How Taiwan Robbed My Childhood

Everyone else is talking about the anti-secession law passed by the China's National People's Congress, but I won't have much to say on the law itself.  In a previous post, I have explained why I don't talk about certain types of Chinese poiltics.  This is another example, because there is no point for this blogger to tell you that China will (or will not) invade Taiwan in the next twelve months -- he is clueless and that's that.

But let me make one point that people seem to skirt around.  In Taiwan, there is talk about organizing a million person march or some such.  At this time, it will be just as easy for the Chinese government to organize a ten-million-person counter-march and attendance won't even have to be coerced.  Like it or not, there is no groundswell of opinion inside China to let the island of Taiwan slip away into independence.  So this is not a case of a few 'tyrants' sitting in the Zhongnanhai compound in Beijing facing off against the  popular will of 23 million people of Taiwan.  On this issue, the 'tyrants' have the support of the majority of their own people.  If the Hu-Wen government lets Taiwan slip away, it may not be able to survive the outrage from the populace.  On the scale of things, it would be orders of magnitude worse than signing the Diaoyutai islands away to the Japanese.

There are some surveys about the popular will in China.

Example Poll Shows Chinese Mainlanders Oppose Taiwan Independence.  People's Daily Online.  March 20, 2000.

About 95 per cent of the people in the Chinese mainland say they are firmly on the side of the central government to open fire with Taiwan, if the latter dares to declare independence from the motherland.  A recent poll among residents above the age of 18, done by the China Society Survey & Investigation Centre in China's seven main cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhai, Changsha, Chongqing and Harbin, indicates that they are willing to shed their blood for their country if the leader of Taiwan wants to secede Taiwan from China.  ...  And, all the interviewed said Chinese people are not afraid of threat from foreign countries at all, and they will stand up and are ready to shed their blood for China's territorial unity and national integrity.

Example  Horizon Group, 2003.

This poll covered 3,968 people (age +16) from 7 major cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, etc) and counties and villages in 7 provinces (Hebei, Zhejiang, etc).  The polling showed that a “majority” (=87.9%) of mainland citizens will not tolerate Taiwan independence.  Nearly 60% of them advocated strengthening economic exchange to promote the re-unification; 14.7% support solving the problem now by force; 13.2% believe that the situation should be kept as it until as such time when force becomes necessary; 11.3% cannot make a judgment due to “lack of information”.

Perhaps you don't like to polls conducted on mainland China, because you think people are afraid to say the wrong things.  But have you heard any mainlander supporting Taiwan independence?  You cannot say that this is because the subject is banned from discussion inside China.  Vindication of June 4th, FLG and one-party-rule are also banned topics, but people inside China still talk and write about them.  No public intellectual is advocating just letting Taiwan go.  There may be some griping about the hegemonic manner in which the anti-secessionist law was passed, but vritually nobody is supporting the idea of Taiwan independence.  This issue is radioactive on mainland China, and cannot be turned back by a million person march in Taiwan, or presenting yet another set of historical maps and scrolls to 'prove' that Taiwan never belonged to China.

Who is responsible for leading public opinion on the mainland to this stage?  Part of the answer is in the next section.  For once, the Communists can't be blamed for everything.

But this is not what I want to write about in this post at all.  I really want to talk about how Taiwan robbed my childhood.

I grew up in Hong Kong during the 1950's and 1960's.  My family had moved there from Shanghai in 1949 just ahead of the arrival of the People's Liberation Army.  Since both sides of my family belong to the landlord class, we would be in big trouble had we stayed.  Both my parents were university graduates who majored in comparative literature, so they worked at first for the United States Information Services doing translation work.  In the late 1950's, my father became the executive producer at Cathay Motion Pictures, which made Mandarin-language movies primarily for the Taiwan market.  In those years, my father would lead the group of Cathay movie stars and directors for the annual pilgrimmage to Taipei on October 10th, the national day of the Republic of China.  They would be the most visible collection of honored guests and I would see his photo splashed over all the newspapers.  Thus, I was brought up in a democracy-loving and freedom-loving environment.

So what was I told?  Here are a few things:

  1. There was a good China, which was located in Taiwan, led by President Chiang Kai-shek.  It stood for democracy and freedom, and it referred to itself as Free China more often than its proper name of the Republic of China.
  2. And then there was a bad China, which was located on mainland China, led by people such as Mao Zedong who spoke incomprehensible Chinese.  There was no proper name for the bad China (because this People's Republic of China was neither a republic nor supported by the people of China).  The government of bad China was simply referred to as the 'Communist bandits' (共匪).
  3. There was only one country known as China and its sole legitimate representative was Free China.  Their legitimacy was reflected by the seat in the United Nations Security Council.  The 'Communist bandits' were temporary usurpers, and it was only a matter of time before they were ousted because they mismanaged the economy and oppressed the people.  
  4. The most famous words in Taiwan are the four huge ten-feet tall letters (毋忘在莒) in the handwriting of President Chiang Kai-shek on a hilltop in Kinmen island.  The words exhort the people to keep up the spirit and determination to recover the mother country.  

    Here are some more perennial favorite slogans that were etched into the rocks of Kinmen island:
    「光復大陸」Restore light and glory to the mainland
    「解救大陸同胞」Liberate and save the compatriots on the mainland
    「犧牲奉獻」Sacrifice and donate
    「消滅朱毛漢奸」Annhilate Chinese traitors Mao and Zhu
  5. The people in mainland China were suffering in 'deep water and hot fire' and were waiting to be rescued by the forces of Free China when the moment was ripe.  This assertion was not just propaganda emanating from Taiwan, because we in Hong Kong observed the hordes of refugees trying to rush the Hong Kong-China border to escape the massive famine that occurred with the failure of The Great Leap Forward.  There were moments when it looked as the 'Communist bandits' would collapse on their own without use of force.
  6. The 'Communist bandits' attempted to control China by persecuting all intellectuals, against which resistance and collaboration were equally useless.  Thus, Free China became the repository of Chinese history and culture until as such times when the restoration occurs.
  7. Political happenings on mainland China were byzantine and unpredictable.  One day, someone is a beloved leader; next day, he is a Russian revisionist/capitalist roader and/or CIA spy.  After a while, who can keep track anymore?  By contrast, Free China had democratic elections through which the people always re-elected their dearly beloved leader, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
  8. Even small schoolchildren in Hong Kong donated candy money to Free China in order to support the fight against the 'Communist bandits.'  For example, the money was spent on balloons that were sent from Quemoy into mainland China carrying leaflets and crystal radio sets.  The radio announcers urged the compatriots to get ready to rise up when the troops of Free China land to free the people from the yoke of the 'Communist bandits.'  We tracked the dogfights between the American-made Sabre jets and the Russian-made MIGs in the skies over Taiwan strait and the artillery battles between Kinmen and Xiamen, and we wanted the 7th Fleet to go in and kick some ass.
  9. This Free China meme was not only propagated by the government in Taiwan, but it was fully supported by the United States of America, through its United States Information Services, Voice of America and other agencies.

This was what I saw and heard as a child, and it was not a long, continuous psychotic episode of mine.  Far too many people of my generation lived through the same experience.  Anyone can walk into a library today to read the newspapers of Taiwan from 1950 to 1970 and get the same barrage of the Free China meme.

I am not here to argue whether my personal experience legitimizes or delegitimizes the theoretical basis of Taiwan secessionism/independence.  I am here just to complain on my own behalf, for having lost my childhood twice.  The first time around, I (and many of my generation) had been fed a bunch of lies about this Free China.  Apparently, as we are now being told, Free China was neither Free nor China.  I guess it was my own fault to be so gullible (and I was entitled to be gullible because I was a child after all), and I don't ask for any apologies from anyone.

The second time around, there are those who wish to present the case that Free China was only a façade and the people of Taiwan only pretended to go along with it in the face of white terror.  This was how my childhood got robbed a second time with an even bigger and more cynical pack of lies.  I don't accept this presentation.  In fact, I accuse the majority of the citizens of Taiwan for being complicit and duplicitious in this grand deception back then and they are being quite dishonest about it now.  For example, here is something from the official website e-Government website in Taiwan:

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) condemned China's anti-secession legislation on Wednesday as "a law of non-peace and aggression," saying it violated the universal beliefs of freedom, democracy and human rights, and that China had no right to decide the future of Taiwan's people. 

"China has no right to decide the future of Taiwan's people"?  For several decades, this Free China entity in Taiwan seemed to think that it had every right to decide the future of China's people and it was ready to liberate their suffering compatriots on the mainland from the throes of those 'Communist bandits.'  With the exception of a handful of objectors to the imposition of martial law in Taiwan, everyone else (and that included Chen Shui-bian) had acted as if the Free China meme was real.

And this second time around, I am now a grown-up who had been fooled badly once already and I find it downright insulting to hear this nonsense.  It is almost as if I am asked to believe that during all this time, the people of Taiwan had really been drinking sake and eating sushi while sitting on their tatami, clad in their kimonos, conversing in Minnan dialect and being totally disinterested in China.  That, of course, is risible.  If the people of Taiwan don't want re-unification for whatever reasons, why can't they just say so directly and honestly?  I am just fed up with this rubbish about universal beliefs of freedom, democracy, human rights and the right to self-determination because they clearly did not live by those principles previously for a long time.