Guarding Chiang Kai Shek

What does this young Taiwanese soldier feel about guarding the statue of one of the most influential man of twentieth century: Chiang Kai Shek.

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I don’t want to make this a wikipedia entry. You can check it yourself and brush up on your history knowledge. When I moved to Taiwan in 2002, I found a young democracy practicing and trying to find its own way. Democracy also meant fist fights in front and inside the parliament between opposing groups. A deep cut seemed to go right through the Taiwanese, a cut too deep to heal easily. The DPP, a pro Taiwan party, was in power and Chen Shui Bian, a supporter of Taiwan’s independence, was president. He was later convicted on two bribery charges and has been serving a 19-year sentence since. Now the conservatives are back in power still on the course of “status quo” with regards to the China question.

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In 2002, when I arrived, the nation was split: one half believing in an independent Taiwan and the other half still seeing Taiwan as a province of Greater China under the rule of the KMT. While the groups are certainly more mixed today, it seemed at the time that the supporters of a Greater China are mostly from the families of the one million soldiers which came to the island in 1949 when the communists under Mao had beaten Chiang and his KMT army. Any kind of opposition against the leading KMT was suppressed with unbelievable violence. After an uprising starting on the  27th of February 1947, the KMT killed 10000 to 30000 Taiwanese wiping out a large part of the political and intellectual opposition. The 228 incident marked the beginning of the “white terror” period in Taiwan. During the 38 years of military rule 140000 Taiwanese were imprisoned and 3000-4000 were executed as “bandit spies”. Even after Chiang Kai Shek’s death in 1975 the terror against intellectuals and their families continued.The martial law in Taiwan was lifted only in 1987 and finally, the state of war with China was over in 1991.

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Taiwan is still not represented in the United Nations after the People’s Republic of China took the seat in 1971. Only 22 nations mainly from Africa, South and Latin America maintain diplomatic relations to Taiwan. During the Olympic Games athletes from Taiwan start under the name “Chinese Taipei”.

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I return to Taiwan several times each year. I meet very polite, friendly and professional people. It’s really easy to get around and travel in Taiwan. It’s a safe place. The food’s great. The economy of the country is doing well. When my curious eye looks around, I see construction and the development of infrastructure all over the place. Taiwan developed itself from a world leader in manufacturing into a stronghold of high-tec designs. I just can’t figure out what the young soldier guarding the Chiang Kai Shek memorial is thinking.

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All images were taken with a Fuji GS645S on Fomapan 400 at ISO1600 and developed in Kodak HC110. A good reference to find out more about Taiwanese history is Denny Roy’s: “Taiwan: A Political History”

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