The China Post news staff
Even though he has been dead for 32 years, arguments are still raging here about the legacy of former President Chiang Kai-shek. President Chen Shui-bian, who works in the very same office once occupied by Chiang, has called the former president a “murderer” and a “butcher.” In recent days, officials with the Ministry of Education have clashed with the Taipei City Government and used force to remove Chiang’s name from the memorial hall in downtown Taipei, a landmark erected in his honor. Now officials are saying they want to remove even more statues of Chiang from schools and public offices around the country. Defenders of Chiang have struck back by accusing critics of beating a corpse for the sake of drumming up support in upcoming legislative and presidential election. At a time when many angry words are being traded about former President Chiang, scholars in the United States are busy poring through his personal notes and diaries dating back to the early years of the Republic of China. To the surprise of many scholars and observers, President Chiang’s personal notes have revealed a very different person and leader than we have been hearing about here in Taiwan. According to scholars who spoke to the United Daily News, a major Chinese-language newspaper here, President Chiang wrote a memo to his son, Chiang Ching-kuo, instructing the government to stop erecting statues of himself. According to the memo penned by Chiang himself, erecting the statues was a “waste” of public funds at a time when the country was still poor and urgently needed to carry out various public construction projects. President Chiang’s personal notes also revealed that in the 1950s, the former president worked as hard as he could to prevent Taiwan from being taken over by Communist forces who had just conquered the Chinese mainland in 1949. President Chiang spent late night hours worrying about infiltration into Taiwan by agents and spies sent over from the mainland.
At an earlier point, before the mainland was lost, President Chiang refused to consent to a proposed swap of a Soviet spy in exchange for his own son Ching-kuo, who was kept in the Soviet Union after Sino-Soviet relations went into a deep freeze. According to documents written by Chiang, assenting to such a deal would amount to sacrificing the national interest for the sake of aiding his own family.
Fortunately for the country, Chiang Ching-kuo eventually did return safely from the Soviet Union and eventually came to lead the ROC government after his father’s death. The diaries of President Chiang also reveal his disgust with the way that Taiwan’s military governor Chen Yi deceived the central government in Nanking about social unrest and troubles that had broken out in Taiwan in 1947, culminating in the Feb. 28, 1947 Incident that resulted in the deaths of many Taiwanese. Far from the butcher and murderer we are told Chiang was, the president said he was furious and hurt by Chen Yi’s deception and indeed, Chen Yi was eventually fired from his position.