Japanese Colonization of Taiwan Discussion

Japanese Colonization of Taiwan

Over the past several decades, research has indicated that during the colonization of Taiwan, many different tools and devices have been used by the Japanese during the time period before the relocation of the Kuomintang (KMT) to the island in 1945. Historians, Taiwanese citizens, and scholars have offered various theories for the noted preference by the old Taiwanese to the Japanese rule over rule by the KMT. These theories are based on the significant impact that the Japanese rule had on the creation of a Taiwan identity. An overview of Taiwan’s cultural and political history and the sources of its disputed status is essential to understanding the uncertainty surrounding Taiwan identity. This paper will explore and discuss the tools and devices employed by the Japanese during the colonization of Taiwan, the creation of Taiwan identity as a result of their resistance, Chinese national identity, and the effect of Japanese colonial identity.

Historical Background of Taiwan

Taiwan’s first inhabitants have left no written records of their origins, although anthropological evidence suggests that Taiwan’s indigenous people were proto-Malayans (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Their vocabulary and grammar belong to the Malayan-Polynesian family of Indonesia, and they once shared many Indonesian customs such as tattooing, using identical names for father and son, gerontocracy, head-hunting, spirit worship, and indoor burials (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Historical research indicates that when the Europeans first arrived off the coast of Taiwan in 1590, large groups of indigenous peoples along with many others from the Chinese mainland were already living in Taiwan. Portuguese navigators that came to the island introduced its’ inhabitants to the Western world. Portuguese interest in the island was only moderate, however, since they left soon after establishing a settlement in the north (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

The next Europeans to occupy Taiwan were the Dutch, and in 1630, a number of Dutch merchants, technicians, and missionaries, as well as sailors, soldiers, and officials, settled on Taiwan to trade, develop virgin land, plant sugar cane, produce camphor, tax the Chinese immigrants already living on the island, and convert the natives to Christianity (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).The few Dutch civilians on the island were greatly outnumbered by the aborigines and Chinese who had immigrated there prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The Dutch organized the Chinese immigrant tenant farmers into farm groups, and as many as 50 tenant farming households were placed under one head and every 30 or 40 heads elected a captain, who was responsible to the governor for keeping local peace and order (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).This arrangement proved very efficient for agricultural production, and the area of land under cultivation continued to increase.

Historians have theorized that this mass migration to Taiwan changed the character of the island. Recognizing the urgent need for industrious farmers, the Dutch employed the Chinese immigrants, providing them with oxen, seeds, and agricultural implements (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).In the hands of the Chinese toilers, the farms of the island flourished, and the Dutch profited greatly by collecting heavy rents from the Chinese tenants, including poll taxes for every Chinese over the age of six. In September of 1652, the Chinese farmers revolted against the Dutch. Although the rebellions were violently suppressed by the Dutch, who slaughtered nearly 6,000 poorly armed Chinese peasants, Dutch rule soon came to an end (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

Cheng Cheng-kung, a resistance fighter, opened up Taiwan to greater numbers of Chinese settlers. He set up schools for the young, introduced Chinese laws and customs and transplanted Chinese traditions to the island. He also built the first Confucian temple in Taiwan to symbolize the introduction of Chinese culture to the island (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Cheng-kung was deeply feared by foreigners, and during his rule, an unending stream of Chinese continued to pour into Taiwan and settlements sprang up in increasing numbers along the Western coast. During the 23 years of the Cheng family’s rule, agriculture was limited to southern Taiwan (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Cheng-kung also designed a military camp farming system under which soldiers participated in farm work during their spare time in order to support themselves Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).During his rule, trade was carried on with neighboring areas, such as the Philippines, Japan, and Okinawa laying a solid foundation for Taiwan’s economy. This suggests that even early on, the basic foundation for Taiwan’s solid economy was set in place.

Taiwan identity and resistance to the Qing rule

An examination of the historical research indicates that resistance to the Qing rule assisted in the creation of Taiwan identity. Cheng’s son, Cheng Ching, succeeded his father as ruler for the next twenty years until his death. Cheng’s navy was defeated near the Pescadore Islands and the Cheng family unconditionally surrendered to the Qing dynasty (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Taiwan was brought under Qing rule, and the resistance of the Chinese people against the foreign rulers continued, as secret societies were organized both on the island and in the mainland (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).As a result, numerous uprisings by the Ming loyalists were instigated first in Taiwan and then in the southeast coast of the mainland, during the following 200 years of the Qing dynasty rule in China. Thus, Taiwan became an unstable place.

It can be theorized that this resistance to the Qing rule assisted in the creation of Taiwan identity because organized societies helped the Ming loyalists implement a strong sense of unity in their struggle. Although Taiwan became unstable, those united in a fight shared similar experiences, feelings of anger and aggression. As a result, it can be said that the native Taiwanese shared a similar identity, and a hostility toward foreigners. This hostility to foreigners remained a focal point in Taiwan’s history, as the island had many different rulers over a period of time. This resistance to the Qing also assisted Taiwanese in becoming independent, because although their economy was dependent on the colonists, the island had capability to function by itself if necessary and given the opportunity.

Ethnic Chinese were not the ruling class of the Qing dynasty, and did not consider themselves part of China. The Chinese term for this realm, hua (as in Zhonghua, the formal term for “China” today), denoted a cultural and economic sphere transcending ethnicity (Pastreich, at (http://www.hapress.com/prn.php?tp=150).The Qing dynasty was an extremely successful agricultural empire, and a massive increase in rural population occurred, one considered to have with serious implications for China today. During the Qing dynasty, farming in Taiwan expanded northward, and the official, semi-official, and military farm system was abolished, leaving only private farms (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

Through agriculture, the Qing dynasty also assisted the Taiwanese in creating an agricultural identity. Taiwan had an increasingly successful agricultural market as a result of the Qing rulers and their implementation. This is important because Taiwan established an agricultural identity for itself in the world marketplace. However, a negative implication of this is that as a result of its’ farming success, Taiwan became noticed and desired by many other powerful nations. This resulted in different rulers and foreigners control of the island over a period of time.

During this time period, many Chinese settlers left the mainland to settle on the island. Camphor, a major cash crop, became a cause of conflict between the new arrivals and the aborigines (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Taiwan’s camphor comes from a beautiful tree with a shapely trunk and widespread branches. Exploiting this island resource brought with it conflicts between aborigines and Chinese, for the aborigines lived in the mountain forests where the trees were found (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Since the Chinese method of collecting camphor required destroying the trees, the camphor workers had to go further and further inland, where they often encountered hostility from the natives (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

Despite the ensuing bloody conflicts, the Chinese were willing to risk their lives for the lucrative profits generated by the camphor trade, and as a result, the aborigines were forced to retreat deeper into the mountains (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Finally, the Qing dynasty was successful through a variety of political and military venues in annexing Taiwan in 1683. The authority of the Qing was based on the acceptance of cultural norms, and not on the defining characteristics of the nation- state. The very term for China in Chinese, Zhongguo or “middle country,” implies a center for a larger cultural and economic unit that is equivalent to all of East Asia (Pastreich, at (http://www.hapress.com/prn.php?tp=150).

Bamboo was planted widely; rice and tea, typical Chinese crops, were planted for the first time in Taiwan (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Taiwan produced more rice than it needed and sold the excess to the mainland; sugar production was second to rice in its importance as a commercial crop. Tea was the third most important commercial product, and was also sold to the mainland. Research indicates that the Japanese, as well as other foreign powers, deeply coveted in Taiwan’s wealth (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

In 1886 Taiwan’s defenses against foreign aggression were modernized, the government implemented tax reforms to make Taiwan financially independent, and educated its indigenous peoples. A general trade office was established to encourage foreign trade, and Western-style schools were set up (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).When Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895 under the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, the locals declared independence on May 25, 1895, and formed the Democratic Taiwan Nation to resist the Japanese take-over. A total of 7,000 Chinese soldiers were killed in the conflict and civilian casualties numbered in the thousands (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).These events also assisted in the creation of a Taiwanese identity, because through western style schools, the older culture of the Taiwanese was preserved at the family base. The implemented tax reforms also assisted in making Taiwan financially independent, along with the encouragement of foreign trade.

The Japanese Rule of Taiwan

Colonial policies at the initial stage centered on consolidating political and economic control, achieving financial independence, and preparing for the entry of Japanese capital. In other words, this involved the restructure of the old social and economic development in ways that would benefit the Japanese. The Japanese eliminated property rights in favor of a class of owners who held usufruct rights over the land. Because Taiwan served as a model colony, Japan invested considerable funds in its industrialization and modernization. Scholars have indicated that the Japanese colonial rule was harsh, however, during this time period Taiwan developed in a considerably different direction than it might have as a province of the Qing dynasty. Japanese was made the national language of Taiwan and many Japanese settled in this colony as part of the plan of cultural and economic integration (Pastreich, at (http://www.hapress.com/prn.php?tp=150).

Scholars have indicated that the Japanese at the start of the 20th century gave priority to establishing effective political control over the island. Thus, the Japanese law enforcers became the most important tool in the exercise of Taiwan’s colonization. The Japanese ruled Taiwan for fifty years, during which they developed programs designed to supply the Japanese empire with agricultural products, create demand for Japanese industrial products, and provide living space for emigrants from an increasingly overpopulated home country. Taiwan’s peasants became increasingly subordinate to agroindustrial capital. The colonial state in connection with Japanese sugar capitalist invested in irrigation, transport and storage; financial capital and provided technology for farms.

History reveals that the period of Japanese colonization can be roughly divided into three stages (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).The first, from 1895 to 1918, involved establishing administrative mechanisms and militarily suppressing armed resistance by local Chinese (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).During this stage, the Japanese introduced strict police controls, carried out a thorough land survey, standardized measurements and currencies, monopolized the manufacture and sale of important products, began collecting census data, and made an ethnological study of the island’s indigenous peoples (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

During the second stage, from 1918 to 1937, Japan consolidated its hold over Taiwan. Compulsory Japanese education and cultural assimilation were the focus of this stage, while economic development was promoted to transform the island into a secure stepping stone from which Japan could launch its southward aggression (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).The third stage, from 1937 to 1945, entailed the naturalization of Taiwan residents as Japanese. The Chinese on Taiwan were forced to adopt Japanese names, wear Japanese-style clothing, eat Japanese food, and observe Japanese religious rites. Also during this stage, Japanese developed Taiwan into an area of heavy industry and foreign trade (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

The Japanese established monopoly market control to regulate the supply of raw materials and quality of products. Although Taiwan’s family-farming agriculture retained the appearance of autonomy, it was controlled by Japanese capital through monopolistic market prices and large-scale state investment. The capacity to extract a substantial surplus from highly productive family farms allowed the agroindustry to secure necessary profits for capital accumulation. In addition, the Japanese increased Taiwan’s transportation facilities by developing steamship lines, improving harbors, and building railroads and highways. The Japanese government also rebuilt the old railroad within ten years, 250 miles long, linking the northern coast with the southwestern tip and passing through a number of other major cities. At the same time, many Japanese sugar manufacturers built private lines for both general traffic and transporting sugar cane (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).By the end of Japanese rule, the private and government lines totaled 2,857 miles in length, and with this line the Japanese began to conquer the steep slopes of Taiwan’s mountainous center and to tap its abundant timber resources (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

The Japanese also assisted in the development of Taiwan’s irrigation system, and completed the great Chianan Irrigation System in 1930 (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).The Chianan Irrigation System converted 68,050 acres of poor land on the west coast of Taiwan into the most fertile farmland of the island. After the system went into operation, arable land for growing rice increased by more than 74% and sugar cane by 30% (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).During Japanese rule, rice production was increased through the introduction of a round-grain type of rice that produced a higher yield than the original long-grain type of Taiwan Indica rice. As a result, the yield per acre increased by one-third, and total rice production doubled (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

In the late 1930’s the colonial administration intervened heavily in market operation in the rice sector. The indigenous landlord class forced the maintaince of the terms of trade of rice until the government monopolized the trade in 1939. Government intervention aimed to cut rice prices and undermine the indigenous class forces. Government policy also accelerated the long-term trend toward land fragmentation within the indigenous socioeconomic structure.

Under the Japanese rule, the production of sugar cane in Taiwan was also increased. From as early as 1896, the Japanese imported various cane cuttings and seedlings of improved sugar varieties from Java, Cuba, Louisiana, and Australia, as well as from Hawaii (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).These Japanese imported seedlings were well suited to the local climate and soil, and resulted in two or three times as much as the indigenous varieties. Over the period of 30 years (1905-1935), the area planted in sugar cane increased by 500%, and total production skyrocketed. In 1939, Japanese-controlled Taiwan was the seventh largest producer of sugar in the world, ranking only after Cuba, India, the U.S.S.R., Germany, the United States, and Java (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

Banana and pineapple production additionally soared under the Japanese rule. Although the banana tree was indigenous to Taiwan, only after Japanese rule began did bananas become an important export item. As a result, pineapple cultivation began to expand after canning techniques were finally introduced in 1923. Under the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, the industrial production began to increase slowly when sugar refining advanced. Research indicates that many large-scale state-run factories still operating today in Taiwan were constructed by the Japanese. The Japanese also implemented hydroelectric power as part of the industrial development. Heavy rainfall and swift mountain streams on the island permitted the establishment of large hydroelectric plants (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).The Sun Moon Lake power plant stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the Japanese period in Taiwan (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Through this power project, it was possible for the island to support aluminum, chemical, and steel alloy plants (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).

The creation of identity as part of a resistance to Japanese rule

Although the Japanese had greatly advanced Taiwan made the island extremely economically beneficial and successful, the natives still resisted rule by the Japanese. This is most likely because the Japanese forced their rule, traditions and ways of life on the natives. Additionally, the natives were used to alien rulers, and this probably added a customary hostility to any foreigners they encountered. Since the Japanese forced its policy of “industrial Japan, agricultural Taiwan” on the island, Japan thus made Taiwan’s economy dependent on that of Japan. In order fully to exploit Taiwan’s economic resources, Japan further expanded its farmland, and the Japanese colonial government, its financial magnates, and various individuals seized 68.5% of the land and 97% of the forest (Sohu.com, at (http://english.sohu.com/20040719/n221080673.shtml).

During the period of Japanese rule, the Japanese established various industries on the island, such as sugar processing, canning, paper making, camphor processing, wood processing, textiles, chemical products, machinery, iron and steel, and electricity.

Through Japanese refiners’ monopolistic control of the sugarcane market, the price of the raw material was determined on the basis of the peasant’s standard of living. The sugar industry had a direct interest in holding down the price of cane. Anything that raised the income level of the rice sector would raise the purchase price of cane and would delay accumulation of sugar capital.

In order to reap profits from expanding sugar exports, the colonial state tended to discriminate against development of the rice sector, preventing the standard of living of the colonized population from rising at the expense of sugar profits. The price setting mechanisms set up by the colonial administration and the Japanese sugar capitalists retarded the development of the rice sector that was administered to depress the rise in the purchasing price of cane and thus contribute to the accumulation of Japanese sugar capital.

Despite the Japanese success in transforming Taiwan into a society that, economically, was rather modern in comparison with its neighbors, resistance against alien rule never ceased on the island. The Tapani Incident, in which more than 10,000 local Taiwanese lost their lives, marked a turning point in Taiwan’s resistance against Japanese rule (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).After the revolt was finally put down, armed resistance was replaced by political movements that focused on building a national consciousness (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Taiwanese students petitioned for legal and political reforms by the Japanese rulers in Taiwan, and such associations as the Society for Promoting the Establishment of a Taiwan Council, the New Taiwan Alliance, and Local Self-governance Federation were established (Government Information Office in Taiwan, at (http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html).Many of these groups published their own magazines and newspapers and were active until the surrender of Japan at the end of World War II.

After 1925, industrialization and urbanization during and after WWI, the rapid increase in the demand for rice in Japan induced the growth of export rice production in Taiwan. The results included a substantial rise in peasant living standards in Taiwan. In expanding production, Taiwan’s indigenous rice producers effectively competed for labor and land with Japanese sugar capitalists, driving up wage levels and land prices. The growth in living standards of rice-cultivating farmers pushed up the purchase price of cane. The peasants’ rising standard of living threatened the interests of the Japanese capitalists and created barriers to the accumulation of Japanese capital in Taiwan.

The class structure of the Taiwanese-dominated rice sector and the Japanese-dominated sugarcane sector made rice farmers share in the benefits of growing production possible. In the rice sector a substantial part of the gains from export production were relatively evenly distributed, in contrast to the appropriation of surplus exclusively by the Japanese sugar capitalists. Weaker domination allows greater distribution of gains to farmers. This provides an explanation for the variations in income distribution in the pre-1925 sugar sector and the post-1925 rice sector.

The Japanese capital failed to control the rice economy because family farms and the alliance of their landlords and their associated miller-merchants were effective in resisting the subordination in the form of wage labor to capital as well as the penetration of Japanese capital into the production and domestic circulation of rice. Also, the existing mechanism of surplus extraction also worked to discourage attempts by Japanese capital. Since sugar profits rested on a stagnant rice sector, Japanese capital had no incentive to enter rice production. The rice sector was left to the control of the indigenous landlord class and its associated miller-merchants.

The Nationalists colonization of Taiwan

After the Second World War, it was not so clear who should have control of this island when it reverted. The Nationalists and the Communists had fought a multi-front conflict for military and political domination of China since the late 1920s. The response of the native Taiwanese and global pressures compelled modification of the behavior of the Nationalists, which led to greater democracy and efficiency (Riggs, at pg. 43). Never strong in Taiwan, the Communists associated themselves with the Japanese Communist Party under Japanese rule. The Nationalists found themselves at a strategic disadvantage when the Japanese unexpectedly and unconditionally surrendered in 1945. The Nationalists, cut off from their base of support and torn from within, suffered a series of defeats in the late 1940s and ended up as a government in exile in Taiwan facing impending invasion in 1950 (Pastreich, at (http://www.hapress.com/prn.php?tp=150).

Taking refuge in Taiwan after their defeat by the Chinese Communists in 1949, the Kuomintang (KMT) tended to conceive themselves Chinese rather than Taiwanese in any sense (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Caught in the middle of the protracted disputes between Taiwan and China over the sovereignty of this island state, these loyalists, determined to retain their Chinese identity, seemed ready to embrace any political formula of integration with China, which in turn reinforce their distinct ethnic identity (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).In contrast, the descendants of earlier voluntary settlers, considered themselves native Taiwanese, recognizing Taiwan as their motherland.

After Taiwan was retroceded to China in 1945, the natives initially welcomed the arrival of the mainlanders without asking for exercising the right of self-determination. At first the six million Chinese-descended natives were enthusiastic about returning to Chinese rule after 50 years of subjection to Japan. This was quickly crushed when the Chen Yi administration took over all industries and properties built by Japanese enterprises. The Chen Yi administration enriched themselves and sold raw materials and manufactured goods to mainland China, namely rice and coal (Riggs, at pg. 45). Natives who had held secondary posts were pushed away by mainlanders.

As a result, in less than two years, the natives revolted against the mainlanders, and research indicates that the ensuing retaliatory massacre aggravated the alienation between the groups, and assisted in strengthening the native consciousness. On February 27, 1947 the mainland police attacked a native woman selling cigarettes without the government’s Monopoly Bureau License. A police officer fired at the crowd, killing one person. The police fled and the crowd burned the Monopoly Bureau vehicle. This incident embarked upon a series of events characterized by mob violence. Chen Yi then sought out the native leaders and executed them. Thereafter, for a long time, native oppositionists were seized, often executed on the charges of having participated in the uprising (Riggs, at pg. 46). The KMT Central Executive Committee dismissed Chen Yi upon the request of 51 anti-Chen Yi sympathizers and members of the committee.

The KMT relocated the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan in 1949. The KMT were surrounded by assumed hostile native Taiwanese, and the state was actually dominated by a feudal caste mainly made up of the Mainlanders (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Under such an ethnic stratification, traditional landlords were forced to give up their lands and the mass barely survived themselves under tight economic command. As a result, some surviving intellectuals chose to exile themselves overseas. This occurred as a result of the extreme difficulty of administering an island disrupted by war and bombing. Additionally, the withdrawal of key Japanese personnel resulted in the lack of experience and training of the would-be native leaders. The native Taiwanese struggled against the new regime, and an anti-native sentiment developed among the mainlanders because of past collaboration of the natives and the Japanese (Riggs, at pg. 47).

Under the Chen Yi administration, none of the commissioners were natives; however during the Wei Tao-ming administration, 7 out of the 15 commissioners were native Taiwanese. However, there were claims that 3 of the 7 were “half mountain men (those whom had immigrated to the mainland).” Additionally, another 3 had previously collaborated with the Japanese, and the 7th was an aborigine. During the Wei Tao-ming administration, the administration squeezed out as much wealth out of the population as possible. Furthermore, many native leaders had been driven into exile (Riggs, at pg. 47). Next, during the Chen Cheng administration, refugees flooded the island, causing inflation, and intensified the difficulties of the local population. After 1947, surface manifestations of hostility declined between the natives and the Chines partly because the natives had been cautioned that their leaders had been imprisoned or executed (Riggs, at pg. 50).

Under Governor Chen Cheng, the Planning and Study of Local Government Committee was approved by the National Government on April 5, 1950 to prepare for the election of councils and magistrates. The committee decided to modify the administrative district system, and in August of 1950, Taiwan was redivided into 16 counties and 5 municipalities (Riggs, at pg. 51). Additionally, the Chen Cheng government carried out election regulations, such as forbidding the manipulation of elections by candidates, reserving a quota of council seats for women and tribesmen, and limiting the election expenses of candidates. Furthermore, bribery of voters was prohibited, along with the coercion of voters by candidates. Yang Chao-chia, the Civil Affairs Commissioner, described the process as the “complete absence of Government influence in the choice of candidates, the enthusiasm with which the constituents exercised their voting rights and the orderly and law abiding manner with which the elections were conducted (Riggs, at pg. 52).

Analysis of Taiwan’s Identity

Scholars have described Taiwanese aborigines as neither Chinese nor Japanese: situated between these two empires, they seem in some respects analogous to each (Perouse, at Chapter 16). Owing to differences in race, language, and national identity, ethnicities in Taiwan have so far manifested themselves in the form of clan feuds, electoral competitions, or even armed struggle (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Taiwan has also been produced as a discourse which implicated it in social relations both within Japan itself, and Japan’s relations with the rest of the world (Harrison, at http://(www.soas.ac.uk/taiwanstudiesfiles/EATS2005/panel8Harrisonpaper.pdf.).

Research indicates that medicine was a key marker of discursive differentiation of the Taiwanese within the Japanese empire (Ming-cheng, at p. 43).

Asian studies scholars have theorized that the essence of Taiwan’s identity is made up of some objectively discernible characteristics, such as physical traits, language, religion, or other cultural attributes. In terms of racial and cultural stocks, most of the Mainlanders, while originating from various provinces in China, would share Han identity, although there are few Manchurians, Mongolians, Miaos, Yaos and other minority groups (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Among the Natives, neither racial nor cultural characteristics are viable marks for any differentiation. However, cultural differences have played an important role, as the natives must have gained certain Japanese cultural characteristics, unintentionally or intentionally, ranging from custom, housing, food, clothing, to language. Research further indicates that linguistic differences appear to have been convenient attributes for ethnic identification, if not prejudice or even discrimination, for all relevant groups in Taiwan (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).

Students at schools had been forced to learn Japanese in school and were punished for speaking native tongues in public during the Japanese colonial rule. As a result, elder natives would communicate with one another in Japanese as a gesture of protesting the KMT rule, aware that the Mainlanders resented anything Japanese so much. Even some Natives who were born after the war and thus had never been enrolled in Japanese schools would at times venture to speak corrupt Japanese with the same reason (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Since language may be conceived as capacity, property, or resource for individuals, it is a form of power for the ethnic group. According to the island’s past histories with the Dutch, Manchu, and Japanese, the island’s internal rivalries made it possible for outsiders to play against one another to make their control secure.

Preference for the Japanese rule

Research indicates that the native Taiwanese had a distinct preference for rule by the Japanese over rule by the KMT. For the natives, the Japanese provided law and order for the society in the pretension of a modern state. Some went so far as to profess that they would prefer to be treated as third-class citizens by the colonist than as the second-class citizens by their own brothers (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Additionally, the Japanese transformed the island in a more profitable economy than would have occurred under the Qing rule. The Japanese assisted in the flourishing sugar cane and rice economy, and greatly increased industrialization on the island. The Japanese also made the island financially independent, and initiated outside trade with other countries. Although their rule was harsh and forced, the Japanese made the island a success through its various implementations.

On the other hand, by wresting military suppression, political domination, economic monopoly, and cultural humiliation, the KMT had helped to crystallize the native identity, which would be in a large measure accounted for by anti-mainlander ethnic nationalism (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Mutual distrust also came from quasi-occupational segregation. For fear of penetration and a potential takeover by the mainlanders, native-owned firms had in the past been reluctant to hire the mainlanders (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).This was most likely a result of the recognizable and repeated difficulties the natives had with the various foreign rulers that had previously ruled the island. The history of the rulers in Taiwan is full of massacre and conflicts, so the natives would naturally develop a mistrust and dislike of foreigners, especially those in the position to rule over the island and control it.

Furthermore, the differences between the mainlanders and the natives was not based on linguistic differences, but rather on their dissimilar degrees of attachment to the island. The mainlanders had tended to treat Taiwan as their temporary residence. This fear was aggravated by the anticipation of revolts and retaliation by the natives.

In the midst of this however, a native identity developed gradually in the process of land settlement and in the common experience of being controlled by many different foreign rulers. For the natives, the island is their homeland, where their ancestors, determined to settle their home there, had fought with the Indigenous Peoples, and resisted against waves of alien rulers (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).If forced back to Mainland China, they would not have any relatives to turn to. Thus, these natives attributed their homeland to the only land where they actually had descendants, regardless of turmoil on the island. In fact, the natives were accustomed to disagreements with foreigners as a result of their colorful history of conflicts with foreign rulers.

One scholar notes the linguistic identity of the island, stating that corrupt Mandarin spoken by the natives had long been ridiculed with the intention to humiliate the natives and to deprive their collective self-pride. Earlier on, Taiwanese figures on TV, if ever, would invariably have been portrayed as those who speak clumsy Taiwan Guo-yu (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).These biased treatments, intentionally or not, had only created resentment, if not hatred, among the natives. This cultural wall did create mutual alienation, and eventually helped to consolidate separate senses of collective identity on both sides (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).

While it is yet not entirely clear whether or not the former ruling KMT had purposefully used Mandarin to subordinate the natives, the cultural hegemony may have been a protective shield erected by the numerically minority of the KMT/mainlander government in the face of the hostile natives, who, on the other hand, would interpret it as nothing but the disguised continual of the Japanese colonial practice thrust upon by the KMT, which could do nothing but to serve to reinforce their sense of inferiority (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Since most of the natives could only command their mother tongues and Japanese, and thus barely understand Mandarin after been colonized by the Japanese for half a century, Mandarin, before long, had became one of the most humiliating symbols of domination by an alien regime.

As illustrated above, the Japanese employed many different tools and devices to colonize Taiwan before 1945 when the KMT relocated to the island. Some scholars attribute this to Taiwan’s surprising economic development by highlighting either the transplantation of Japanese socioeconomic structures or the transfer of Japan’s own developmental experiences to the colonies. These scholars stress a development-oriented style of colonial management characterized by both effective state intervention in planning economic development and state expenditures on social capital and agricultural infrastructure. Moreover, the colonial development in Taiwan has been described as a more balanced and broadly-based development compared with the colonial experiences in other peripheral areas.

On the other hand, other scholars concentrated on the exploitative mechanisms and socioeconomic inequalities embedded in the colonial structure. For example, Yanihara has focused on the large Japanese sugarcane plantation in Taiwan, which contrasted with the indigenous and the predominance of Japanese agriculture. Tu has stressed the subordination of native capital and peasant producers by metropolitan capital as well as the distorted economy to fit Japan’s needs. Both of these scholars have analyzed the distortion of Taiwan’s economy as a consequence of its economic dependency. It can be said that Taiwan had an extremely successful economy, and the Taiwanese gained a vast useful knowledge of agriculture and industrialization. However, although successful, these industries were not controlled by themselves. Instead, their foreign rulers retained control over their success, so the ones that stood to benefit the most from the island’s success were not the natives, but the foreigners themselves. In this way, although Taiwan appeared to be economically independent, this so-called independence was actually not that, because it control was out of the hands of the natives.

The author Yanihara considers colonial domination to be the subordination and dissolution of the indigenous noncapitalist sector by the capitalist one. Tu argues that coexistence is the outcome of a political compromise resulting from the resistance of indigenous landlords. He considers the expansion of the rice production and the setback of sugar capital in 1925-1939 as a backlash by the indigenous landlord class to take advantage of Japan’s economic crisis. However, Tu disagrees with others that attribute Taiwan’s development to the character of a developmentalist Japanese colonialism. His argument succeeds by exploring the nature of the class structure and the strategic choices of state and monopoly capital.


Finally, after the rapprochement between the United States and China in 1979, both the KMT and the mainlanders were forced to recognize that they had to settle down in Taiwan eventually (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).Those first-generation Mainlanders who had visited China after the cross-strait travel was legalized in 1987 suddenly discovered that they had become “Taiwanese brethren” in the eyes of their Chinese relatives. From that time on, the mainlanders ceased to be the aliens to expel once Taiwan obtains its independence, and constitute a new ethnic group to be managed in the multicultural society. According to research, the content of mainlander identity is still in need of thorough definition and redefinition.

The native Taiwanese have faced such identity crises that they would not have envisaged. Historical research indicates that in the past they would be securely loyal to the trinity of state party leader, however, they now have to search for ways to define their collective identity, ethnic and national. Scholars have theorized that ethnic identity and national identity in Taiwan are coterminous with each other. On the one hand, one’s ethnic identity (natives or mainlander) would largely decide one’s national identity (Taiwanese or Chinese) and hence one’s attitudes toward the issue of Taiwan’s future (Independence or Unification) (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).On the other hand, one’s ethnic identity is also composed of one’s conception of national identity and/or Taiwan’s relations with China in the future, especially for the mainlander (Shih, at (http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html).

Thus, for centuries of conflict and change, Taiwan has demonstrated a desire to seek its own national and cultural identity. Since the end of World War II, Taiwan has preserved a Chinese legacy and represents the political complexity and multiculturalism of Taiwan’s population. While more and more mainlanders are inclined to recognize themselves as Taiwanese, still, they are not ready to forsake their Chinese identity, cultural or political.

Finally, Taiwanese identity can be attributed largely in part to the devices employed by the Japanese during their rule over the island prior to 1945 when the KMT relocated to the island.


Ballantine, Joseph. Formosa: A Problem for United States Foreign Policy. Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 1952.

Chih-ming, Ka. Japanese Colonialism in Taiwan: Land Tenure, Development, and Dependency, 1845-1945. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, Inc., 1995.

Government Information Office in Taiwan. “History of Taiwan.” Taiwan.com. 2005.

Taiwan.com. 10 June 2005 http://www.taiwan.com.au/polieco/history/report04.html.

Harrison, Mark. “Towards a Taiwan Studies.” SOAS. 2005. SOAS. 11 June 2005 http://www.soas.ac.uk/taiwanstudiesfiles/EATS2005/panel8Harrisonpaper.pdf..

Kohn, Hans. American Nationalism. New York: Collier, 1957.

Ming Cheng, Lo. Doctors within Borders: Profession, Ethnicity, and Modernity in Colonial Taiwan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Pastreich, Emanuel. “Sovereignty, Wealth, Culture and Technology: Mainland China and Taiwan Grapple with the Parameters of ‘Nation State’ in the 21st Century.”

Hapress.com. 2004. Hapress.com. 11 June 2005 http://www.hapress.com/prn.php?tp=150.

Perouse, Jean-Francois. The Voyage of La Perouse round the world, in the years 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788, with nautical tables. London: John Stockdate.

Riggs, Fred. Formosa Under Chinese Nationalists Rule. New York: The Macmillan

Company, 1952.

Sohu.com Inc. “Development during Qing and Japanese Colonial Rule.” Sohu.com.

2005. Sohu.com Inc. 10 June 2005. http://english.sohu.com/20040719/n221080673.shtml.

Shih, Cheng-Feng. “Ethnic Identity and National Identity -Mainlanders and Taiwan-

China Relations.” Tamkang University. 2002. Tamkang University Website. 15 June 2005. http://mail.tku.edu.tw/cfshih/default2.html.

Sih, Paul. Taiwan in Modern Times. St. John: University Press, 1973.

Stargardt, Nicholas. Notions of Nationalism. Budapest: Central European University Press, 1995.

Takekoshi, Yosaburo. Japanese Rule in Formosa. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1907.

Tsurumi, Patricia. Japanese Colonial Education in Taiwan, 1895-1945. Cambridge,

Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1977.

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