Historians on mainland give credit to KMT
Beijing has published its full version of the history of the Republic of China, recognising the role of Chiang Kai-shek in fighting the Japanese in the second world war.
Analysts on the mainland and Taiwan said the book would assist in the healthy development of cross-strait relations, because it restores a part of history that had been deleted by the Communist Party.
In the book, History of the Republic of China, mainland historians highlight the significance of co-operation between the party and the Kuomintang during the second Sino-Japanese war from 1937 to 1945, the People's Daily, a Communist Party mouthpiece, said on Tuesday.
Jin Yilin , director of the Taiwan research centre at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the book shed new light on the struggles between the party and KMT before 1949.
'We turned down our old interpretation - that the KMT was the loser - and set up a new angle, which is that the two parties were actually competitors, but they had to co-operate during the anti-Japanese war,' Jin said, according to the Xinhua News Agency. 'The conflicts between the [party] and the KMT were caused by the different choices of then social elites in our country.'
The KMT was defeated by the party in 1949. As a result, Chiang moved the ROC government to Taiwan, and the party set up its regime of the People's Republic of China.
Jin said mainland historians hoped the book would pave the way for cross-strait political talks.
The book not only confirms Chiang's resolve in handling the eight-year war and his efforts to overturn treaties that Western countries had signed with the Qing dynasty, but it also makes clear that Chiang's and Chen Qimei's families were not involved in corruption, as once reported. The two families were among four that dominated the ROC's political and economic pillars on the mainland before 1949.
Prior to this account, all official mainland history books claimed that the four families were corrupt and committed crimes.
The new version was composed by historians with the Institute of Modern China at the academy. They worked on it for 40 years, the People's Daily said, adding that they were instructed to research and publish the historical account by former Premier Zhou Enlai in 1971.
Wang Chaoguang, deputy director of the institute, said their research didn't even stop during the Cultural Revolution. The first volume was published by the Zhonghua Book Company in 1981.
The full version, with 36 volumes and 20 million words, was recently released and published by the same publisher to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, it was reported.
Beijing has said in previous history books that the Communist Party played the biggest role in winning that war and that the KMT just 'dragged its feet'. In 2005, President Hu Jintao gave rare acknowledgment of the KMT's contribution in winning the war.
Yuan Weishi, a historian at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said the new book set the facts straight. 'I don't think the new angle is an official point of view, but rather a consensus of all modern Chinese historians ... because assessments of historical figures shouldn't be decided by the government, but by history itself,' he said.
Chang Ling-chen, a political analyst at National Taiwan University, said the Taiwanese people would welcome the book.
'Beijing ... now finally tells the truth to its people and gives Chiang a fair assessment, which I believe will help in the future development of cross-strait relations,' she said.
Zhang Tongxin, honorary director of Renmin University's Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau research centre, said the change in view on Chiang would also prompt Taipei to revise its interpretation of the Communist Party's history.