Opinion | Demolition of Taiwan statues will not erase many Chiang achievements

Opinion | Demolition of Taiwan statues will not erase many Chiang achievements
Opinion | Demolition of Taiwan statues will not erase many Chiang achievements

Taiwan’s government plans to remove all remaining statues of late president Chiang Kai-shek from public spaces, a decision vote from work carried out by a 2018 commission that found dissidents were persecuted and funds illegally funneled to his political party, the Kuomintang, or KMT, during his rule. Critics regard Chiang as a dictator who ordered the military to kill hundreds of civilians on the island in 1947 and say he does not deserve to be remembered.

As a result, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party aims to remove more than 760 statues. However, this attempt to erase the past, which is happening in many places around the world, is short-sighted and ignores some of its remarkable achievements.

To be sure, Chiang ruled Taiwan with an iron fist, using a draconian secret police force to purge political opponents in the “White Terror”, and imposing martial law that lasted 38 years until it was lifted by his son and successor, Chiang Ching- kuo, in 1987.

On the mainland, Chiang was for years regarded as a bitter enemy for his failed efforts to wipe out Mao’s communists, but since his death there has been a shift in attitude and recognition of him as a historical figure, not least because he believed in “ one China”. Under founding father Sun Yat-sen, he helped reunify China, only to see it divided again when he lost the civil war and fled to the island in 1949.

Statues of former Taiwan leader Chiang Kai-shek are displayed at Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park in Taoyuan. Plans to erase Chiang’s legacy go too far for a historical figure integral to the one-China concept. Photo: AFP

As China’s leader during the war against Japan, he had a seat at the table alongside diplomatic giants Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference in 1943, which produced the declaration against Japanese aggression and pledged the restoration of territories seized by Tokyo – including Manchuria and Taiwan – to China. He sent his wife, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, on trips to the United States, where she successfully lobbied for aid for China’s war effort and drew crowds of thousands.

Chiang’s tenure on Taiwan saw the start of the island’s “economic miracle”, thanks to the shift to an export-oriented economy after World War II, transforming it from a largely agricultural one. From 1913 to 1950, gross domestic product per capita increased at an annual pace of about 0.7 per cent, according to the World Bank.

From 1950, the first full year of Chiang’s rule, to his death in 1975 it grew 5.3 per cent per annum, before gathering further pace. Taiwan rapidly became a developed economy and one of the “Four Asian Tigers” alongside South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Taiwan will tear down all remaining statues of Chiang Kai-shek in public spaces

His tenure saw improvements in healthcare, education and quality of life.

Chiang is indeed a divisive and flawed figure. But rewriting history to erase his legacy and wipe away all his achievements takes things a step too far for a historical figure so integral to the concept of one China, and to the island’s remarkable growth and prosperity.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Opinion Demolition Taiwan statues erase Chiang achievements


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