Su Beng, Taiwan's Spark for National Awakening

Article and photo by Howard G. Fass
July 19, 2011

Last weekend Su Beng visited the Boston area and spent time with various Boston area Taiwanese groups and individuals.

In particular, he spent time discussing Taiwan's need for national identity, Taiwan's history, politics and his own life's experiences. It was a rare opportunity to listen to a man who was an actual living piece of history and had jumped right into the thick of things on his own and got involved. Rather then just being a talker, he was and is a doer as well. This 92-year old Taiwanese revolutionary has lived quite the romantic and fascinating life full of intrigue, conflict and vibrancy... much like Taiwan itself in many ways.

At one point he was a communist spy working for the CCP in China against the Japanese (as he felt then that Japan was trying to conquer all of Asia), later he saw the horrors of the CCP first-hand and quickly left China to return back to Taiwan, at another point he plotted to actually assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek because of all the horrors the KMT was visiting upon the Taiwanese people in their homeland. Later he fled to Japan and only returned back to Taiwan in the 1990's.

Listening to him speak was an emotional roller-coaster ride for me personally full of conflict as he is still a committed Marxist in his ideology. I did rather sharply try to challenge him on this ideology and its long sad history. Slowly, however, I came to discover that beyond the simple label "Marxist" he is quite the humanitarian and a staunch defender of human rights and liberty. To Su Beng's good credit he believes that the grave mistakes of Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot and others do not necessarily diminish the original good ideals that Marx had to offer.

How can all this possibly fit? I'm not certain, but maybe one explanation works like this: Perhaps back when he was younger he fell in love with the unobtainable utopian text book ideals of Marxism and this beautiful dream for him left its mark on his heart and somehow motivated and activated him to seek to do good in the face of oppression. His was a time of extreme violence in a world inflamed by war and oppression by foreign domination in Taiwan so real, that violence and murder were constant daily events. In this context, it is possible that it may be very challenging for us today to look back and understand exactly with proper clarity...

Kennedy once said: "If you make peaceful change impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable."

Whether one agrees or not with everything Su Beng says or did in his long colorful life; one thing is crystal clear and that is his consistent strong love for a free and independent Taiwan. For him, and on this point I heartily agree, Taiwanese can have no peace and freedom so long as they are ruled by anyone else. Maybe in this murky world, such as it is, this is a pretty good starting point and maybe the most important one after all so long as it is done with a good heart and compassion. The differences and fine points, maybe just that...

In closing it was an amazing time spent with an old guard of Taiwan's resistance to domination and foreign control. He is an amazingly honest, direct individual who will challenge you and often say what you may not like to hear, but in the end you never doubt that he is real, sincere and full of compassion for the building of the Nation of Taiwan. This quality alone is truly stellar and is much needed in a Taiwan that may feel more apathetic and fail to see the dangers that are poised to destroy them once again from the likes of a new KMT and CCP banded together to deny Taiwanese their rights to freedom, liberty and the independent nation-state they so richly deserve.

Thanks for reading and get to learn more about this interesting Taiwanese historical figure and judge for yourself. He is a published author of a mammoth book which details Taiwan's last 400-years of history. He is a character unlike any other I have ever met; part revolutionary, part dreamer, part romantic idealist but all 100% heart and soul for Taiwan.


Disclaimer: My purpose for writing this piece here about Su Beng is to support Taiwan's right for full and complete nationhood and independence. While I admire and like many aspects of Su Beng and respect him, I do not support Marxism.