As China's Communist Party government marked the defeat of Japanese forces in World War II with the country's biggest-ever military parade Thursday, many in Taiwan felt anger over what they see as a revisionist version of history, in which the Communist Party has beefed up its role in the conflict.
From the late 1920s until 1949, a civil war raged between forces loyal to the Kuomintang-led government of the Republic of China, known as Nationalists, and forces loyal to the Communist Party of China, who have ruled China since defeating the nationalists who retreated to Taiwan, where the Kuomintang morphed into a governing party.
China, and most of the world, does not formally recognize Taiwan as a country in its own right, with just over 20 countries maintaining formal diplomatic relations.
In popular films and television series, museums and -- importantly -- in history textbooks, China's Communist Party government claims the lion's share of the credit for China's defeat of the invading Japanese forces in World War II. Scholars outside of China, however, largely agree that the majority of the fighting was done by Nationalist forces, under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.
In a speech Wednesday, Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, said it was the Republic of China that led the war effort against Japan 70 years ago, not Communist forces, the New York Times reported.
“In recent years, the question of who led the fight has become a focal issue domestically and internationally,” Ma said. “For a long time, the Communist Party of China has claimed credit, saying the Communist armed forces were the leading force, ignoring the Republican government’s historical contribution of leading the nationwide military and civilian fight against Japan.
“There is only one historical truth,” he added.
Major Tao Shin-jun, a 97-year-old veteran who fought Japanese forces during World War II, told the Los Angeles Times that he found the claims about the role of Chinese Communists in the war against the Japanese upsetting.
“The Chinese Communist Party didn’t defeat Japan; this is very painful to see,” he said. “During those eight years, it was us Nationalists who were fighting -- the Communists were not doing battle with the Japanese. They were trying to get Nationalist soldiers to defect to their side.”
Some Chinese officials, however, have been making conciliatory gestures toward veterans in Taiwan. Yu Zhengsheng, the ruling Chinese Communist Party's fourth-ranked leader, was recently quoted as saying that both parties played an important role in defeating the Japanese.
"The majority of Taiwan compatriots breathed together with the motherland and shared the same destiny. Their struggle against the Japanese was an invaluable part of the whole Chinese people's struggle," he said, according to Reuters.
China invited representatives from Taiwan to Thursday's parade, in what some experts saw as a friendly gesture, but Taiwanese officials refused to take part.