Chiang Ching-kuo

Lately, the Kuomintang has been doing its best to boost the reputation of Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo) and thus benefit from the association.

Any thoughts on CCK or the KMT’s current campaign?

You have to admit CCK did a lot for Taiwan after becoming president, in spite of his background in “cleanup work”. I heard that he originally wanted to make the north-south freeway five lanes either way, but everyone laughed at him, saying “Who’s going to use it?”, so they made it two lanes.

Personally, I’d rather see them dig him up to run again than see Lien Chan as a candidate.

I suspect that this campaign reflects things going on in the KMT. Specifically, I think that the KMT’s right wing (feizhulliu) is now in control and is getting ready to purge the party of Lee Teng-hui supporters. As the last legislative election (December 2001) showed, this is political suicide. Although the Taiwanese are feeling highly uncertain about the present, I don’t think that people are willing to return to the kind of closed society that CCK presided over.

In the book, “Chinese local elites and patterns of dominance” a man from a powerful family who lost its influence did much the same thing. He built a temple to to a powerful relative and started raising awareness about who he was and what he was and what he did for the community(Which may or may not be truthful). Within a few years it worked and he was back in charge.

I se much the same thing here. No one denies CCK did a lot for taiwan, but he has a lot of skeletons in the closet. By rewriting history, and supporting only the good things, the KMT can emphasize how it is a good party and the heirs of his legacy. They are incontrol of laying out the destiny of Taiwan through this path. Much as the church says you have to go through Jesus to reach god. It’s very symbolic and a very Chinese cultural thing.

Personally I like CCK a lot and find him interesting. To me, he is one of the few(only?) Taiwanese politicians who did not build a cult around himself. He was more farsighted than anyone currently running or involved the show called “Taiwanese Politics.” I rank him number 2 out of the 3 things that helped Taiwan become so successful, the first being Japanese occupation and the 3rd being American aid, protection and investment.

I wish taiwan had more guys like him, just not in charge of the secret police.


CCK was evil, as was–is–the KMT. He / they changed because they had to, not because they wanted to. Which is a step above Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, I suppose, but hardly deserving of public commemoration.

Nobody seriously proposes to go back to the “bad old days” of one-party KMT rule, or suspects the KMT of plotting same. I doubt that even the mainlanders really have much nostalgia for the Chiangs, except maybe professional military men. Certainly it won’t win the KMT many votes that they aren’t already getting.

Lee Teng-hui’s policies (even without the man himself) could have kept the KMT in power, since they were broadly appreciated by Taiwanese and mainlanders alike. The DPP, by contrast, appeals only to Taiwanese. Now that they have drifted to the (pro-Chinese) “right”, the KMT is similarly handicapped–with the crucial difference that there are fewer mainlanders than Taiwanese, which means that they are ultimately doomed if they keep pursuing this electoral strategy. (Or do you think pretty-boys like Ma Ying-jou will save them?)

The biggest fear of Taiwanese is that politicans and businessmen will sell out, betraying Taiwan to China. (Sadly, if this happens, the traitors may turn out to include a fair number of Taiwanese as well as mainlanders–not just obvious candidates like Ma.)

Meanwhile the main fear of mainlanders is not Taiwan independence (they could live with that, even like it) but that the economy will just get worse and worse every year. Hence the appeal for “selling out” to China, for those who see trade with China as a likely route to riches. (Hint: how’s Hong Kong doing these days?)

As far as I can tell, nobody apart from a few intellectuals cares about human rights–past, present, or future.

People might be amused/disgusted by this bit of poorly written propaganda from the China Post.

[quote]Chiang Ching-kuo rediscovered
TAIEPI, Taiwan, The China Post staff
Suddenly, a long-forgotten dead president of the Republic of China is becoming a hero. Chiang Ching-kuo, who passed away 15 years ago, is praised lavishly by politicians of all stripes on this island.

Former President Lee Teng-hui, who just a couple of weeks ago criticized Chiang for “buying the people’s hearts” with political power, now heaps accolades on his predecessor and mentor for having contributed a great deal to Taiwan’s “democratization.”

Lee has written a book, “President Chiang Ching-kuo and I,” to be published soon. Lee, a closet separatist, stepped into Chiang’s shoes in 1988 when the strongman died on Jan. 13 of that year. Lee took over as president and KMT chairman and held the two powerful positions until 2000 when the KMT lost to DPP in presidential elections.

Even when he was in power, Lee had never concealed his dislike of the KMT, saying the party was an “alien political regime.” He rarely had any kind words for Chiang until recently, when his influence was on the wane. The change of tone was quite intriguing and surprising.

As the 15th anniversary of Chiang’s passing draws near, the KMT is honoring his memory in a apparent attempt to discredit the current power holders by comparing Chiang’s selfless dedication to governance with the DPP’s feckless leadership.[/quote]

The rest of the article is much the same. But no one ever takes the China Post seriously, do they? (This, by the way, is a translation and not an unusual slant/tone for many of the local Chinese papers.)

I think it is an excellent tactic by the KMT. From my limited political discussions with Taiwanese (i try to avoid politics with locals), it seems to me that most people think of Jiang Jing Guo (JJG) with some sort of fond remembrance (even if they weren’t actually born at the time. He taps into the nostalgia factor. It also helps that the economy was in good shape at the time, and that JJG did in fact make the first steps towards democratisation.

The Taipei Times has from time to time (and again recently) been quick to point out the facts that JJG was a leading player in the white terror and effectively dictator of a fascist regime. They argue that the fact that he was an improvement on his father doesn’t disguise his tyrannical nature. However I think the facts aren’t important. It’s the image that counts. the KMT is clearly doing it’s best to focus on JJG rather than CKS so that they can foster peoples association of the bad aspects of KMT role with the father, and the good with the son. Not only that but they tap into the nostalgia for simpler purer times that is natural in any society. Finally of course they are attempting to dissassociate the party with Lee Deng Hui and claim part of the credit for democratisation on a Lee-free KMT. Despite the Taipei Times’ protestaions, I think this tactic will work. I think the KMT are a sure bet for 2004 even if they fuck up on deciding who’ll run.


I think it’s an interesting topic, so I just talked with my wife about JJG again. Her personal feelings, which she thinks a lot of Taiwanese share (regardless of ethnicity or party affiliations) is that JJG was a kind grandfatherly man who gave the impression that he really cared for the people and that he was humble and didn’t flaunt his wealth. She also said, yes, of course she new about his role in the white terror, but in those times and even now in Taiwanese politics, who didn’t do bad things?, but he did a lot of good.


CCK was a murderous thug and I am glad that he’s dead, dead, dead. The only reason Taiwan is now democratic is because of the pressure the US put on Taiwan following the torture/murder of Chinese-American researcher Chen Wen-Cheng (Taipei, 1981) and the assassination of American writer Henry Liu (San Francisco, 1984). … /0708.html … 0000093215 … modity.htm

a few years ago i saw a documentary on taiwan on pbs in the states. was an hour long survey of taiwan’s history. it portrayed cck much as has been described earlier. showed some footage of him interacting with the common people and what not. whether right or wrong, this is the image a lot of taiwanese people have of him.

there’s an article in the nyt today about cck’s illegitimate son and his rising star in taiwanese politics. coincidence? :slight_smile: … 1FPRO.html (requires registration)

John Chang a rising star? Wait while I stop chortling. He relies almost entirely on the votes of old veterans who remain loyal to the Chiang family. He only ran for the legislature after he left his civil service career in disgrace.

The KMT’s propaganda machine has some success in installing a more benevolent image of CCK in the minds of the more depoliticized sections Taiwanese middle class. Nonethless, most people are aware that Taiwan under CCK was not a normal society and are disinclined to vote for those who would like to turn the clock back.

Thanks for the link, Flipper. I urge people to read the article, which is much better than its headline (“Taiwan Lawmaker’s Skill May Be Hereditary”). Here’s an excerpt:

[quote]After their grandmother told the boys her secret [that they were the sons of CCK], they tried to visit Chiang Ching-kuo but were turned away, Mr. Chang said.

Even as they grew, went off to college and graduate school paying their own tuition by working as tutors they kept the secret to themselves.

They had reason to be careful. Until 1987, Taiwan was under martial law, and people embarrassing to the Chiang family sometimes perished under mysterious circumstances.

The boys’ mother, Chang Ya-jo, was a cadet during World War II in a training camp run by Chiang Ching-kuo, who was married to a Russian woman. Six months after she gave birth to the twins, she died suddenly during a routine visit to a doctor, Mr. Chang was later told. Many believe that she was murdered by aides to either Chiang Ching-kuo or Chiang Kai-shek, though even today the truth remains murky.

Mr. Chang said his brother, who died in 1996, “once decided to trace out who the real murderer was, and I said that would not be helpful.”[/quote]

Well okay–so he murdered a former lover, and a few other people. But other than that, he was a great democrat.


It is not very often that I find myself in agreement with you, except today. And on that note, while I am not fully versed on CCK I gotta say, that I find very little about CCK that seems to be worthy of merit.

So, he got Lee Deng Hui to become his successor. Now, what about the rest of his reign?

It’s just the KMT rewriting history to suit it’s current goals. Lee Tung-hui has been starring in the role of Mr. Democracy a little too long and for (now) the wrong camp, and the KMT would like to change that. Handing the accolade over to the conveniently dead (easier to spin-doctor him posthumously) CCK is a masterful stroke. Lien Chan cannot stand up to Lee Teng-hui in either intellect, speaking power or that all-round image of statesmanship, so why not dig old CCK up for support. The KMT will not fire up the propaganda machine for Soong’s benefit as he obviously wishes power for himself, he won’t share, Lien Chan’s shoulders are too weak to assume the mantle of CCK, so who else but pretty-boy Ma?

Despite what anybody hopes for, the 2004 presidential race is going to be knock-down drag-out fight between mainlanders and Taiwanese, and largely on the issue of whether or not the Taiwanese should be allowed to govern themselves, which the mainlanders have always opposed. It’s going to be ugly.

I was here when CCK died and the Taiwanese weren’t the ones crying in the streets. Did you know a lot of mainlanders spent that night hiding in darkened houses and basements because they assumed that without CCK and his goons to protect them, the native Taiwanese would come to exact revenge for 2/28, the White Terror, the blacklists and all the other half-catalogued KMT atrocities? No threats had been made, they knew they were guilty and expected to be punished.

[quote=“hsiadogah”]It’s just the KMT rewriting history to suit it’s current goals.

I was here when CCK died and the Taiwanese weren’t the ones crying in the streets. Did you know a lot of mainlanders spent that night hiding in darkened houses and basements because they assumed that without CCK and his goons to protect them, the native Taiwanese would come to exact revenge for 2/28, the White Terror, the blacklists and all the other half-catalogued KMT atrocities? No threats had been made, they knew they were guilty and expected to be punished.[/quote]

CCK did implement a lot of infrastructure developments including the highways and various shipping ports. He did a fair share of positive things.

And about the night that CCK died, I must have been in some other-dimensional Taiwan, because I don’t recall any of that.

I guess History is so subjective that this is an issue overall.

George Washington wanted to be called King…

Jefferson was a great leader… yet he had slaves and had children with one of them and later did not acknowledge the children…

Clinton did good things but had a bit of an impulse control issue…

JFK was on serious painkillers and mood altering drugs during the Cuban missile crisis…

Regan was obviously suffering from early stages of Alzheimer

A fight between Taiwanese and mainlanders would be demographically lopsided, would it not? So where would the KMT and Soong’s party (should that me HMT or XMD?), in whatever combination, get the additional support from? (Besides vote-buying, which the KMT is apparently better at.) How did that situation arise, in which the DPP only got a plurality rather than an outright majority?

The “pretty-boy Ma” scenario seems to assume a large constituency of horny Taiwanese housewives who generally vote against mainlanders, but might make an exception for such a handsome devil. Who knows whether this effect actually exists (Bill Clinton may have benefited from something like it), is of sufficient force to overcome the basic demographic problem, and whether the housewives in question would feel as flustered if Ma were only the vice-presidential candidate. I note that the media seems to run fluff pieces on him all the time, though it might be something other than politics driving this.

The disappointing thing is that for technical reasons arising from party leadership, none of the major parties feel able to circumvent the whole problem and come up with a ticket that would appeal to moderates in both ethnic groups. That’s what Lee Teng-hui really represented, way back when. You know what would really be radical here? Democratic PRIMARY elections (for party nominations), like in the American system.

[quote] I guess I wonder where is the line drawn between good leaders, who perhaps had some not good attributes, and bad leaders who did some good things… Hum, this question always makes me think too much.

So, was CCK a good leader who just should have been a less oppressive but was doing those things he thought was needed to implement change or was he a bad leader who did good things for the economy and infrastructure while killing and torturing innocents? [/quote]

I suppose it depends on how much you think innocent life is worth, when translated into economic terms. And we all make this calculation–for example, we allow cars and trucks on the road, knowing that a certain number of people will be killed as a result, because our economies are based on this. (Of course, the Chiangs’ murders may have had other-than-patriotic motivations…)

I think Chiang Ching Kuo came on the scene when Taiwan’s economy picked up in a natural progression from an agrarian to an industrial society. So while himself and some KMT economics ministers seem to get praise often for the economic growth, and for building a crummy freeway, and other infrastructure, I think he was lucky to be around in a high growth period for a developing nation. He also had a fixed exchange rate with which to pump prime exports. In fact the policies of low cost labour and sub-contracting low end/low value work have actually made Taiwan into an environmentally spoiled island with little real industrial creativity or marketing creativity to survive as a modern country.

It is natural that the Taiwanese economy would slow down in the Lee Teng Hui in the C.S.B era as the country changes from a developing to a developed econcomic model. Let’s face it, most Taiwanese are a lot better off economically in real terms today then they were in the Chiang Ching Kuo era. As an economy develops, costs rise, old low end industries are difficult to sustain, consequently unemployment will continue to rise here for the foreseeable future , especially since the government does not promote high labor utilisation service industries such as tourism, continues to allow the importation of low cost immigrant labor. Also pressures to increase social benefits way down on the country’s competitiveness.

Moreover this “presidential” kind of politics and cult of the personality is a diversion from the real problems at hand today. A functioning democracy demands taking every major ethnic group’s views into account. Until one of the parties on the blue or green side wakes up and forms a powerful CABINET COALITION with the other side there can be no possible way out of the morass Taiwan finds itself in now. For the sake of Taiwan’s future development Chen Shui Bian should invite the KMT or PFP into the cabinet and allow the cabinet substantial powers over all but foreign affairs policy which should be left in the hands of C.S.B so as to prevent any sellout agenda being implemented on the part of the pro-unification parties.


CCK did implement a lot of infrastructure developments including the highways and various shipping ports. He did a fair share of positive things.

And about the night that CCK died, I must have been in some other-dimensional Taiwan, because I don’t recall any of that.[/quote]

Yes, and a lot of those wonderful projects were done really shoddily with all sorts of money being skimmed into the wrong pockets. He also helped line the KMT’s pockets with your tax dollar instead it going into better infrastructure. He was better than his dad. That’s a big recommendation eh?
That said, I think it’s possible Fishlips may have admitted to himself that the ROC military was never going to take the mainland back by force, even though people who said that out loud had a habit of disappearing. Hence the sudden willingness to spend on infrastructure. Prior to that they were told that they were eventually going home and the only things that were very portable were the national art treasures, bullion, and US dollars… certainly not proper sanitation or transport infrastructure. If they had faced this fact in '75 we might now at least have cleaner air and water, maybe even a transport system worth the name. Instead, he let the old guard run the show from behind the scenes until his own number was almost up.

I was actually in another (alcohol-induced) dimension that night, so I don’t recall much either. But my friends sure did see those things and it was their parents that were doing the hiding (while they were out partying their faces off).