In a rare move in the two years of cross-strait detente after his inauguration, President Ma Ying-jeou Saturday issued some of his sternest statements against an editorial by the mainland Chinese state-owned newspaper People's Daily celebrating the Chinese Communist Party's "leading role" in defeating Japan in the China theater of the Second World War.
In addition to the People's Daily editorial, the R.O.C.'s role in the war had been all but omitted in a series of celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the WWII victory on the mainland, which obviously tried to revisit an important chapter of modern Chinese history.
Ma stressed that it is a historical fact and the only truth that the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) led the people of the Republic of China, which then included mainland China, in the eight years of resistance against Japanese invasion. The president's spokesperson Lo Chih-chiang pointed out that R.O.C. troops played the critical roles in the war in which 3.22 million of its military officers and soldiers, as well as 200 generals, sacrificed their lives to defend the country and its people.
As Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) stressed, the history of the resistance is "written in blood by the R.O.C. military and its people," which no one has the right to alter or distort.
The subtext of the Japanese war debate is not the reinterpretation of the past, but the shaping of the future. What's truly at stake is not who's to credit for winning the Japanese war but the legitimacy of the communist People's Republic of China (PRC) as the representative of China.
After all, the R.O.C.'s role in the war is hard to dispute. Anyone entertaining the idea of shaking up history will find it hard to argue against the famous photos of the three leaders of China, U.S. and UK at the 1943 Cairo Conference in which the Allies united against Japan and discussed about postwar Asia. It was Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, not Chairman Mao Zedong, who sat side by side at Cairo with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.