This morning, I read two pieces in the Contra Costa Times Travel section for Sunday, December 12, 2009. Both pieces were about China. The first was written by Carol Pucci, Seattle Times, and was about travelling around China independent of tourist groups, and I found the description of China to be one I’ve experienced many times since my first trip in 1999.
The second piece by John Boudreau, Mercury News, was a comparison between traveling to Taiwan and the mainland. Although it wasn’t as entertaining as Carol Pucci’s piece in the Seattle Times, it was interesting. However, I felt the piece by Boudreau was a little misleading when he wrote, “China maintains democratically ruled Taiwan as its territory. Taiwan, on the other hand, has evolved independently of Beijing since Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist forces fled to the island from Mao Zedong’s communist soldiers in 1949.” That statement is accurate, but I felt it wasn’t telling the whole story.
When Mao and his Chinese Communist Party won China in 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his Kuomintang were the overloads of China. Chiang Kai-shek was a dictator and China had never held popular elections like in America and Europe, so in reality, one totalitarian government forced out another one. Of course, the United States supported Chiang Kai-shek. It didn’t matter if he was a dictator or not–at least he wasn’t a Communist.
It wasn’t until the 1986, under pressure from the United States and the United Nations, that Taiwan became a multi-party democracy and held elections. If they had not done that, the United States was threatening to stop protecting them from the mainland. That’s the primary reason that Taiwan became a democracy. A year later, Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek’s son, lifted martial law. Until that day, Taiwan had been ruled by one party just like mainland China and was oppressed by martial law for thirty-seven years. I wonder why that wasn’t mentioned in Boudreau or Pucci’s pieces.
The big difference between these two one party systems was that in China, the communists leaned toward helping the working class improve their lifestyles while in Taiwan the rich and powerful were favored and everyone else was a second class citizen. When Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists ruled mainland China, the situation was the same. The poor people wanted change and that was what Mao, for better or worse, gave them. Under the Nationalists, there were drugs, prostitution, dangerous gangs, and women were second-class citizens. The communists dealt with those issues after they came to power—sometimes brutally. Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists could be brutal too.
What is Martial Law?
Off the beaten path in China by Carol Pucci
China Crossings, Travel in China and Taiwan by John Boudreau
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