Friday, November 28, 2014

Documentary of Cold War Taiwan (and self-discovery)

Some observations:

  • When I was a kid, I remember during the weather segment of newscasts, they would give the weather in Quemoy and Matsu like it was a thousand miles away.
  • I don't remember so many store signs in Japanese when I was growing up in the 1970s.
  • Ironic that stability and prosperity were based partly on land reform, a leftist principle.
  • One of the reasons I moved to the U.S. was because my family didn't want me to serve in the military and risk injury/life.
And for something a bit more sobering. I am trying to find out more about my grandfather's role in the government. He served either in the Legislative Yuan or the National Assembly (or maybe he didn't). It's hard to know without access to primary source materials. It's even tougher when you can't read Chinese. I found a 70-page book put out by the U.S. Embassy in Taiwan in 1961. It is basically a list of all government officials and high ranking Kuomingtang members in Taiwan. Maybe it will shed some light on what he did and who he was.

It's sobering because of his position. It's natural to look up to your grandparents. They can do no wrong. But when you hear someone served in the legislative body of a dictatorship, the figure you conjure in your mind is of a corrupt and sycophantic yes-man. But I'm curious, and I am ready to face reality. I ordered the book from the library and will check it out when it's ready to be viewed. 

7 comments:

Richard Chen said...

Thanks for this. Going to show this to my mom, who was a mainland refugee. Thinking of the bayonet skills I'd have picked up if our family had stayed.

Richard Chen said...

Oh, and I remember my dad telling me about having visited Quemoy on the even-numbered days when there were no PRC shelling going on. I remember thinking that was the weirdest warfare.

Ripituc said...

I don't know much about Taiwan, so I'm gonna watch this, thanks.

As you can surely imagine, I wouldn't be so harsh on your grampa. I don't think he has to be a bad guy for working in a dictatorship. More in the Chinese context, what was his option? The Communist were a worse dictatorship anyway. And maybe he felt it was his duty to be a part of the Government, precisely to try and make it better from within. It wasn't like Taiwan was any likely to become a democracy back then, was it?

About Quemoy and Matsu: I just recently learned about them and I'm still amazed at the fact the Nationalists could hold them, so close to the Mainland! I must learn more about how they could do that.

What you say about the weather news reminded me of how cool it still sounds to me when news give the forecast for Easter Island, Juan Fernandez and Antarctica. It is like "here come the colonies!".

ZacksWheels said...

Jim, that's some incredible historical memory work you're about to embark on. I think it takes a lot of guts. I think Ripituc is right, there are shades of this that could have colored your grandfather's motivation and involvement in the government at the time. Would love to hear more about this once you've had time to process and think about it appropriately.

Maxichamp said...

@rchen: When I was a kid, I thought the frogmen marines were the toughest men on the planet.

Maxichamp said...

@ripituc: I think every young man's fear was to serve on Quemoy or Matsu and get killed by Communist artillery.

Also, Easter Island is legitimately far away!

Maxichamp said...

@zackwheels: So far, so good. The research is turning up some crazy shit, in a fantastic sense.