Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, August 12, 2005

This morning, I went to the site of the "Xi'an Incident." I was interested, of course, because of the significance of this incident on the balance of power between the Nationalists and the Communists during the Sino-Japanese War. Although it was interesting to see the place where the events unfolded, the museum was a bit of a disappointment, because it is set up primarily as a tribute to Zhang Xueliang, who orchestrated the kidnapping of Chiang Kai-shek. So the museum is primarily used as a place for middle school teachers to take their students to see the tribute to the "national hero," who "saved" the war effort by kidnapping Chiang and "forcing" him to fight the Japanese more vigorously.

Well, before I get into the question of whether or not Zhang was a hero, I want to say that I think the public would be better served if the museum was truly dedicated to the incident and the events that unfolded in that place. If you already know everything there is to know about the Xi'an incident, then I guess the trip would be interesting for you, as it was to me, to a certain limited extent. But if you go there without having studied the "Xi'an Incident," you won't know any more about it after you leave than before you came.

Now to the question: Was Zhang Xueliang a hero? Well, I guess it depends on who you are. To the Communists he would be considered a hero, because they wanted Chiang to stop fighting them, and fight the Japanese. The Nationalists wouldn't call him a hero, because they believe that the kidnapping gave the Communists some breathing space. At any rate, Zhang Xueliang got 50 years of house arrest for his efforts. Was this fair? Hard to say, but in my opinion, he was probably lucky to have been kept alive.

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