The CCP’s latest exercise in propaganda is unlikely to win hearts and minds in Taiwan, but nevertheless indicates greater willingness on Beijing’s part to criticize the KMT.
Taiwan Affairs Office Spokesman An Fengshan told a regular press conference on Wednesday that China will hold a series of events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 228 Massacre in Taiwan.
An did not specify what the commemorative events will be, or where they will take place.
The announcement occurs at a time when Beijing appears to be intensifying its efforts to win over Taiwanese by offering them “equal benefits” in China. It also coincides with signs that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is rapidly losing faith in the Kuomintang’s (KMT) ability to act as a partner for unification. Eight years of KMT rule under president Ma Ying-jeou (2008-2016), during which various bilateral agreements were signed, did not succeed in generating support for unification among the Taiwanese and in fact reinforced the desire for separate status from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), culminating in the election of Tsai Ing-wen of the Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in January 2016.
With the KMT struggling to regain its footing after its disastrous defeats in the 2014 local elections and the 2016 general elections — in which it also lost control of the legislature for the first time in Taiwan’s history — Beijing is showing itself more amenable to criticizing the KMT and is now keen to appeal directly to the Taiwanese public.
And the CCP, which ironically doesn’t allow any commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, is clearly laying the blame for the 228 Massacre, a nationwide crackdown that began in February 1947 in which as many as 20,000 people were killed and thousands more imprisoned, on its former “partner” the KMT.
Every year on Feb. 28, events are held nationwide in Taiwan to commemorate the victims of the 228 Massacre, a key event in the formation of a distinct Taiwanese identity.
The first signs that China was planning to use the 228 Massacre for propagandistic purposes emerged in 2012, when a symposium on the Massacre was held in Beijing. The language, which is likely to be reproduced during this year’s “commemorative events,” as well as the nature of the participants, leaves no doubt as to the propagandistic nature of the endeavor.
On Feb. 24 that year, the Taiwan National Congress and the Taiwan History Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) held an academic symposium in Beijing to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the 228 Massacre (they used the term “uprising”) of the Taiwanese people. Huang Zhixian, a member of the Standing Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and Vice Chairman of the Taiwan Democratic League Central Committee (TDLCC), presided over the meeting. Li Minkuan, former vice chairman of the TDLCC, Ji Bin, Vice Chairman of the All China Federation of Taiwan Compatriots, and Zhang Ning, Secretary-General of the Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League, also participated, as did the heads of relevant departments of the central government and the Beijing Municipal Government, experts and scholars, and 50 members of the Beijing Union and individuals from Taiwan.
According to Chinese media, the symposium was held “in commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Feb. 28 uprising of the people of Taiwan, not only to cherish the martyrs and compatriots who were arrested and sacrificed in the uprising, but also to inherit and carry forward the glorious tradition of patriotism and love of Taiwan compatriots […] and to strive to safeguard and build a common home for compatriots on both sides of the Strait, and work hard to promote the peaceful reunification [sic] of the motherland and the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
In commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the Feb. 28 uprising of the people of Taiwan, not only to cherish the martyrs and compatriots who were arrested and sacrificed in the uprising, but also to inherit and carry forward the glorious tradition of patriotism and love of Taiwan compatriots […] and to strive to safeguard and build a common home for compatriots on both sides of the Strait.
In his speech, Ji Bin said the 228 uprising was a “patriotic, democratic and autonomous movement of the Taiwan compatriots against the dictatorship of the KMT authorities at that time,” and “part of the struggle of the Chinese people for liberation and a glorious patriotism of Taiwan compatriots.”
“Over the past 65 years,” he continued, “the Chinese people have made unremitting efforts to realize the complete reunification of the motherland.”
Like everything that came before it, Beijing’s attempt to woo the Taiwanese by cynically “commemorating” the 228 Massacre is unlikely to fool anyone. Let it own up to its own massacres — Tiananmen among them — and then maybe we can talk.