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1895 - Japanese Taiwan

There is conclusive evidence that from 1872 onward the island of Taiwan played an important part in the planning of the innermost military circles of Japan. The Japanese public, however, in the first years of ownership, resented and often times protested the vast expenditures of men, money and materials on this semi-barbarous outpost to the south. Especially as preparations for the struggle with Russia drew upon their energies, the general civil administration at Tokyo voiced opposition to expenditures made for Taiwan.

Since the abolition of the feudal system in Japan in 1871, a large number of persons discontented with the new state of affairs had sprung into existence. Dissatisfaction soon found expression in risings, and the progressionist party clearly saw that something must be done to withdraw the attention of discontents from affairs at home. Just at this time the murder of the 50 Lewchewans took place. In the 11th month of the 14th year of Meiji (November, 1871), fifty Riukians (Lewchewans), who were cast ashore in the savage part of Formosa, were murdered by the natives.

The Japanese determined, unless they received satisfaction from the Chinese, to send an expedition to the island to punish the authors of the outrage, and according to some with the arrière pensée of annexing the whole island. In 1873 an embassy was despatched to Peking to urgeon the Chinese Government the necessity of taking immediate steps to punish the aborigines, and to prevent the recurrence of such cruelties in future. Negotiations ensued. China did not seem inclined to act, so the Japanese, having interpreted her attitude as one of disavowal, resolved to undertake the work of redress themselves.

His Majesty appointed Saigo Yovimichi, General of the Second Rank, Commander of an expedition to that island. It was his duty to call to account and deal with the persons guilty of outrages. General Saigo advanced with 1,800 troops, and immediately proceeded to the punishment of the aborigines. Two defeats were inflicted on them, by which the Japanese gained possession of that part of the island lying South of Fêng-kiang. China paid 100,000 taels to Japan, as indemnity to the families of the men who were killed in Formosa. She further paid 400,000 taels to Japan when the troops now in Formosa werewithdrawn,

To end the Sino-Japanese War, on May 8, 1895, Japan and China ratified the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which stated that Taiwan and the Pescadores (Penghu) were to become part of the Japanese empire. The island of Taiwan was taken from China as spoils of the first Sino-Japanese war. Because the inhabitants themselves did not recognize the transfer of sovereignty from Peking to Tokyo there was a revolution on the island. Fifteen days later, local Chinese officials and intellectuals on Taiwan declared the island an independent republic recognizing the suzerainty of China. Two abortive “Republics” were set up (instigated by the Peking Government) and the opposition was so forceful that the actual transfer of sovereignty had to take place at sea, off Keelung harbor.

When the Japanese arrived, on May 29, to assume control, they were rebuffed by an armed force of about 50,000 Taiwanese. The Japanese undertook a full scale invasion and military operation, pressing in from the north and from two landing points on the southwest. After a 3-day battle the Japanese occupied Keelung, but organized resistance continued throughout the island until the city of Tainan was subdued on October 10. The Formosan-Chinese maintained organized but poorly-armed resistance until November, 1895, when the capital at the south (Tainan) surrendered. After that date there were only sporadic local skirmishes until order was established in 1902. By their own admission the Japanese had to carry on active campaigning against guerrillas and rebellious villages for seven years before they had the civilized part of the island under full military and police control. Thereafter, the island enjoyed relative domestic tranquility in spite of four serious anti-Japanese uprisings between 1907 and 1928.

In 1902 the Government-General, Baron Kodama, was forced to draw up an elaborate exposition of the potential usefulness of Taiwan when the time should come to drive France and England (and by inference all other European powers) out of southeast Asia. It is not mere coincidence that during the penetration and encirclement of French Indo-China in late 1941 the island of Taiwan (made infinitely more important through air power) played precisely the part intended for it late in the nineteenth century.

Japan's policies regarding Taiwan were formulated to gain stature for Japan as an enlightened colonial power. Nevertheless, in practice, the harshness of the earlier Japanese administrators caused widespread resentment. Until 1929 Taiwanese administration operated under the supervision of the Ministry of Home Affairs; thereafter, it became the province of the Ministry of Overseas Affairs. Day-to-day governmental functions were entrusted to a governor general, who was appointed personally by the emperor and whose power was virtually absolute.

The first six Governors-General were military men. From October, 1919, until September, 1936, ten civilians served as GovernorsGeneral, with recurrent political and economic scandals. In 1936 it was proposed further to activate the "Southward Movement Policy" by appointing military men to the Governorship once again and by increasing the powers of the incumbent.

A retired Admiral (Kobayashi) served through the first years of the present Sino-Japanese war. As preparations for the general war went forward, it was found useful to retire Kobayashi and to have Admiral Kiyoshi Hasegawa, on the active list, take office in November, 1940. Military preparations on the island were accelerated, the elimination of foreigners speeded up and the general control of the population greatly strengthened.

The elaborate program for combined industrial and military development of Taiwan has gone forward steadily, providing in the southernmost stronghold of the “Inner Zone" weapons of offense, defense, and subsistence far beyond the needs of the local population. Such expansion is possible only through absolute government control, coordination of all activities and subordination of private interests to the projects of the State.

In October, 1929, the Bureau of Colonial Affairs in the Department of Home Affairs at Tokyo was abolished and a Ministry of Overseas Affairs set up. The administration of Taiwan was linked to that of the home government through this Ministry until 1943, with some administrative modifications from time to time. In 1936 Premier Hirota proposed to have the administration of the Mandated Islands placed under the Taiwan Government-General in order to make Taihoku the capital of the Southern Regions. This plan was opposed and held in abeyance. In November, 1942, a Greater East Asia Ministry was organized in the central government at Tokyo. Concurrently the positions of the colonies, Korea, Karafuto and Taiwan were said to have been altered in such a way as to give them approximately the status of provinces within Japan Proper. Little is known of the actual reorganization and its direct effect, but it may be surmised that the move was premature and the "Inner Zone" less secure and ready for direct administration than was believed in the first flush of expansive victories.

Therefore a further change announced in October, 1943, was not surprising. Few details are known but a simplification of administrative responsibility was achieved by centering many old bureaus in the Governor-General's Secretariat. This seems to indicate a need for increased control over all vital productive and transport activities, a control not possible if the Bureaus were continued under direct super. vision of the Tokyo ministries. A further measure announced in December, 1943, is designed to speed judicial processes. This may well be an indication that the Japanese are prepar. ing for internal crises which will arise as attacks draw near.

Despite these repeated changes in administrative organization at the top, it is reasonable to believe that on the lower levels, organization of Taiwan's government remains essentially as it was in 1940, and that changes at the top represent changes in policy rather than in administrative structure, physical arrangement, and bureaucratic personnel. Because of the essential military character of the Government and the extreme thoroughness of military control it is not an exaggeration to say that the people of Taiwan have been living under martial law for many years and accept it as the inevitable, customary framework for all social activity.

Provincial assemblies had mainly advisory functions, and local officials, whether elected or appointed, carried out policies determined at higher levels. In any case, Japanese officials dominated all levels of administration, even where there was significant Taiwanese participation. After the first decade of the Japanese period, the dominant attitude toward the Japanese administration was acquiescence rather than antipathy. Effective overt resistance was made virtually impossible by an extraordinarily efficient police system.

Taiwan has been governed as a self-contained unit within the framework of the Imperial Japanese Government. In theory it is a benevolent colonial administration extending to its subjects in Taiwan the same privileges extended to Japanese subjects in the homeland, and to the aboriginal population a protective guidance. Articulate Formosan-Chinese frequently recall a rescript of the Emperor Meiji in which he observed that the Formosans, newly taken into the Empire, were to be treated as brothers in full equality.

In practice the government of Taiwan had been a special military preserve, offering to the Japanese Navy much the same opportunities that the Army has long enjoyed in the Kwantung peninsula and Manchuria. The government of Taiwan is a military regime, clothed in civil titles, which ruthlessly exploits the island for economic profit and the geographic location for military expansion to the southward. The appointive system precludes effective Formosan-Chinese representation in administration, except in advisory capacities or in work in the lowest ranks of the bureaucracy. In effect a highly developed physical organization and technique of government has been evolved through forty-eight years without a corresponding evolution of a corps of trained FormosanChinese at every level of government.

Despite much verbal testimony to the contrary, the fundamental attitude of the Japanese toward Taiwan is that of a conqueror bent on the fullest possible exploitation of the resources of the island, both of material and of manpower, and the development of the island as a base for military operations, regardless of the consequences to and interests of the native Formosans. There have been many unsavoury scandals among both civil and military authorities. Big business had its turn between 1915 and 1935. A prominent Japanese writer summed up the basic attitude when, in 1937, he wrote, “It is true that the Island was really a pestilent and barbarous indemnity rewarded to Japan as a result of the war". For their own sakes the Japanese destroyed the menace of epidemic disease and made enormous improvements in communications and productive capacity, but the assumption that the Formosan-Chinese are barbarous and outside the Japanese pale still holds and colors all daily life. This was exactly the attitude and fundamental indifference which the Chinese entertained toward the island before they lost it, by treaty, in 1895.

The regular civilian police numbered 12,000, supplemented by a special force of more than 5,000 to oversee aborigine areas and a 6,000man military police. The key to the efficiency of the police was the principle of group responsibility and the effective use of informers. The Taiwanese population was divided into groups of roughly 100 households each, headed by a senior member elected by the group, subject to the approval of the Japanese authorities. The leader of each group was answerable for the misdeeds of the families under his supervision. He, in turn, held each family head responsible for the actions of all members of his family. Since an entire extended family would suffer for the delinquent acts of one individual, there was strong social pressure for the observance of prudent conduct. Punishment was severe to the point of brutality.

Aboriginal tribesmen continued to be a source of trouble for the Japanese until 1930, when their last great uprising was suppressed severely. In so far as they were able, the Japanese disarmed all aborigines and thus forced them to give up hunting and to subsist almost entirely on agriculture. As a result, they were far more vulnerable to government control and more accessible to the Japanese army, since they had to leave their rugged terrain to settle in the more readily cultivable valleys. As part of the pacification program, aborigines were provided with some 200 elementary schools as well as vocational training.

After the outbreak of war between China and Japan in 1937, the Japanese authorities went to extremes to supplant Chinese culture and language with that of Japan. Only Japanese-language newspapers were permitted, and all official business had to be carried out in Japanese. Persons not fluent in that language were denied positions of prestige or importance. After 1942 this policy was relaxed somewhat because of the necessity of gaining the good will of the people, since Japan was no longer conspicuously victorious in its military campaigns.

Taiwanese sensitivities often were disregarded in Japan's insistence upon order and efficiency, but the net effect of Japanese colonization upon the island's economy was to engender unprecedented prosperity and advancement. Whether Japanese rule has a positive effect upon Taiwan's social and political progress is debatable. Japan made no attempt to prepare the Taiwanese for self-rule or democracy, nor did it enhance the islanders' confidence in their own capabilities. Because of Japan's policy of keeping the Chinese in subordinate positions in all spheres of activity, it did not develop leadership potential or high technical competence. The Japanese often were respected, but they left behind an undercurrent of resentment.

For years Japan attempted to abolish Chinese customs in Taiwan. Mary varied activities have been sponsored as a part of the “national spiritual mobilization movement". Outside the regular educational system there existed in Taiwan numerous organizations which had as their purpose the mental, spiritual, and physical training of the people. Most important among these was the Young Men's Organization (Seinendan) with 114,465 members as of March, 1938. The membership and purpose of this organization were different from those of the Soteidan, a purely Formosan institution which exists as a body of volunteer police for civic welfare. The Seinendan originated in Japan and had as its purpose the inculcation of a national Japanese spirit and improvement in the physique of youth. Both Japanese and Formosans belonged to the Seinendan. The organization was especially active on occasions of festivals and air raid drills. The Young Men's Training Associations (Seinen-kun-rendan) met for the purpose of military drill. They were said to be preparing the way for eventual military service for the Formosans.

The insular character, the very low rate of literacy and the self-centered interests of the villages all conspired to make the government's internal propaganda control effective. Traditional Chinese indifference to non-local issues, combined with the complete control of all information available to the public, tended to remove all standards for comparison of information. On the other hand, intense antagonism to Japanese ruthlessness in many policies where it impinged upon the individual family, plus a subversive campaign the extent and details of which are unknown, served as antidotes to official nationalist indoctrination. The more intelligent Formosans, especially the townspeople, while normally indifferent to events beyond their locale, under war conditions and the pressure of Japanese propaganda and economic war measures thought of the China "Incident" with active sympathy.

For years the Japanese were arrogant in their self-assurance that the virtues of the Japanese culture and nobility were patent, and that all that was required was the destruction of non-Japanese culture wherever expedient. Until 1943 they felt assured that the whole of East Asia was to be Japan's perforce, subject to Japanese will and to an intense program of cultural assimilation to the Japanese empire. Especially from 1937 until 1943, the authorities were ruthless in their determination to cut Taiwan off from China by destroying evidence of cultural identity. A premium was put upon individual attempts to become Japanized through the adoption of Japanese names, ("Hayashi" instead of "Rin", etc.). Various posts were open only to members of families which made an effort to learn Japanese and use it consistently.

From late 1942 the Japanese authorities seemed to be aware that they might have to retreat to defend the "Inner Zone", barring a successfully negotiated peace. Hence the entire propaganda program underwent a change. Throughout 1943 the recognition of the individuality of other peoples within that vital “Inner Zone" became apparent. Finally even Taiwan, so long and so ruthlessly subject to Japanization, began to be recognized as an area in which it would be necessary to win good will if there were to be cooperation with the Japanese in a day of crisis and local defense.

Formosans began to be encouraged to learn Mandarin Chinese. Here the Japanese had an eye to improve relations with North China by using Japanized Formosans in subordinate positions of authority. The requirements that all members of a family learn Japanese weremodified. Now, if even one member had learned Japanese, the family was eligible for preferment of a sort.

Although there is evidence that the innermost councils of war had always planned to make Taiwan a great base for southward military advance, the government never dared to show its hand publicly in Japan. From the very earliest years there had been a constant need to defend the acquisition of the island to the people of Japan Proper. Since the economic return has been handsome there has been no embarrassment on that score. Occasionally, however, Japanese liberals have been stirred by evidence of the more cynical and open exploitation of Formosan-Chinese, and recurrent scandals and embarrassments such as the Hoshi narcotics case involving collusion by high officials, the failure of the Bank of Taiwan, and the Musha massacre. These have given political parties excellent material for challenging the Government.

The Japanese in Japan Proper, believing their own propaganda output, are convinced of the benevolence of Japanese rule which they are called upon to carry overseas with such sacrifice. Since they have been led to believe that Taiwan offers a perfect example of the virtues of cooperation among East Asiatic peoples, it is therefore with embarrassment that the Government in Tokyo has to explain the absence of ablebodied Formosan-Chinese on the front lines to make the same sacrifices for the Emperor that Japanese youths are making. Great publicity is given the "compulsory volunteer" enrollments for war service, and the people within Japan Proper are assured that full-fledged conscription and training will begin in the near future. The latest date announced by Tojo is 1945. Japanese policy in Taiwan appears to be suspected even among the Japanese.

Taiwan experienced 50 years of Japanese rule, and Japanese could be seen everywhere, with Japanese styles everywhere . Mainlanders who came to Taiwan after the Japanese invasion of China felt maladapted to Taiwanese culture . Before January 1942, the Japanese government implemented voluntary military service. Although Taiwanese have the right to choose not to participate in the war, in some areas, because of the Japanese colonial education, a small number of people joined the Japanese army in the invasion of China. Many people from other provinces turned their anger to Taiwan. Some of the pro-Japanese persons of the People’s Republic of China were regarded as traitors after the war and were arrested.

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Page last modified: 06-10-2021 12:15:12 ZULU