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Sep 14, 2009

Chiang Ching-kuo on the NT$10 coin?

That's what the now-premier, then-legislator Wu Dun-yi (吳敦義) proposed with several other legislators last April. The idea is to memorialize Ching-kuo's 100th birthday. The Executive Yuan would decide if it would be a memorial coin, sold apart from circulating currency, or a design that would be in circulation but probably only minted for one year. Still, a permanent redesign is apparently being considered if you believe the well-hyped media reports.

Now clearly, this smacks of KMT propaganda efforts to remind people of how great that party worked back in the "good old days" of KMT reign under Chiang Ching-kuo, which still had lingering white terror and regular political persecution -- but never mind that, there was also Taiwan's massive economic expansion and huge improvements in quality of life. So....

The DPP finds itself in a tight spot criticizing such a proposal. Key to remember is that Chiang Ching-kuo is widely popular across the political spectrum. He had a very positive media image when he was alive. Further, having special coins in circulation is pretty normal (though never before with a new political figure). So while the proposal is itself in a way groundbreaking (or a bit too reminiscent of days gone by, depending on your view), it is still tough to oppose without looking petty.

The right approach, probably, is to reject idolization of politicians -- period -- and oppose the coin on these grounds with little further elaboration.

However, some DPP legislators have responded otherwise, either saying "If we can do Chiang Ching-kuo, why not Lee Teng-hui?" (I would note that Lee being alive doesn't make him a great candidate for a memorial coin yet. Sort of like wishing the old man to an early grave).

There will also be the temptation for some DPP politicians to endorse just such a change, because they could potentially tie the plan to a call for replacing Chiang Kai-shek permanently from all monies. Moving CKS would, in fact, be perfectly reasonable and appropriate, but it will be bashed relentlessly anyway even if you're tactically endorsing Chiang Ching-kuo's better image. And frankly, you don't want to wade into this debate on the "which politicans we like" level, but talk about everything only in the most abstract ways.

Hence, "reject idolization of politicians." Leave it at that. No more statues, no more figures on coins.

Update: It seems I am on the same page as the DPP after all. Their note about Lee Teng-hui was just used as an illustration of the controversey the idea would raise, and as to why they oppose putting political figures on coins in the first place.


Ben Goren said...

I agree with your and the DPP's approach to this issue. I myself would like to see all coins imprinted with a Formosan Brown Bear rather than any human 'guo-fu' type figure. But then of course, some bright spark might say ok .. let's put pandas on the back etc.

Tim Maddog said...

Who could've guessed? Yet another ass-backward move from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)!

In contrast, under the forward-thinking Chen Shui-bian administration we got attractive new banknotes featuring schoolkids, Jade Mountain, the Mikado pheasant, the FORMOSAT-1 and its satellite dishes, the Formosan landlocked salmon, Little League baseball players, Sika deer, and Tapachien (a holy mountain of the Atayal and Saisiyat tribes) and Nanhu mountains -- all excellent symbols of Taiwan which just about anyone should be able to easily accept and embrace.

During Chen's two terms, CKS was removed from the NT$1,000 and NT$500 denominations and confined to the rarely used NT$200 bill (remaining on three kinds of coins), probably as a compromise to the Authoritarian Regressive Parties, but hey, it was a great start.

Putting CCK on a new coin -- even temporarily -- is typical KMT ass-kissing culture (拍馬屁文化). Since they're obviously so unashamed of such behavior, others will have to shame them. Can you imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would occur if a big news organization were to report that they're minting a new coin featuring the director of the secret police during the White Terror period?!

How long do you think it'll be before Wu "Political landslide researcher" Den-yih's approval rating dips to 11%?

Tim Maddog