Residents defy ban and cash in on Chiang Kai-shek souvenirs

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 September, 2002, 12:00am

At the birthplace of Chiang Kai-shek, a town just outside Ningbo, the local government has banned the image of the late Nationalist Party leader on all souvenirs.

But this has done little to prevent residents of Xikou from cashing in on the memory of the generalissimo.

To view attractions, tourists pay 100 yuan (HK$94) to visit each site, while aggressive touts offer tricycle rides to the major venues for 10 yuan.

Every household on the main street has opened a shop and booksellers sell Chiang biographies, stacked alongside those of Mao Zedong.

During the Cultural Revolution, from 1966 to 1976, residents were banned from even mentioning Chiang's name. But China's reform policies and its dislike of Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, has revived interest in the once-reviled leader who ruled the island for 26 years.

As one Xikou resident said: 'Chiang Kai-shek made a contribution to the country. He wanted reunification. Chen Shui-bian wants independence. He is doomed to fail.' What he neglects to mention is that Chiang wanted reunification with the mainland under Nationalist rule.

Although Chiang's Nationalists fought the Communists in a bitter civil war, the two parties had earlier joined in an uneasy alliance to resist Japanese invaders in the 1930s and 1940s. Nationalists were forced to flee to Taiwan in 1949.

But there is still more than a little goodwill for the Nationalists, and at the house where Chiang was born, signs give a dry account of his life but make no mention of his role as the Nationalists' military and political leader.

And for locals, business carries on and souvenirs are sold, including plates adorned with his picture.