By Bear Lee CNA Staff Writer
Taiwan and China are staging a series of activities to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the retrocession of Taiwan, which had been ceded to Japan in 1895 after the Qing Dynasty was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1894.
Since its establishment in 1949 after winning China's civil war, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has inflated the role of Communist forces in resisting Japanese aggression while minimizing the role of the Republic of China Nationalist government forces.
It was not until 2005 that the PRC even acknowledged the role played by Nationalist (or Kuomintang) in the war when then PRC President Hu Jintao said KMT and Communist Party forces both contributed to victory over Japan by fighting the enemy on and behind the front lines, respectively.
The PRC's campaign to control the narrative of the war is just another area in which Taiwan and China compete. After the KMT lost the Chinese civil war, the Republic of China was moved to Taiwan and remains Taiwan's official name today.
In its commemorative activities on the war of resistance against Japan, the KMT government in Taiwan has emphasized the significant role played by government forces against the Japanese and in supporting Allied forces in World War II.
The PRC's standard propaganda for both domestic and foreign consumption has been that the Communist Party of China (CPC) served as "the tower of strength" against Japan's invasion.
According to late prof. Lee Shou-kung of National Taiwan University, the reality was far different.
The CPC adopted the strategy of spending only 10 percent of its strength in fighting the Japanese, 20 percent on its compromise with the Nationalists, and most importantly, 70 percent in expanding its reach, Lee said in its Chinese-language book "A Contemporary History of China."
At the opening of two photo exhibits on the war in Taipei earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou said it was an undeniable fact that the ROC government and generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek led China to victory against Japan.
The Communist Party did join forces with the government, "but only to a very limited degree," the president said.
Nationalist forces successfully kept 800,000 Japanese soldiers occupied in the battlefield across China, preventing Japan from throwing its forces into the Pacific and other areas such as India and Australia.
Hau Pei-tsun, a four-star general who later served as a premier in a KMT government in Taiwan, rejects Beijing's claim that the Communist and Nationalist forces were both major resistors of Japan's invasion, saying the comparison "is simply unfair."
"There's no doubt that the front line battles (fought by the Nationalist forces) were decisive while battles behind enemy lines were supportive," with the ratio contributed by the two to the war about 95 percent to 5 percent, said the 95-year-old Hau, who himself was a low-level officer of the Nationalist forces during the war. He accused Beijing of intentionally "distorting or covering up the history of the war."
The Hong Kong-based Chinese-language Yazhou Zhoukan said in the cover story of its latest issue that Beijing's insistence that Communist forces play the major role and Nationalist forces a supplemental role in the war against Japan contradicted historical facts.
Historian Liu Wei-kai, who teaches at National Chengchi University, said Beijing's narrative of the war has not changed over the past 10 years, and that even Hu Jintao said Communist forces had turned the behind-the-lines battleground into a major field of combat. But Chang Li, a research fellow at the Taiwan-based Institute of Modern History of Academia Sinica, said some mainland scholars have embraced some different views from "Beijing's official and simplified stances." He cited Yang Tianshi of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying that there was not only one "tower of strength " during the war, as Chongqing, then the temporary capital of the ROC government, was another one.
When touring a museum on the war in Sichuan province, Chang heard a visitor questioning the Communist Party's role in the war by saying "they (the Communists) had just fought two battles. How could they have made a decisive contribution to China's victory in the war," Chang said.
The two battles, according to Chang, referred to the Battle of Pingxingguan in Shanxi from Sept. 3 to Oct. 2 in 1937 and the Hundred Regiments Offensive in central China from August 1940 to January 1941, which are commonly recognized the only two major battles in which Communist forces fought.
According to the(Chiang Kai-shek -- His Life and Times), a 15-volume Japanese book published by Japan's Sankai Shimbun from 1975 to 1977, there were a total of 22 decisive battles, 1,117 major battles, and 38,931 smaller-scale conflicts between Chinese and Japanese troops during the eight years of hostilities.
By Bear Lee CNA Staff Writer