The Republic that Wasn’t

October 23, 2013

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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