China Beat Archive



Date of this Version


Document Type



January 28, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright January 28, 2008. Used by permission.


One of the thorniest problems facing fledgling democracies involves how to cope with memories of their former dictators. Attempts to assess this aspect of a country’s history are especially problematic due to the fact that the trauma many citizens have suffered is tempered by the lingering impact of indoctrination and hero worship (consider the debates over Suharto’s rule now that he has just passed away). Add to this mixture of emotions the spices of identity formation and electoral politics and its volatility can increase exponentially.

For the past year, Taiwan has been in the throes of grappling with the legacy of former ROC President Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975). One aspect has involved a “rectification of names” (zhengming 正名) campaign (for example, renaming CKS International Airport as Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport), which also includes affixing the word “Taiwan” to as many state organizations as possible (a case in point being Taiwan Post). At the same time, government officials and scholars have been striving to achieve some degree of transitional justice (zhuanxing zhengyi 轉型正義) by holding Chiang and other former ROC leaders accountable for human rights abuses, especially the death and imprisonment of thousands of Taiwanese during the 228 Incident of 1947.