If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success:

One of the most prominent features of the city of Taipei is the gargantuan memorial to Chiang Kai-Shek and the large grounds surrounding the memorial. On Saturday, Taiwan's executive branch renamed the structure; it is now "National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall."

The renaming has sparked strong protests, and the promise of a lawsuit, from the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party), which controls Taiwan's legislative branch. Taiwan's executive branch is controlled by the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party), which is much more supportive of Taiwan's independence and much less accommodationist to China than is the KMT.

It might be surprising that the party which is most concerned about not angering China's communist dictatorship would want to preserve the memory of Chiang, who was such a terrible leader of China that he lost the Chinese civil war to Mao, and further annoyed the Maoists by preventing them from conquering Taiwan. But Chiang was the the founder of the KMT. And the Chinese communists recognize that, whatever else one might say about Chiang, he was a believer in "One China." (That is, a "China" of which Taiwan and Tibet are supposedly indispensible, historic components.)

Earlier this year, Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport (on the northern edge of Taipei, in Taoyuan County) was renamed "Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport."

An op-ed in the pro-DPP English-language Taipei Times argues for the renaming of the CKS Memorial, while an article in the same newspaper presents the legal arguments raised by the KMT. The Wikipedia article linked above also has some details on the legal issues.

Since none of the Volokh Conspirators have expertise on Taiwanese law regarding inter-branch controversies over public memorials, comments would be especially welcome on this legal topic, which has received relatively little U.S. study, even in advanced law school courses on Asian law. I do hope that the DPP is legally right, because it is not appropriate to give grandiose honor to a very corrupt man who began severely oppressing Taiwan as soon as the U.S. made Japan give it to him, who himself perpetrated mass killings and the White Terror against the people of Taiwan and kept them under a dictatorship every day of his life, and whose self-serving, dictatorial rule paved the way for the seizure of power in China by the most genocidal tyrant in world history. For most of China's very long history, Taiwan was not part of China, but most Taiwanese today are ethnically Chinese. They are the first ethnic Chinese nation in history to govern themselves democratically. The accomplishment of the Taiwanese people deserves the greatest place of honor in Taiwan's capital; the deceased dictator does not.

The correction of the names of public structures to remove the personality cult that CKS built for himself is long overdue. According to the Analects of Confucius:

Tsze-lu said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?"

The Master replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names." "So! indeed!" said Tsze-lu. "You are wide of the mark! Why must there be such rectification?"

The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.

"If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.

"When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.

"Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."
p.s. Those of you who read Traditional or Simplified Chinese may enjoy my Chinese language website, although none of the articles are on Taiwan, China, or Tibet.

the reference to the rectification of names and the kmt/nationalists reminds of a chinese-historical anecdote that i had read as an undergrad:

when the nationalist party (kmt) acceded to power after the fall of the qing dynasty, they found a giant boulder with the fallen dynasty's name carved upon it outside a building which they had hoped to use as a government office. what to do?

the boulder was too large to haul away and too precious to destroy. they decided, as such, to roll the thing over and carve THEIR party's name upon the boulder's opposite side.

but--alas!--this side of the stone had been carved upon as well. it read "ming."
5.21.2007 7:58am

A nice illustration of my not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek contention that China doesn't have 'five thousand years of history': it has a hundred years, repeated fifty times.
5.21.2007 10:35am
JosephSlater (mail):
I love this line: "A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve."
5.21.2007 12:31pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Seems a little harsh to blame Chiang for losing the civil war. Might as well blame Sun for failing to establish an effective modern republic right out of the box.

I'm no admirer of Chiang's, but Person is about right. The default status of China's polity has not been unification.
5.21.2007 3:03pm
Michael Turton (mail) (www):

DPP stands for Democratic Progressive Party, not People's Party.

The monument is revolting and should have been renamed years ago, part of the democratic transition normal in postcolonial states.


[DK: Thanks. I just fixed it.]
5.21.2007 7:19pm