HSINCHU, Taiwan (Reuters) - Taiwan’s president said on Saturday it was Nationalist Chinese forces which won the war against Japan as he sought to challenge Beijing’s official line which overwhelmingly focuses on the heroics of the Communist army during and before World War Two.
At a military parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Sino-Japanese war, Ma Ying-jeou said the eight-year conflict was led by the government of the Republic of China, which is Taiwan’s official name.
“In the face of history, there is only one truth,” Ma said in a speech at a military base outside Taipei where the parade was held. “The victory of the war of resistance was the result our entire citizenry’s heroic struggle led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. No one should tamper or distort it.”
Soldiers dropped down on ropes from Apache attack helicopters in rapid airborne assault drills, while F-16s and surveillance aircrafts flew in formation across the skies during the parade which showcased a number of military jets, armored tanks, drones and missile weapons systems. Ma also awarded victory medals to war veterans.
The parade comes just two months before China holds its own military parade to mark 70 years since the end of World War Two in Asia.
In China’s official narrative the contribution of the Nationalist troops in fighting the Japanese is barely mentioned with official propaganda focusing almost entirely on the Communist forces.
China has said it will welcome former soldiers living in Taiwan who fought against the Japanese to take part in its commemorative ceremonies this year.
China’s ruling Communist Party never misses an opportunity to remind people of its struggle against the Japanese, but a lot of the fighting was actually done by the forces of Chiang’s Nationalist government.
After World War Two, Chinese Communists and Nationalists resumed a civil war that ended when Nationalist forces withdrew to Taiwan in 1949.
Though ruled separately, China claims Taiwan as its own, and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under its rule.
While China and Taiwan have signed a series of landmark trade and economic deals since the China-friendly Ma became president of Taiwan in 2008, there are still deep political and military suspicions, especially in proudly democratic Taiwan.
Japan’s 1895-1945 rule in Taiwan is seen by some as having been good for the island’s development, unlike perceptions of Japan in other parts of Asia, particularly in China and Korea, which are often deeply negative.
Nationalist Chinese rule post-1945 is thought of less positively by many Taiwanese, because of the long period of martial law it ushered in.
Reporting by J.R. Wu, editing by David Evans