Honoring 2 pivotal men of Taiwan

By Joe Hhung

Chiang Kai-shek’s birthday isn’t a national holiday any more. So people of Taiwan didn’t have a day off last Friday. Nothing was done to remember him, though we should thank him for keeping Taiwan a democracy. There’s one more man we should remember with a national holiday. He is Koxinga, who drove the Dutch colonialists out of Taiwan in 1672 and made it part of China. Incidentally, Koxinga (���m��) means the Lord of the Imperial Surname, the honorific name the people of Taiwan call Zheng Chenggong (�G���\). He signed all official documents as Zhu Chenggong (�����\), Zhu being the surname of Ming emperors. Koxinga and Chiang Kai-shek are very much alike. Both Koxinga and Chiang were charismatic leaders. They both projected an aura of destiny and personal charisma that drew older and more experienced men to serve them. All this accords with what Max Weber defines as the qualities of a charismatic leader. The mission the two leaders assigned themselves was similar. Koxinga fought the invading Manchu horde to restore Ming rule over China. Chiang was dedicated to the recovery of the Chinese mainland under Communist rule after he lost the civil war in 1949. Neither of them succeeded. In military ability, they were not top-rate generals or excellent tacticians. They won many battles but lost as many. Koxinga’s most costly loss was his decision to wait out the Manchu garrison at Nanjing rather than storm the city when he had a superior force. He lost his foothold in China and had to move to Taiwan where the Dutch started colonization in 1624.

Chiang made the mortal mistake of deciding to fight Mao Zedong on winning the eight-year war of resistance against Japan in 1945. China then was so devastated by the war that he could not and should not resume the Chinese civil war he began in 1934. Mao won and proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, 1949 and Chiang had to move his Kuomintang government from Nanjing to Taipei. He followed Koxinga to a tee in turning Taiwan into a base for an eventual counterattack on the mainland of China. Koxinga kept Quemoy or Kinmen, so did Chiang. Neither launched the counterattack, but Koxinga’s son, Zeng Jing, did, fighting against the ruling Manchu unsuccessfully for more than six years.

Both of them were criticized for the harshness of the discipline they enforced. Koxinga killed the father, brother and son of Shi Lang, who defected to the Qing court and led an armada to conquer Zheng Jing’s Kingdom of Tongning (�F������) on Taiwan in 1682. Chiang forced the reign of White Terror in Taiwan during which time thousands of Communists and Communist sympathizers, many of them innocent, were executed. The Red Purge was necessary to keep Taiwan safe, though.