Before democratization the KMT avoided talking about the advancements of the Japanese period. One way of not mentioning the Japanese was by fabricating stuff and altering facts to give themselves or Qing dynasty officials credit for what the Japanese had done.
Just 2 examples of pre-democratization fabrications, which all Taiwanese probably learned in school if they are born before 1995:
- The west coast railway
During the KMT dictatorship period, kids were told that Liu Mingchuan (劉銘傳), a Qing official, deserves the credit of building railroads throughout the west. Liu's railroad was only from Keelung to Hsinchu, and it was so poorly constructed that it was all but useless.
So Liu asked repeatedly for funds to build his railway. However, he got very little money to do it. At the time, in 1876, the British Jardine Matheson company built a railway from Shanghai to its harbor that regular Chinese people really disliked. A train ran over a cow, and people started rioting against the railway. So when that railway got torn down, the equipments were sent to Taiwan in 1887 for Liu to build his railway.
Liu insisted that his soldiers and workers would construct the railroad, they just put a foreign chief engineer in charge of the project without much supervising power. Things went very poorly and foreign engineers, German or British, left one by one, by the time the project was done, the project saw 5 different chief engineers.
There were only 4 trains a day, and the train would shake violently. It also didn't operate on schedule as it had to stop every time someone waved for it to stop. There were no signals, no railroad crossings, no platforms. The steam train would run out water and had to stop to fetch it. The route was poorly chosen as it weaves about graveyards and houses. No geological survey was done so after a couple of typhoons it was basically out of commission. Not to mention the railway lost a lot of money and never was able to recover its cost.
As soon as the Japanese secured Taipei in 1895, they appointed someone to make plans for the new railway right away, even before they've conquered the rest of the island.
They were in a hurry because they had hoped to utilize the railway in their invasion, but found the railway completely useless. Instead of having trains hauling Japanese troops, Japanese troops had to manually push the train forward. Most railway ties were missing , and the Japanese commented that it more like a trail than a rail road, and nicked named it the "rear-driven train" or the "the railway with pneumonia". By 1896, 241 Japanese tasked to repair the "rail road" died due to diseases.
The prefecture got the funding to build an entirely new rail way in 1900, and it was completed in 1908. This one ran from present day Keelung to Kaohsiung. It was the Japanese who designed and built the railway that Taiwan still uses today.
- The central cross highway and Suhua highway
The KMT have always claimed that the Taiwanese people should be grateful for the large number of troops it brought to the island because these "veterans" contributed to the construction of major infrastructures such as the central cross highway and Suhua highway that linked Hualian and Yilan.
However, both were built by Aboriginal workers during the Japanese era. Central cross highway during those days linked west coast and the east coast, using Taroko gorge as it's eastern end just like today.
The Japanese also founded the Taroko national park in 1937, which is something that the KMT also likes to claim credit for. The national park during the Japanese era included Xueshan (雪山). It was called Tsugitaka Taroko National Park (次高太魯閣國家公園), and encompassed an area of 2,726 square KM. Today, the Taroko and Xueba national parks combined only make up about 1,689 square KM.
So even though both the Japanese who built the road, and the KMT who at most expanded it, both did it to reap the resources of Taiwan's precious redwood forests and mines, at least the Japanese was already committed to preservation of the place.
The Japanese through their 50 years of colonization cut down about 833 square meters of precious redwood forests. In comparison, the KMT managed to clear 4,496 square meters in just 43 years between 1946 and 1989. The red wood forests cleared out had been growing for thousands of years, and were what's holding back rapid erosion on Taiwan's steep terrains against earth quakes and typhoons. The flooding, mud slide we are suffering annually is a direct result of senseless deforestation sponsored by the KMT government.