The Republic that Wasn’t

Taiwan was a republic in name only until its first open democratic election in 1996; Chiang Kai-shek [1887 – 1975], the president-for-life that the United States supported, was a brutal dictator and a mass murderer.

I knew about Chiang Kai-shek being responsible for the Shanghai massacre of 1927—also known as the White Terror. It was this atrocity that launched the Civil War [1927 – 1936; 1946 – 1950] between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist Party. Before then, both parties were part of Sun Yat-sen’s Chinese republic. Sun Yat-sen died in 1925, and it was his death that marked the beginning of the end of the republic he was building with several political parties.

Sun Yat-sen believed that three different political systems could co-exist: Nationalism, Democracy and Socialism.

Then by accident, I stumbled on a Blog about the “228 Massacre” in Taiwan in 1947 when Kuomintang soldiers under orders from Cheng Kai-shek slaughtered 30,000 Taiwanese citizens. It was the first time I’d heard of this incident. Source Blog: Patrick Cowsill

In comparison, when I Googled “Tiananmen Square protests”—about the so-called 1989 Massacre in Tiananmen Square—I discovered that, “Several hundred civilians have been shot dead by the Chinese army during a bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest in Peking’s (Beijing) Tiananmen Square. Source: BBC

However, the Tiananmen Square protests did not start as a democracy protest—democracy was not a subject of the incident until college students joined the protests a few weeks into the incident started by Chinese workers protesting corruption in the government.

The “228 Massacre” was also a protest about government corruption in Taiwan.

Here’s what the BBC had to say about the Taiwan incident, “The event was an uprising sparked by the beating of a female vendor by authorities for selling untaxed cigarettes. Between 18,000 and 28,000 people are said to have been killed in riots and a subsequent crackdown.” Source: BBC

Compare the language.  When it was about the Communists, it was a “bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest” but when the killings were committed by an American ally ruled by a brutal dictator, it was “an uprising…sparked by the beating of a female vendor by authorities.”

Of course, we will always remember the man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Have you forgotten what happened in Taiwan yet?  If that man had stepped in front of a tank in Taiwan, he would have been road kill.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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8 Responses to The Republic that Wasn’t

  1. rickey says:

    The media lies to us all of the time — especially Murdock’s media corp.

    • I can’t argue with that. But I would say not all of the media. There are some honest media voices out there that actually do their homework but for how long, I have no idea. I think they will eventually systematically be removed or forced out until only the voices that can be controlled will remain to report the news. The honest voice will be shoved under the moving bus.

  2. Krull says:

    Too bad the media isn’t honest about modern history. We deserve an honest balance in the news.

  3. I like your blog but I have to say that as bad as Chiang was portrayed here, Mao was much worse. And I have no dog in this fight because I am neither a Nationalist or a Communist.

    • It’s true that the number of people who died during Mao’s rule during the failed Great Leap Forward famine, the Cultural Revolution and the purges add up—in total—to more deaths, but Mao also ruled over more people in a country almost the size of the United States.

      Taiwan in 1949 had a population of 7.7 million. Today that population is closer to 24 million.

      Mainland China’s population in 1949 was 400 million. Today it is 1.34 billion.

      Taiwan covers an area of 35,883 km2 (13,855 sq miles)

      China covers 9.707 million km2 ( 3.748 million sq miles)

      Also, in 1949, less than 5% of the China had electricity or telephone service or even roads and at that time much of China was out of reach of even railroads. In addition, China had just come out of more than a century of war and turmoil that started with the Opium Wars, revolutions, and civil war.

      In 1911, when the Qing Dynasty collapsed caused by Sun Yat-sen’s revolution to build a republic that led to a civil war in 1925 between the nationalists and the communists (when Chiang Kai-shek attacked the Communists in Shanghai executing not only all Communists his troops found but all the labor union leaders who were in the process of forming labor unions for workers so working conditions in factories producing products for consumption the west could be improved—-those factory owners both Western and Chinese supported Chiang) and that was interrupted by World War II when Japan invaded.

      At that time most of the railroads were along China’s eastern coast running between the major cities were the treaty ports from the Opium Wars. I’m sure with all of that going on between 1911 and 1949; there wasn’t much construction of new railroads until after the Civil War in 1949.

      You may click here to see the map.

      In reality, more than 90% of Chinese were still living in the middle ages with war lords, no electricity, no roads, no railroads, no modern medical or industrial infrastructure except along the eastern coast mostly focused in those cities that were that treaty ports from the era of the Opium Wars.

      You may wonder why I’m pointing all this out. The reason is simple—I’m setting the stage for what happens during the droughts and famines that led to millions of deaths during the Great Leap Forward. In addition, China is known as the land of famines because records from China’s Imperial Dynasty’s going back more than 2,000 years records droughts, famines and deaths from those events annually in one or more provinces of China. China is known as the land of famines. Another reason for that is also due to the fact that China only has about 10% of its land that can be used to grow food crops. By comparison, American can grow food crops on 60% of its land.

      During the Great Leap Forward famine, there is no evidence that Mao ordered those people to be starved to death—all of those claims come from Western authors who wrote biased, inflammatory books that exaggerated the number of deaths.

      The evidence once bias and exaggeration is removed indicates that those deaths were not intentional—that Mao did not order or intend for that to happen. He made a mistake with is planning of the Great Leap Forward and then party bosses in the few provinces where the drought and famine hit tried to cover it up so they would not look like failures.

      What happened was not like Stalin in the Soviet Union who ordered his army to surround the farms in the Ukraine and starve out the independent farmers who refused to form collectives. In fact, academic studies from Western scholars who teach at Western universities have studied the great famine using the same information the biased and inflammatory Western popular authors have access to and the deaths and concluded in peer reviewed scholarly articles that Mao was not directly responsible for those deaths—that other factors caused them and as soon as Mao discovered what was going on in those remote areas of China—only in a few of China’s provinces—he called an abrupt end to the five-year plan known the Great Leap Forward and the CCP turned to the West for help by asking for wheat.

      In fact, when Mao heard conflicting reports that there was a famine from some sources while those who ruled over the stricken provinces attempted to cover up what was happening by claiming there was nothing wrong, Mao sent some of his own most trusted troops who guarded him where he lived in the Forbidden City—who came from that area—to see what was happening and several weeks later they reported back that the crises was real. What Mao did after those troops reported back reveals the truth.

      What did the United States do? The United States had a complete embargo in place on China—put in place during the Korean War that stayed in place after the end of the fighting—and urged its allies to not send wheat to China. The American strategy was that if the Chinese people suffered enough, they would rebel against the CCP and that would let Chiang Kai-shek return from Taiwan to rule all of China.

      But Canada and France ignored the United States and sold wheat to China ending the famine and the deaths from starvation. This failure and catastrophe resulted in Mao stepping down as China’s official leader. To regain his position, he wrote his Little Red Book that went out to the schools. That Little Red Book was the primary textbook in all of China’s public schools and later would be the instrument that led to the Cultural Revolution. Mao never ordered the Red Army to go out and purge China of capitalist tendencies. Those young children who grew up to be young adults did all that for him when Mao’s wife, under his orders, launched the Cultural Revolution and in reality turned the country over to those young adults who then went on a rampage to cleanse China of all Western influences in addition to anything cultural that had to do with the old China like Buddhism and Confucianism.

      Mao lit the match and then he let those young Chinese known as the Red Guard—few of the Red Guard were members of the Chinese Communist Party—do the rest while he slept, read and played in the Forbidden City. IN fact, there were powerful members of the CCP who protested what Mao was allowing the young adults to do in China’s major cities. Imagine what would happen if we turned America over to teenagers. This is where Mao was at his worst. He had most of the CCP members—high patty officials who fought with him during the Civil War—who protested turned over to the teenage Red Guard and that got rid of anyone who disagreed with him. Deng Xiaoping protested too but he managed to escape that purge and then waited until Mao died before he returned to rule the CCP and end the Cultural Revolution leading to today’s China.

      So, until the insanity of the Cultural Revolution Mao wasn’t much different than Chiang Kai-shek in how he dealt with anyone who threatened his position of power. It was the Cultural Revolution that was the tipping point.

      Under Chiang Kai-shek, Taiwan was ruled under strict and often brutal martial law for twenty-seven years. It was Chiang who started the Civil War by attacking the Communists. He was convinced that if he didn’t do it, they would attack him one day. Sort of stupid when he commanded an army of more than two million well-armed men, and the Communists couldn’t field an army of even half that size that was poorly armed. The United States armed Chiang because the wealthy and powerful in the United States hated all things socialist and communist that might one day threaten their socioeconomic positions.

      Mao’s opus and greatest crime was during his last decade of life with the Cultural Revolution. But even then can we blame it all on Mao, because it was a popular movement that involved millions of Chinese citizens who weren’t even members of the Communist Party.Mao did not send out secret police death squads. He didn’t order the Red Army to go out and do this. The common people did it to each other. It was a national case of insanity and Mao was the conductor who basically launched it and then sat back and let the insanity rule.

      After he came to power, there were the purges to get rid of anyone still in China who was suspected of supporting the Nationalists under Chiang—the same thing that Chiang did to the Communist Patty back in 1925 that started the Civil War.

      Then Mao allowed the people to hold court over the wealthy landowners—as he had promised during the Civil War— they had been serfs for and those people’s courts executed about 700,000 of those wealthy landowners who hadn’t fled to Taiwan with Chiang. It was Mao who ordered the Red Army to round up all the drug dealers—remember those Opium Wars that forced China to allowed Western merchants to get rich selling opium to the Chinese through Chinese drug dealers—and execute them in one day. Then the drug users were given two choices, death or get off drugs. And it was under Mao’s orders that anyone in the CCP that he thought was a threat to his position as the leader of China was eliminated. But Mao was smart. He never put anything in writing. He just hinted to the troops who were loyal to him and the deed was done.

  4. Teepee12 says:

    Many people simply find all things Chinese a bit scary. They don’t really read history anyhow, much less Chiinese history. I’ve given up trying to have conversations with most people. I can personally attest that 98% of the people I meet have never heard of Chiang Kai-shek much less Sun Yat Sen. Many of them aren’t sure which came first: WWI or WWII. Or Vietnam. I love your blog. I do. Really.

    • Thank you. You might find this scary but I read a study that said 80% of people age 17/18 who leave high school and don’t go on to college, never read a book again in their lives—-and many of these non-readers become voters and parents. Maybe America’s Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they created an oligarchy—not a democracy. In fact, I’ve read that the Founding Fathers despised democracy and warned about it, because history shows that democracies tend to be taken over by mobs and then freedom is lost for everyone else. Sort of scary.

      Why did the Founding Fathers think this way? The following comparison tells us.

      The key difference between a democracy and a republic lies in the limits placed on government by the law, which has implications on minority rights. Both forms of government tend to use a representational system where citizens vote to elect politicians to represent their interests and form the government. However, in a republic, a constitution or charter of rights protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government, even if it has been elected by a majority of voters. In a “pure” democracy, the majority is not restrained and can impose its will on the minority.

      Or in the current state of politics in the United States, a minority can impose its will on the majority.

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