chapter  2
42 Pages

Communist bandits (gongfei, ඹ໾)—the evil enemy

Like a spirit that cannot be exorcised, gongfei (Communist bandits) has stayed with Taiwan since the Nationalists moved there in 1949, though its subtext has gone from deadly serious, to nostalgically reflective, to mischievous (whether to achieve practical ends or serve as sarcasm). The emotional slogan, “Extinguish the All-Evil Communist Bandits and Rescue Mainland Fellows from the Same Womb!” (xiaomie wane gongfei, jiejiu dalu tongbao), so mobilized the nation that children chanted it well into the 1980s. Today, 30 years on, “gongfei” elicits varied voicesregret, pity, anger, playfulness, pragmatism-as it indexes the “not-so-good old days.” The evolution of gongfei’s semantics and relocation of its discursive sites indexes the ROC’s move from being against the CCP to becoming a more friendly, albeit at times ambivalent, connection on multiple fronts. Officially implemented two years before Chiang’s arrival in Taiwan, these bandit-related phrases permeate discursive sites, traversing historical trajectories as dominant names for China for almost 40 years. For most local Taiwan residents, gongfei provided one of the first contacts with the remote, barely-known Chinese Communists. Having just rid themselves of Japanese colonizers, local residents eagerly awaited the “motherland” government, which brought with it gongfei as the enemy’s name. Through legal codes; official speeches; print propaganda; broadcast media and artifacts; and ceremonies and performances in all parts of society, mobilizing state efforts as well as private citizens to fight and guard against gongfei, that period saw the invocation of a familiar hero-villain script to frame the CCP as a savage-faced ferocious enemy to be exterminated at all costs. Growing from the character fei, and proliferating to form extensive metaphorical clusters (Jamieson, 1992), gongfei excoriates the CCP as malicious and irredeemable, providing grounds to question its right to rule the mainland. Such images contrasted with images promoted by the Nationalists, exiled in Taiwan, of themselves as humane and righteous, legitimizing their “sacred” mission to reclaim the gongfei-occupied Chinese mainland and rescue its people. This concocted position dovetailed with US policy on containing communism, based in part on enmity with the Soviet Union; in the West Pacific, this thinking ran, a line of protection could be formed among South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, based on their more or less democratic-or at least non-Communist-governments.