Today, I took this shot in Badu (八堵), Taiwan, which is around 30 kilometers north of Taipei, in the mountains that separate where I live from Taiwan's most northern port, Keelung (基隆).
The 228 on the side of the arch is a memorial to those in Taiwan murdered on the orders of the dictator Chiang Kai-shek and his accomplices in government by lower positioned henchmen (many of whom live in Taiwan to this day - some of their descendants still handle the levers of power to protect them; others, or at least their offspring and grandkids, have carpetbagged off to the West). Witnesses of the 228 massacre (named after the date it started, February 28, 1947), which saw some 30,000 Taiwanese professors, bureaucrats and intellectuals die, claim it was done in a power grab. The Japanese, who were defeated by the Americans in WWII, suddenly vacated Taiwan in October, 1945, leaving so many plum assets that it became hard for the Chinese invaders filling the vacuum to refuse and / or to withstand murdering anyone perceived to be a hindrance to these goals or a possible threat down the road.
If you think I am smoking crack, you might want to look at the statistics from this era. Even though the Chinese invaders occupied only eight percent of Taiwan’s civilian population, they managed to procure almost all of the top positions of the bureaucracy and enterprise leadership created by the Japanese. In fact, 68 percent of all Chinese living in Taiwan were employed in tertiary industries. These individuals found their positions not because they were possessing of, as it has been pointed out, “professional and administrative abilities and energies” but rather “[b]ecause these personal were loyal to the Nationalist government, having largely worked for the Nationalists on the mainland” and so it felt “obliged to take care of them” (I am quoting Jacoby and Wang, see sources below). Wang provides statistics on senior administration positions in 1946, to bring home a point on this trend:
No. of Posts, Ratios of Chinese to Taiwanese . . .
Dept. Director: 8 or 100:0
VP Dept. Director: 3 or 67:33
Group Director: 42 or 90:10
Sec. Dir. (Central Gov.): 36 or 100:0
Sec. Dir. (Loc. Gov.): 96 or 97:3
Specialists: 87 or 87:13
Wang continues, quoting a Western observer: “the government’s policy is to arrange for as many [Chinese] as possible to work in the government . . . Those who were from [China] want to go back, but at the moment they have to get a job to survive, so it is almost impossible to lay off the redundant staff.” In Wang’s assertion, we can see the possibility that Taiwan did not have the prerequisite highly trained and motivated bureaucracy necessary for developing a public sector or infrastructure, but rather many hangers-on, individuals not interested in developing Taiwan but rather in making a bee-line back to China at the first opportunity. Interestingly, factional in-fighting within the KMT hindered Taiwan from the outset before hinting that the true reason for Taiwan’s epic economic launch was a large pool of labor and the successful establishment of small and medium-sized manufacturing, which occured despite the efforts of the government, not because of its policies.
1. Jacoby, Neil H. (1966). U.S. Aid to Taiwan. Frederick A. Praeger, Publishers.
2. Wang, Hong-zen. (2002). “Class Structures and Social Mobility in Taiwan in the
Initial Post-War Period.” The China Journal. Contemporary China Center, Australian National University, No. 48, pp. 55-68.
On a different note, I received a long and informative letter from the city historian of Boise. She told me, among other things, Boise's Chinatown was razed by an urban renewal project in the 1970s. Three buildings are all that remain today, two of them are on Front Street, just east of Capitol Boulevard. The other is around the corner on 6th street (this one is now a tattoo parlor).
I think I may have also discovered, in talking to her, a problem with the U.S. census. It seems it does not distinguish between Chinese and Taiwanese individuals. The Chinese population for the state of Idaho in 2000 was 2,224. That would undoubtedly include some people hailing from Taiwan. For some reason, our government sees Chinese and Taiwanese as the same.