Countless gold bars from the US are assembled into a gold bar wall. (Photo/Wu Hsing-yung)
China's top state-run television broadcast company, CCTV, has, in a surprise move, changed its attitude toward a historical episode in which mass quantities of gold were transported from the mainland to Taiwan around 1949 under the guidance of former Republic of China President Chiang Kai-shek.
On the Chinese mainland, the general belief, so far, has been that Chiang "stole" the gold bars from government coffers and shipped them to Taiwan after he lost the civil war against the Chinese communists around 1949.
Yet on a special history program at the end of March, CCTV changed the sentence "Chiang stole the gold bars and sneaked them into Taiwan" to "Chiang transported the gold bars secretly into Taiwan."
The change reflects that China, now a world super power, has become more confident in facing its past. It also reflects the fact that mainland China might be slowly adjusting its views on some sensitive issues; it also suggests that anything is possible as cross-Strait relations continue to become warmer.
On the 'gold transporting' episode, Chen Zhengqing, a Shanghai-based official in charge of historical archives, said Chiang took an extremely risky step when he ordered the ROC government and troops to retreat from the mainland to the island of Taiwan.
In fact, Chiang and his government would have failed again in Taiwan if there had been no elaborate redevelopment plans or gold bars. Indeed, those gold bars served as strong financial guarantees for various expensive development programs, Chen said, as he attempted to stay neutral about the episode.
Wang Xiaohua, another historian, pointed out that it had been critical for Chiang to obtain those gold reserves in the middle of the crisis as he attempted to keep his government functioning. At the time, aid from the United States was nowhere in sight.
Meanwhile, a retired PLA general noted that both the mainland and Taiwan are part of 'one family.' "Even if the state-owned gold could not benefit people on the mainland, it still benefited people in Taiwan and, therefore, it is alright," he said.
"It is better than having the gold stolen by foreigners," the general added.
Nevertheless, Yang Tianshi, a scholar with the China Academy of Social Sciences, renowned for his research on Chiang Kai-shek, declined to make his stance known on the 'gold transporting' issue.
He simply said that China and Taiwan viewed the issue differently due to different "political attitudes."
Yang's silence on the subject suggests that Chinese academics are still grappling with how to treat Chiang and the related historical event.
The higher the scholar's status, the more likely he or she is to avoid sensitive questions such as these.
Chen Zhengqing 陳正卿
Wang Xiaohua 王曉華
Yang Tianshi 楊天石