Chapter Four: The 2-28 Incident and White Terror Period

在文檔中 臺灣民眾國家認同的發展:1895年到2000年 - 政大學術集成 (頁 34-42)

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Chapter Four: The 2-28 Incident and White Terror Period

4.1 Social Identity

The KMT government came to Taiwan which ended the Japanese colonial rule in 1945. It was anticipated that the new Chinese government should be friendlier than the Japanese rulers to the people on the island, after the half-century separation.

Unfortunately, this was not exactly the case. The 2-28 Incident (二二八 er er ba) is another historical event that not only demonstrates strong impact on identity evolution but also produces a deep-rooted resentment between local Taiwanese and incoming Mainlanders who moved to Taiwan with the KMT government. Relatively, the 2-28 Incident delivers more impact on the political identity in Taiwan. Through 2-28 Incident, we can begin to see a formation of society acting as a collective and mobilizing as a group to defend their beliefs. The beginning of the KMT’s rule until the lifting of martial law marked a significant evolution in Taiwan’s history.

Since the KMT military government took control of the island, it soon initiated a series of resource-extraction efforts like the Japanese colonial government. The KMT’s primary goal was to use Taiwan’s people and resources to support the battle with the communists in mainland China, there was a long and thorough plan to manage the island at that time. With this mentality there was not a clear differences between the new KMT government and previous colonial one. As Wachman puts, “economically, politically, and culturally [Taiwan] was suddenly yanked out of the Japanese orbit and appended to China in another colonial relationship” (Wachman, 1994: 20). The locals expected that structure in Taiwan would be different with the nationalist party in power, with these hopes Taiwanese citizens suggested a need for political change towards democracy or self-rule, but even after Taiwan became part of the Republic of China there were no efforts to establish a democracy.

The relationship between the residents of Taiwan and the representatives of the KMT was sour from the start. The nationalist military leaders believed that the Taiwanese were tainted by Japanese culture and wanted to restore Taiwan to its Chinese origins, on the one hand, it was the KMT government who thought to come as a savor. This was clearly described by Cooper that “Mainland Chinese made a claim of cultural superiority,

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on the basis of the years of Japanese colonial rule of Taiwan, which “Japanized” the island’s population” (Copper, 2009:75). The distrust that the nationalist soldiers showed to the Taiwanese overturned, the locals felt discriminated against as “the Kuomintang brought with it many more mainlanders to Taiwan, although a minority in the Taiwanese society, these mainlanders occupied many important positions in the party, and government” (Hsieh, 2004: 481) These developments made the locals disappointed with the nationalist government and those who first arrived from the mainland to take control were viewed as carpetbaggers, bunglers or thieves.

As the relationship between the mainland nationalist soldiers and the Taiwanese people deteriorated, so did the political, cultural, and social factors. While the nationalist soldiers were preoccupied with mainland civil war issues “the inefficiency and corruption in the government” (Hsieh, 2004: 482) caused problems in Taiwan. Many materials and food were being taken from Taiwan to be sent to the nationalist soldiers who were fighting the communist in mainland China. The economic and social stability that Taiwan had to also deteriorate. The hot confrontation between the two groups of people came to the peak when one Taiwanese woman selling un-licensed cigarettes was beaten to death by a KMT solider in February of 1947. The incident later expanded into mass protests by local Taiwanese who demanded for sanction of the wrong-doers. Unfortunately, the leaders of KMT military government pursuit was not to pacify the protesters but to repress and arrest them. Worse still, the repressions and arrests were encountered with strong resistance of local Taiwanese and led to the breakout of an island-wide confrontation. Without surprises, the military advantage of the KMT government not long suppressed those discontented Taiwanese. Yet, what was important following this confrontation was the numerous lives of that Taiwanese were taken away either by execution or missing due to the repression.

The 2-28 Incident did not only wipe out local Taiwanese elite at that time but create a terror social climate among the majority of Taiwanese. The new KMT government was by no means a democratic regime at this time, though it claimed its determination to fight against the communist regime of China. Moreover, the new KMT government was not a friendly regime to local Taiwanese. It exploited all the resources it could to support the combats in China, leaving Taiwanese society with little resources.

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Taiwan was just a temporary base in the KMT’s plan to retake China, and nothing more.

Social identity among Taiwanese was also directed to this goal, while previously Japanese legacies were also not wiped away on the island. However, the ban of Japanese legacies did not necessarily introduce a new Chinese identity. It was witnessed that an increasing hatred between some Taiwanese and the new KMT government (or the mainlanders of the KMT government) had also evolved based on the incident.

4.2 Political Identity

Every year politicians from the DPP and the KMT attend island-wide memorial ceremonies to commemorate the families of the victims of the “2-28 Massacre”. But what makes this event still have such importance in Taiwan history? Corcuff explains that,

“this event is perhaps [one] of the most important single events in Taiwanese history because it made Taiwanese history thinkable… the betrayal and violence of the Chinese Nationalist government made the boundaries of a distinct historical subject” (Corcuff, 2002: 25). To many scholars the 2-28 Incident and the KMT’s authoritarian rule are key elements affecting the relationship between “the native Taiwanese people, the Han Chinese who have resided on the island for centuries, and the ruling elites of the KMT government”(Shih and Chen, 2010: 86) many who arrived at the island after 1940’s.

The 2-28 Incident marked “the beginning of the Kuomintang's White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned” (Tillman, 2006). To this day it is still present in many Taiwanese lives, this incident marks one of the most important events in Taiwan’s history, and this event catalyzed today’s Taiwan political identity movement and independence/unification dispute.

After the 2-28 incident, Chiang Kai-shek refocused his attention towards Taiwan.

He changed military and political rule to include Taiwanese in top positions in government. “He made Taiwan a province, rescinded military rule, and appointed some Taiwanese to top positions in the government” (Copper, 2009: 45). This event was not to be mentioned, and government tried to establish a policy meant to try to erase the incident from history. Even though Chiang Kai-shek tried to fix the damage that had already been done in the island it did not stop the Taiwanese hatred for the government

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and the mainland Chinese. Chiang Kai-Shek promulgated an order of martial law in 1949 until his death in 1975 opening a new era which ended the “hope of ruling a unified China” (Copper, 2009: 50).

Taiwan had been under martial law for 38 years after the White Terror era and the 2-28 Incident, marking one of "the longest imposition of martial law by a regime anywhere in the world" (Mulvenon, 2003: 173). The lifting of martial law brought on changes through political liberalization in Taiwan as well as the liberty to address topics that had been a taboo such as: the 2-28 incident, and questions concerning national identity. This uncertainty of identity in the island is seemed as the result from a clash manifested by the Chinese nationalism of the KMT and its supporters, and the Taiwanese nationalism manifested by those natives who bared the hostility of the KMT authoritarian regime. Wachman states“ repression gives way to liberty, problems that reflect conflicting notions of identity may become more nettlesome, and the demand to rectify long-standing inequities may intensify”(Wachman, 1994: 22) such freedom to express their sentimentalities make people proclaim their political identities.

The absence of a common political identity through decades can be a factor impacting a contribution for rapid change, which only takes but one impacting change in history. “Residents of Taiwan have been impelled by changes in the political and social realms to reexamine their cultural and political identities, and as they do, many find that the simple truths of the past to which they clung to, are certainly not simple” (Wachman, 1994: 23). The controversy that emerged is that of the definition of being Chinese, what does it really mean to be Chinese? The goals that were stablished by the KMT since the late 1940’s are now being adapted to accommodate new national goals and political rules based on the evolution of political identity occurring in the island.

In Taiwan, there is a separation of people according to their place of birth, their origin: Taiwan or mainland China. The difference between “mainlanders” and

“Taiwanese” constitute based on the following criteria:

“Mainlanders were born on the Chinese continent and came to Taiwan in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s to escape from communism. Second generation mainlanders were born in Taiwan to parent who are mainlanders. Taiwanese does not simply imply to everybody living in

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Taiwan. It is a term used to denote only those Han Chinese who already lived on Taiwan prior to the wave of migration that occurred at the end of the 1940’s and their offspring” (Wachman, 1994:24).

This form of classifying people by place of origin offers only confusing labels but it is not any different then classify people by party affiliation which has been an identifying label for decades in Taiwan. One of the aims to a political identity reform is for those oppressed to articulate their felt oppression in terms of their own experience by a process of conscious-raising. In Taiwan, political identities (being Chinese or Taiwanese) continue to shape people’s political views on the islands political future.

4.3 Cultural Identity

Cultural identity evolution can also be observed during the KMT rule progressively. Scholars stated that during this time the uniqueness of Taiwanese culture set against Chinese culture had begun to take root. Taiwan is composed of four major ethnic groups, the Indigenous people, Mainlanders, Hakkas, and Hoklos, all who have lived in the island for decades. The Indigenous group is the longest having lived in the island and are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Chinese. The other remaining groups are of Chinese descent basically Han Chinese, “there is a slight complication in terms of ethnic origins” (Dittmer, 2004 pg. 476). They are thoroughly categorized in Taiwan as different in their own way. The “Hoklos and Hakkas are descendants of Han settlers from southern China who migrated to Taiwan between the 17th and the 19th century” (Shih and Chen, 2010:88). Mainlanders, are considered those who migrated to Taiwan with Chiang Kai-shek from 1945 to 1949, often referred as “waishengren”

(Dittmer, 2004 pg. 476) or provincial outsiders, these were soldiers or refugees who fled their homeland due to the civil war between the Communist and the KMT.

As stated above, the 2-28 Incident was a protest that quickly became an island wide rebellion. Chiang Kai-shek sent troops to Taiwan to suppress the revolt. Native Taiwanese people were arrested and executed without public trials. For many years there has been no accurate count of the total number of people killed. The most frequently cited figure is somewhere between “10,000 and 20,000 casualties, many of whom were

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intellectuals and professionals” (Lee, 2004). The term “2-28 Incident” strengthened the native consciousness and became a rallying point for the Taiwanese struggle for liberation from alien rulers (i.e. the KMT government). The main differences between the main four groups lie in their tradition, customs, ancestral birthplaces and language. As discussed in the literature review scholars argue that collective identity is based on cultural factors such as lineage, cultural characteristics (language, religion, and tradition) or some physical traits. On the other hand, others argue that cultural traits do not necessarily establish a common group identity. We believe that cultural characteristics as stated above, physical traits and a common experience like the 2-28 Incident, experienced by the native Taiwanese (Indigenous group, the Hoklos and Hakkas), made these people begin to perceive a common destiny in the form of deprivation of political power, economic resources, social status, and/or cultural values, in which they formed a collective identity. While ethnic differences may be contiguous with ethnic discrimination, they reinforce each other within an ethicized state. Oppressed by ethnic elites, the masses acknowledge their common fate and awaken to their collective identity.

Culturally, there has been an ethnic division between native Taiwanese and those who came from the mainland during the 1940s, which reflects in their different historical experiences and cultural variables such as preferences for spoken languages (Mandarin vs.

Taiwanese). The February 28 incident symbols an impact on the ethnic cleavage in Taiwan. This traumatic event became a marker in the development of a Taiwanese identity, and the emerging divide between ethnic groups, culturally redefining Taiwan’s inhabitants. In the early days, the KMT misappropriated large amounts of all forms of power to itself, rendering a disorganized and powerless society. After the 2-28 Incident and the “Kuomintang’s White Terror”, the KMT implemented martial law in order to maintain power to distribute scarce capital and resources. The KMT state denied sovereignty to social organizations and defined Taiwan as a province of the Republic of China (ROC) making Mandarin Chinese the national language. The KMT also made the subject of the 2-28 Incident a taboo not written about in any history books, taught in schools or even talked about for decades, “public discussion of the event was forbidden, and history textbooks made no reference to it. Newspaper archives from 1947 contain scarcely any mention of the incident” (Shih and Chen, 2010: 86). However, the pain

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suffered and collective memory of the 2-28 event was deeply engraved into the hearts and minds of the many native Taiwanese who experienced the massacre directly or indirectly through family members. This unrelenting ethnic divide which began on this day created an open hostility and distrust between these two groups for decades to come.

At first glance, it appears that there is a place for reconciliation among the four ethnic groups, since as stated above the differences between three of the four are not visible “Hoklos, Hakkas and Mainlanders are all Han Chinse by ethnicity” (Shih and Chen, 2010:89). Nonetheless, the differences lie in their own identification, language preference, and interpretation of history. The most significant ethnic dispute lies within the power war between Mainlanders and the other three groups. The two historical events that have played an important role in the consolidation of ethnic cleavages in Taiwan, as discussed in chapter 3, the Japanese colonial rule and the time period from 1945 to the 2-28 incident in 1947.

The birthplace in these four groups is a key element, “early Hoklo and Hakka settlers on Taiwan built their identities based on birthplaces and kinships” (Brown, 2004:

9), these groups having experienced an unconsented transfer of sovereignty during the Japanese colonial rule began to form a new collective identity. For the first time, Han Chinese observed their ethnic differences throughout the changing colonial powers (the Japanese and the KMT) and identified themselves as a unique and distinctive ethnic group. From the perspectives of the Hoklos and Hakkas “waves of alien rule over the past four hundred years have led to the growth of a unique Taiwanese identity” (Brown, 2004:9). Such Taiwanese resistance to uninvited rulers gave rise to the feeling of owning the island by these groups. This idea originally ignores the indigenous people who had been the original residents to the island. Nevertheless, the Hoklos and Hakkas represent the majority group in Taiwan.

By the end of World War II, the Taiwanese national identity was a debate of natives versus outsiders, it was not until February 28, 1947 that “the Taiwanese were faced that Chinese compatriots were more malevolent than the previous Japanese colonizers” (Shih and Chen, 2010:94). This event was an eye opener for the Taiwanese, disillusioned by the White Terror, the descendants of earlier Han settlers began to reflect on their ancestry and ties to the mainland. Once they realized that the new Chinese

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settlers were just another colonizer, their collective identity evolved into a consciousness towards forsaking their ancestral link with China.

4.4 Summary

In this section, we define the 2-28 incident as a collective historical impact on the social, political, and cultural identities for the people of the island. Although, we can observe that during this time period, the social and political identities became more prominent than the cultural identity due to the social terror and discrimination, political repression which represents this time period. Due to the implementation of KMT’s official ideology, political socialization and authoritarian rule at that time. This incident depicted the differences of the mainlanders and the Taiwanese, and was the origin of a cross-strait conflict, debated today. Under this discourse, ethnic harmony, social stability, and political unity came to represent the protection of Taiwan and the prevention of rule by China through the martyrs of this incident. This incident was engraved in the minds of the Taiwanese, therefore both needing to remember and forget the incident.

These common memories of the past affect everyone in Taiwan. For many Taiwanese, the 2-28 Incident had been a symbol of taboo and suffering for many years.

The people of the island went through several generations of efforts towards finding a unique identity, efforts to release themselves from the shadow of authoritarianism. Now, the 2-28 incident is a symbol of social, cultural, and political unity. This event has become a sense of ethnic harmony and social cooperation, guiding society towards protecting their identity as Taiwanese.

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在文檔中 臺灣民眾國家認同的發展:1895年到2000年 - 政大學術集成 (頁 34-42)