Madame Chiang Kai-shek, (Soong Mayling), died at the age of 105. But even though the otherwise hagiographic Washington Post articles says:
To their enemies, the Chiangs were the opportunistic overseers of a corrupt and decadent political apparatus that had little or no regard for human life or the well-being of China. Madame Chiang was the “Dragon Lady,” imperious, hard-boiled and calculating.
Little is said about the truly disgraceful legacy of the Chiangs in Taiwan. Especially the February 28th (1947) massacre of tens of thousands of Taiwanese, and the 40 years of oppressive martial law that followed afterwards (known as the White Terror). But thanks to Madame Chiang’s western and christian upbringing, she was able to convince the US that Taiwan was “Free China”…
Here is a brief history of the February 28th incident from the Wikipedia:
After Japan’s surrender in World War II, Nationalist rule began in October 1945 after the end of World War II. During the immediate postwar period, the Nationalist Chinese Kuomintang (KMT) administration on Taiwan was repressive and corrupt, leading to local discontent. Anti-mainlander violence flared on February 28, 1947, prompted by an incident in which a cigarette seller was injured and a passerby was shot to death by Nationalist authorities. For several weeks after the February 28 Incident the rebels held control of much of the island. Feigning negotiation the Nationalists assembled a large military force (carried on United States naval vessels) that attacked Taiwan massacring nearly 30,000 Taiwanese and imprisoning thousands of others. The killings were both random and premeditated as local elites or educated Taiwanese were sought out and disposed of. Many of the Taiwanese who had formed home rule groups under the Japanese were the victims of 228. This was followed by the “White Terror” in which many thousands of Taiwanese were imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang military regime, leaving many native Taiwanese with a deep-seated bitterness to the mainlanders.
Here is a site devoted to the history of the massacre. In George Kerr’s excellent book Formosa Betrayed, he describes how an ideologically driven US foreign policy made it impossible for the government to act responsibly. Here is some of what Kerr has to say about Chiang Kai-shek:
…most Far Eastern specialists in wartime Washington were under no illusion concerning Chiang’s capacities and strengths. He was a “Leader of Democracy” and China was a “Great Power” only because the Washington Administration said so, and gave him money and arms to keep him in the field against the Japanese.
China was an enormous problem. Nothing in the Nationalist record as Of 1942 would support a belief that Chiang Kai-shek’s Party bosses could assume control of the government of Formosa without massive aid, or that American interests there could rest secure in Chinese hands.
But, despite the obvious problems with supporting Chiang, the state department created an environment in which any criticism of Chiang was seen as disloyalty:
It was soon recognized that only colorless reporting and subservient conformity to a pro-Chiang policy would do. Otherwise a Foreign Service officer risked public humiliation, the taint of “loyalty investigations” and possible dismissal from the Service.
Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it? It isn’t too hard to draw comparisons between the government’s foolish support of the Chiangs and our foolish support of Chalebi and his cronies. Too bad we never learn from history…