Tuesday 18 October 2011

Chiang Kai-Shek

Chiang Kai-Shek is a rather controversial figure. In Taiwan he is a celebrated national hero. In China he is the enemy, leader of the money hungry capitalists. He was Generalissimo (highest military rank) of the Kuomintang (KMT-Chinese Nationalist army) and of the entire Taiwanese millitary. He succeeded his mentor, Sun Yat-Sen to lead the KMT in their fight against the Japanese and later the civil war with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Sun Yat-Sen holds a very different position than Chiang within modern day China . Although he was also Nationalist, both the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (Taiwan) refer to Dr Sun Yat-Sen as 'The Father of the Nation' '國父'. Sun was fundamental in gaining China's independence from the Qing Dynasty and ending two thousand years of Imperial rule. The  years following the revolution were tumultuous, but eventually, Chiang Kai-Shek took control, moved the Capital to NanJing and reunified the country. However on the 19th of september 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria (North East China) and ignited a bloody battle. The affects of the Japanese invation and their behaviour towards the Chinese population (torture, rape, massacre and human experimentation) are still felt today, ask any mainland Chinese how they feel towards the Japanese...

By this time the CCP were growing in strength and Chaing Kai-Shek, worried about a communist overthrow, put his efforts into fighting the communists. Only once the US joined world war II, and China became an ally, did the CCP and KMT join together tentatively to fight their common enemy. After Japan's surrender in 1945 the Chinese civil war resumed, and stepped up a notch. The CCP had gained strength from Soviet backing, and recruits from the huge rural (peasant) population. As defeat loomed Chiang asked the US for assistance. Feeling the after affects of the war, they refused and so the KMT fled to Taiwan. Where Chiang established the Republic of China. He ruled over his new nation until his death in 1975. He became a promient world figure and received many foreign leaders in Taiwan. This is in stark contrast to the PRC which Chairman Mao led into economic ruin, cut off from the rest of the world.

Issues surrounding Taiwan in China:
The offending LP Map
  • The PRC refuses to acknowledge Taiwan as a country, stating it is part of China. If you enter China with a lonely planet guidebook and an offical sees it, they may ask you to give it to them. Once they see the map, inside the front cover, which does not show Taiwan as part of China, they have been known to confiscate the book. 
  • I had a Taiwanese student when I taught in China, who after our first lesson approached me at the front of class to ask whether I 'think Taiwan is part of China or not?'. After being briefed that this was a major issue to avoid, I answered as truthfully as I could 'I think China thinks Taiwan is part of China.' and then I left as swiftly as I could.
  • Another time in class we were playing my favourite game: scategories. I give the students a letter of the alphabet and they have to think of a word beginning with that letter for various categories. On this occasion one category was 'countries' and the letter was 'T'. They were shouting out countries for me to write on the board, one student shouts 'TAIWAN!' and up it goes. Only for at least half the class to yell with indignation that team 3 cannot have a point for Taiwan as it's part of China. I'm afraid I conceeded and quickly rubbed it from the board! (During this same game I also had Tibet given as an answer, which likewise couldn't be used.)

Sun Yat-Sen

Nanjing Mausoleum
Sun Yat-Sen memorial
 In China, as I have said, Sun Yat-Sen is celebrated. He is buried in a lavish mausaleum in Nanjing. Decked out in the Nationalist colours and flag. I never visited Chaing Kai-Shek's birthplace in ZheJiang, but research shows that it is no where near as celebrated as Mao's humble beginnings in Hunan, or as widely advertised to tourists. As his family history is all trapped inside mainland China, Taiwan has had to build it's own sites honouring him. In Taipei, I visited the Chaing Kei-Shek memorial hall. A huge round building housing a statue of the main man, flanked by two Honour Guards, which change every hour, and I managed to accidently to watch two changing of the guard ceremonies while sight-seeing. Inside the huge building is also a small museum containing some of Chiang and Madame Chiang's possessions and lots of pictures throughout his and her lives. Many of which, as I have mentioned, with important foreign heads of state. Due to camera failures I have no pictures from inside the memorial.

Here concludes todays Taiwan history lesson, and onwards to more pictures! :-)
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1 comment:

  1. Very impressive - I've learnt so much. Perhaps if I'd travelled when I was your age, I would have a better understanding of the world we live in.