It’s often said that history is written by the victors. Most of the time, when people say this, they are referring to victors in war, not politics.
A FEW YEARS AGO, statues of Sun Yat Sen began disappearing from Taiwan’s public parks. In 2004, the Taiwanese government announced it would remove questions about Mainland Chinese geography from its general knowledge exam for civil servants. And last fall, the government renamed the country’s largest international airport. Once named for the Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai Shek, it is now simply called Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, after the county where is it is located.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s latest initiative has ruffled more feathers of officials on the Mainland and in the KMT opposition bloc: Revised high school history textbooks will for the first time devote an entire volume to “Taiwanese” history. The People’s Republic of China, previously referred to in classrooms as “our country,” “this country,” or “the mainland,” will be identified as “China,” and its history will be condensed from two or three volumes down to one.
The changes don’t stop there. The island nation’s 50 years of Japanese rule is no longer an “occupation,” but an “administrative period.” The 1911 Wuhan Uprising that brought an end to imperial rule in China will now be called a “Qi Shi” or riot, which carries a less righteous connotation than the old term, “Qi Yi,” or revolution.
Teaching Taiwan: Revisions in Taiwanese textbooks cause a stir.
by Abigail Lavin
The changes in regards to Japan are particularly disturbing. Some of the text books omit the Nanjing Massacre completely, others rename it “the Nanjing incident”. Makers of the new text books have expressed the idea that since the history isn’t really relevant to Taiwan, that it no longer belongs in history books. Considering that the Nanjing Massacre was arguably the most brutal massacre of the modern world, and that countries all over the world include it in their history books, this is very, very disturbing. In fact, the only country to similarly gloss over this portion of history is Japan, itself.
One other issue glossed over in the new history books is that of the “comfort women”, i.e., sex slaves that the Japanese soldiers took. The timing of this re-writing of history couldn’t be worse. Right now a group of Australians who were formerly “comfort women” are becoming politically active.
Ms O’Herne and two South Korean victims appeared in support of a non-binding resolution that urges Japan’s Prime Minister to “formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner” for the women’s ordeal.
The resolution does not recommend Japan pay reparations, but urges Japan to reject those who deny the sexual enslavement happened.
It was unclear when the House panel would meet again to consider whether to endorse the resolution.
Supporters want an apology similar to one the US Government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II, approved by Congress and signed into law by president Ronald Reagan in 1988.
Japan objects to the resolution, which has led to unease in an otherwise strong US-Japanese relationship.
Herald Sun: Apology cold comfort for sex slaves
Regardless of what Taiwan has to gain from better relations with Japan, there must be a better option than re-writing history.
Angry Chinese Blogger: Massacre, what massacre?
Wikipedia: Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform
Asia-Pacific News: “Rape of Nanking” vanishes from revised Taiwan history textbook