent country different from the People's Republic of China.


Before discussing the Taiwan being already independent view of history, let us look at the formation and evolution of the Taiwan independence view of history.


Formation of the Taiwan Independence View of History: Using the Materialistic Interpretation of History to Resist the "Alien Regime"

The earliest source of the "Taiwan independence view of history" derived from how to get rid of the "colonial history." Take the 1962 book Modern History of Taiwanese in 400 Years originally written in Japanese and published in Chinese in 1988 as an example. The author Shi Ming (Shih Ming, 史明, pen name Su Beng) starting from the materialistic interpretation of history and the “colonial history," described the oppression and plunder that Taiwan had suffered under the long term rule of the colonial system. In Shi Ming’s view, no matter whether they were the Dutch, Koxinga (also known as Zheng Chenggong) of the Ming Dynasty, the Qing rulers, the Japanese, and later the KMT Government, they were all alien colonial powers. At their website, the radical Taiwan independence advocate Deng Liberty Foundation set the tone for the contribution of Shi’s book: "This book, the Chinese edition of the Modern History of Taiwanese in 400 Years, has opened the door to the subjectivity of the Taiwanese as a nationality; it explored the historical development of the ‘Taiwanese nationality’ and the evolution of the Taiwanese consciousness."


From Shi Ming, we can see the evolution of the Taiwan independence view of history. Shi Ming’s given name was Shih Chao-hui. Because of "seeking to understand history," he changed his name to Shi Ming; Shi has the same pronunciation in Madarin as “history,” and Ming is pronounced in Mandarin like “understanding.” When studying in Taipei First Boys’ High School in early years, he already had a high degree of anti-Japanese sentiment. In 1937 he went to Waseda University in Japan to study in the Department of Political Economy, where he accessed a large number of works on socialism, anarchism and was enthused by Marxism. Owing to his yearning for the social revolution in China, he went to the Chinese mainland in 1942 to participate in Communist Party’s resistance against Japan. Through the war against the Japanese aggression and the civil war between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party, "I immediately saw the dictatorship of the Communists," "I have seen the land reform of the Chinese Communists in the north; not only the land was taken, but also the landlords were killed, killed miserably." Besides, in China when he participated in the war against Japan, he also witnessed and gained an insight into the Chinese "Han racism." Not only were the soldiers of Taiwan sent by the Chinese Communists to the war front where they were then brutally and innocently sacrificed, but the Chinese Communists also deliberately implemented a "disintegration policy” on the people of Taiwan. “They asked a Hakka to fight a Hokkien, and a Hokkien to fight a Hakka." From then on, Shi Ming clearly recognized that "The people of Taiwan cannot be together with the Chinese."


On the eve of the Communist victory at the end of 1949, Shi Ming fled the mainland after a tortuous process and returned to Taiwan after being away for ten years. In Taiwan, he regarded the KMT and the Communist Party being the same in terms of using brutal means; therefore, although the Han Chinese in Taiwan and the Han people in the mainland shared homologous blood, due to social development the people of Taiwan had nonetheless split into different people from those of China; in order to solve the Taiwan issue, the only way was for Taiwan to become independent. Then in 1952, he organized a "revolutionary armed force for Taiwan independence" in the mountains of the Taipei suburb and was ready to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). The plan was unexpectedly leaked out and he escaped as a stowaway to Japan in the same year. From then on, he began his work of building a Taiwan independent nation and started the writing of Modern History of Taiwanese in 400 Years.


In this book, Shi Ming took the 228 Incident (228 Massacre, for explanation see http://www.mahalo.com/228-incident) as the expression of the independent will of the people of Taiwan. He equated the Taiwan history with the long-term colonial rule; therefore, the two had a close and inseparable relationship with the pursuit of independence. After the pirated version of his book Modern History of Taiwanese in 400 Years was introduced into Taiwan in the late 1980s, it exerted a considerable influence on the awakening of the "Taiwan consciousness” among the younger generation born after the 228 Incident.


If we judge this from the perspective of the nation-state identity, what Shi Ming wished to promote was "two nationalities and two states." He did not define nationality from people, cultural and blood perspectives, but categorized the differences of the Taiwanese nationality and the Chinese nationality by social developments. Therefore, the establishment of an independent Republic of Taiwan is the only way to break free from China. This kind of argument has become almost entirely the basic view of history of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). What the DPP has done was to add a number of elements of sovereignty and self-determination in the international law of the West to this kind of “Taiwan independence view of history.”



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Dr. Yazhong Zhang (Ya-chung Chang) is the Chairman of the Chinese Integration Association and Professor in Political Science at the National Taiwan University. He has published more than ten books including Theory of the Cross-Strait Sovereignty, Theory of the Cross-Strait Integration, European Integration: Interactions of Intergovernmental Doctrine and Ultra-Nationalism, U.S.-China Policy: Containment, Engagement, and Strategic Partners. They are all important writings in the relevant academic fields. Open the Political Market (Linking Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan) is the book on his new political thinking. Recent interview on Phoenix TV: http://v.ifeng.com/opinion/
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