At the end of December 2016, both Taiwan and the world were shaken to the core, when images appeared in the local press and online, depicting students parading in Nazi uniforms proudly raising their hands in salute, an act banned in most countries of the world. Mail Online reported:
A school in Taiwan has been condemned after students waved Nazi flags and shouted ‘Sieg Heil’ as teachers stood by saluting them. The images were taken at Hsinchu Kuang Fu High School in Western Taiwan where a history teacher can be seen dressed as Adolf Hitler.
Some students were photographed inside a makeshift cardboard tank, while a history teacher stood still outside, dressed as Fuhrer.
A homeroom instructor suggested that a theme of the parade should be Arabic culture, but after two rounds of voting, it was decided ‘to go with Adolf Hitler’. One of the main reasons: some students said that they could easily convert their school uniforms by just making several minor changes.
Numerous students who were questioned declared that ‘Hitler and Nazis being responsible for millions of deaths’ never even crossed their minds.
Surprised? Taiwan was recently ranked the ‘third most ignorant nation’ (really, a ‘nation’?) in an ‘ignorance index survey’ (the Ipsos MORI Perils of Perception Survey), conducted by a UK-based market research company.
In Taiwan, a bizarre lack of understanding of the past and the present is not only related to such far away places like Europe. Most Taiwanese people find it difficult to even define their feelings towards Mainland China, and towards its main ally, the United States.
The West may be trying to provoke China (which sees Taiwan as its renegade province), into a deadly war. There are sparks flying between Washington, Beijing and Taipei. The anti-Chinese coalition forged by the West (mainly the US, Australia, Europe, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam) is beginning to show serious cracks, after President Duterte of the Philippines began threatening to end all military cooperation between Washington and Manila, and while Vietnam has reshuffled its leadership at the beginning of 2016, sacking its pro-market and pro-US Prime Minister. But all this is rarely discussed in Taipei and other cities and towns of Taiwan.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen spoke on December 2 on the phone to the US president-elect Donald Trump, the first such exchange since the Carter era (1979). Mr. Trump is sending hints that he is not going to necessarily honor the “One China Policy”, a development that is infuriating Beijing.
Shockingly, almost all the people I approached in December 2016 in Taipei either refused to discuss the topic, or appeared thoroughly ignorant about it. Some did not seem to even understand the concept of the ‘West provoking China’.
On 25 December 2016, I witnessed a huge protest in front of the Office of the President, but that was not against ‘provoking China’ or against Taiwan’s collaboration with the West: angry activists were demonstrating and eventually clashing with police over the ‘import of food from Japan, allegedly from contaminated Fukushima area.’
Protesters were unwilling to discuss the ‘new vision’ of the United States president-elect. Political extremism and anti-Asian prejudice of Donald Trump didn’t seem to frighten many in Taiwan. Or perhaps the knowledge of the topic was very limited?
In the past, for decades, the pro-market, pro-Western and anti-Communist propaganda in Taiwan was shaping the worldview of the island.
Even now, in a new, modern international hotel where I was staying, the only English language channels available were CNN and FOX, not even the BBC or Al-Jazeera. When I asked for the RT, Telesur or Press TV, the staff showed total ignorance about those important alternative global media sources. Almost all local publications were taking international news from Western agencies, predominantly AP, AFP and Reuters.
Political ignorance is inexcusable, as Taiwan is now in the middle of the storm, which could evolve into a deadly global military conflict. The West, hand-in-hand with Taiwanese right-wing anti-Chinese political and military forces, is relentlessly attempting to antagonize and to provoke the People’s Republic of China.
In response, the PRC is conducting routine naval exercises in the region, which include its sole aircraft carrier Liaoning.
Emboldened by recent developments in Washington, the reaction of Taiwanese officials is irresponsible and aggressive:
“The threat of our enemies is growing day by day. We should always be maintaining our combat alertness,” Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said at the end of December.
“We need to strengthen the training (of our soldiers) so that they can not only survive in battle but also destroy the enemy and accomplish the mission.”
“Our enemies?” Did the Defense Minister say “our enemies”? Taiwan is a renegade province of China, whose ‘independence’ is recognized by only 21 countries (down from 30, two decades ago). Most of those nations are poor, located in the South Pacific and Central America, and most of them are corrupted, literally bought, by the Taiwanese government, which pays those governments to ‘switch from Beijing to Taipei’. It is the common practice of PRC to break diplomatic relations with those countries that ‘recognize’ Taiwan as an independent state.
It is an extremely dirty game, encouraged by the West. I lived and worked all over the South Pacific and my findings on the topic are documented in my book “Oceania”. No major country (including the United States and the member states of the EU) recognizes Taiwan as an independent state.
From this angle, for the Minister of Defense to call the Chinese forces “our enemies” is nothing short of treason!
At the atrocious National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall located in the Zhongzheng District of Taipei, the generalissimo is immortalized on countless paintings, his photographs exhibited in dozens of halls. He and his wife are depicted in the company of Winston Churchill, dictator Somoza, Ronald Reagan and General Douglas MacArthur.
The entire city of Taipei seems to be built around this monstrous monument, in size and idiocy competing only with the “War Museum” in Seoul, South Korea.
The experience is complete with pompous changes of guards and patriotic music and video clips.
By all standards, Chiang Kai-shek was a mass murderer, one of the bloodiest in the 20th century. Mao defeated his troops, but before retrieving they managed to slaughter millions of people in Mainland China, and later tens of thousands in Taiwan and even in Thailand.
After losing the Chinese civil war, Chiang Kai-shek, a staunch ally of the West, ran away to Taiwan and declared himself “Dictator for Life” of the area. According to some accounts he subsequently killed 140,000 Taiwanese civilians in his infamous “White Terror”.
I asked Ms. Jane Wang who works at the Memorial, whether Taiwanese people really believe in Chiang Kai-shek’s greatness? She hesitantly replied:
Actually, my father who followed Chiang Kai-shek from Mainland China, supported him. But now in Taiwan it is half-half. Frankly, we don’t know much about the history.
I asked about the photos of Reagan and Somoza, about KMT’s support of the West in the Korean War. She gazed at me expressionlessly:
“I don’t know… I really don’t understand…”
Then she called a kid, an 18-year old volunteer.
I asked him about the present tensions between Taiwan and Mainland China, about the West playing an increasingly aggressive role in the region.
He had no opinion.
I asked about the fascist anti-Communist and pro-Western legacy of Chiang-Kai-shek. He began to look nervous:
“I just work here for 8 hours a day. I don’t know anything about this place, really…”
“But you work here, in the middle of this enormous propaganda center!” I insisted. “Haven’t you heard about the millions massacred on Mainland China by his troops? Haven’t you heard about the tens of thousands killed here, in Taiwan?”
“No. I know nothing,” he laughed. “At school we learned nothing about this… I’m just a volunteer…”
In one of the halls, high-school students were taking selfies. “Do you like Chiang?” I shout at them. They all laughed, happily, showing me “V” sign with two fingers.
At the “228 Memorial Museum” dedicated to the government-orchestrated massacre of Taiwanese civilians, I spoke to an 86-year old Mr. Chang, a survivor of the atrocities.
On the official museum site it reads:
It commemorates the victims of the 228 Massacre which took place on 28 February 1947. The 228 Massacre was a rebellion by the Taiwanese people against the recently arrived Republic of China (ROC) troops. The ROC government responded with a brutal crackdown that ended with tens of thousands of Taiwanese people killed.
“Was Chiang Kai-shek really ‘democratic’?” I asked sarcastically.
Mr. Chang did not hesitate for a single moment:
Of course not! The Communists on the Mainland defeated Chiang, and he retrieved to Taiwan. There was 40 years of curfews, from 1947 to 87. No freedom of speech and no human rights. Intellectuals were arrested, some disappeared. The media was strictly controlled.
Many of us were welcoming Chiang, because we had no idea what would happen. Of course we were deeply disappointed. Their quality was so low: the quality of their officials and officers. They were undisciplined, corrupt and brutal.
Bizarre Chiang’s cult, Nazi high school parades and thorough political and historical ignorance! Continuous efforts to corrupt tiny poor countries in all corners of the world… Playing into the hands of the West, provoking China. What a place Taiwan has become!
However, the Western Empire is not usually too picky when it comes to its allies. If Philippines and Vietnam decide to make peace with China, then Japan, South Korea and Taiwan could be all that Washington has left in Asia, to help it to ignite a conflict.
Perhaps that is why the US president-elect is now trying to embrace a territory, which honors as its hero and founding father a mass murderer, and whose history teachers wear Nazi uniforms while saluting replicas of Wehrmacht tanks.
• First published in New Eastern Outlook