Archive for the ‘The history of Taiwan’ Category

Growth Despite Setbacks

Despite well-publicized political setbacks—such as its expulsion from the United Nations in 1971 and severance of diplomatic ties by the United States in 1979, Taiwan continues to thrive and survive. Its Gross National Product (GNP) has steadily grown and foreign trade has flourished through cultural contacts and trade associations, a remarkable achievement in the wake of political adversity.

Officially, the Nationalist government describes Taiwan as “the island province of the Republic of China,” and Taipei as the nation’s provisional capital. Peking (“northern capital”), the seat of the Communist’s People’s Republic of China, is called Peiping (“northern peace”) by the people of Taiwan, inferring that it is not, in fact, a capital.

The Nationalist government of Taiwan regards the mainland Communists as interlopers who have no business in China. In early times, textbooks and government posters—even the national anthem trailers that precede the showing of movies in theaters—still use maps that depict Taiwan together with the mainland as indivisible as parts of the Republic of China. On the other hand, the Communists consider Taiwan a “renegade province.”

Taiwan’s insistence on maintaining the Republic of China label lies at the heart of many of its diplomatic problems today. There are strong indications that the island’s athletes would be permitted to participate in the Olympic Games and other major international sporting events, and that many Western capitals would reopen diplomatic relations, if the Nationalist government would simply substitute the Taiwan label for that of the Republic of China.

But neither the Nationalists nor the Communists would accept such a change. Both governments agree that Taiwan is part and parcel of China proper, and an integral province of China. Both consider reunification a must—on their own terms. Taipei’s prerequisite for opening formal negotiations with the mainland is that Peking abandon communism and accept the Three Principles of the People as the foundation of a modern Chinese state.

With the exception of matters affecting national politics and internal security, the leaders in Taiwan continue to operate the island as one of the least restrictive, most laissez-faire societies in the world. They believe mainland China could also enjoy economic success if freed from the restraints of communism. The leaders in Taiwan believe it is the government’s responsibility to maintain secure borders, law and order, and a generous dose of ren-ching-wei, “the flavor of human feeling.” The people of Taiwan have done the rest.


Exodus to Taiwan

Chiang had resigned leadership positions several times beofre. Each time he bounced back to power by virtue of the sheer vacuum his departure left. This time proved no different. Soon he emerged from solitude to lead the best two divisions of his army and a rambling entourage of scholars, merchants, monks and masters of classical arts across the Taiwan Strait to the island bastion. On Dec. 7, 1949, the Republic’s government moved its headquarters to Taipei. The Nationalists defeated pursuing Communists in a devastating “last-stand” battle on the island of Quemoy and have held that island ever since.

Chastened by defeat on the mainland, Chiang was determined to reform Nationalist policies on Taiwan. One of his first acts was to execute the rapacious governor-general responsible for the looting of Taiwan’s wealth and the bullying of its people since 1945. Next, Chiang initiated a land-reform policy as sweeping as the one instituted by the Communists but with one vital difference. Instead of vilifying and killing landlords, the Nationalist government paid them well for their land, then offered them matching funds and tax breaks. That move helped launch the industrial revolution that was the catalyst for the island’s phenomenal economic growth. Overnight, Taiwan found itself with an entrepreneurial elite of former landlords who had the money and the motivation to invest in Taiwan’s future. Other reforms followed. The educational system was overhauled and thousands of students were sent abroad to absorb new technology and scientific training. Although national affairs remained firmly in the hands of the Nationalist, democratic institutions were established at local levels.

Chiang governed the island according to Sun Yat-sen’s “Three principles of the People.” Known as the San Min Chu-I (三民主義) in Chinese. Dr. Sun built his framework for sensible government on min tsu (民族主義), nationalism, or the liberation of China from foreigners; min chuan (民權主義), democracy, or government by the people and for the people; and min sheng (民生主義), livelihood, or economic security for all the people. Of the three principles, Dr. Sun considered nationalism the primary goal and that the fastest way to that goal was through a democratic system that provided for the livelihood of the people. Chiang amplified on his interpretations of Dr. Sun’s Three Principles in his book China’s Destiny, published in 1943. Chiang faced turbulence and difficulties that Dr. Sun had not encountered and had to adapt the philosophy to cope with problems on the mainland, then in Taiwan, in order to reach his mentor’s goals.

In Taiwan Chiang maintained strict political discipline and social order, but gave the island’s industrious populace free reign in the economic sphere. The Chinese enthusiasm for capitalism propelled the private sector from 44 percent of Taiwan’s economy in 1953 to 75 percent in 1974, at the expense of state monopolies. At the same time, the island’s population more than doubled from 8 million to more than 18 million. The year 1965 proved a particularly criticial test of strength for Taiwan and its leadership. Financial aid from the United States that had provided a cushion for Taiwan’s economic leaps was terminated. Yet industrialization, modernization and economic progress accelerated.

Chiang’s last testament written on March 29, 1975, one week before his death, reveals his concern: Just at the time when we are getting stronger, my colleagues and countrymen, you should not forget our sorrow and our hope because of my death. My spirit will always be with my colleagues and countrymen to fulfill the Three People’s Principles, to recover the mainland and to restore our national culture. Chiang passed away shortly after midnight, on April 5. A sudden cloudburst rained on Taipei and cleared just as abruptly, prompting speculation that even “heaven wept” at Chiang’s passing. In May 1978, there was an orderly transfer of power to Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo.

The Generalissimo

Chiang Kai-shek’s association with Taiwan bears similiarities to the saga of Koxinga. Both men fought to preserve the traditional order in China and both established a bastion of that order in Taiwan in definace of their enemies on the mainland. Most significantly, both men successfully launched a renaissance of classical Chinese culture which has made Taiwan a living repository of China’s most ancient and cherished traditions.

 Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石)was born on Oct. 31, 1887, in Chekiang province. His mother was a devout Buddhist and his father a salt merchant who died when Chiang was only eight. At the tender age of 14, Chiang’s mother arranged for him to marry Mao Fu-mei. In 1908, she gave birth to Chiang’s first son, the man who used to head the government in Taiwan, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

At that time, the Chinese monarchy was disintergrating. Nationalism became th dominant force and revolution was in the air. Caught up in the rapidly changing swirl of event, young Chiang took up military studies in Japan. It was there that he first met a dynamic revolutionary, Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙).

Chiang participated in Sun’s revolutionary forays into China and completed his military studies in 1912. That same year, Dr. Sun Yat-sen became the first provisional president of the Republic of China. Henry Pu Yi (溥儀) abdicated as emperor, ending the Ching Dynasty and closing the history books on China’s 50 centuries of rule by monarchy. Chiang returned to China shortly after his second son, Chiang Wei-kuo (蔣緯國), was born.

Two episodes left permanent imprints on the character of young Chiang after his return to China. For 10 years, he resided in Shanghai, where he cultivated relationships with the fabulously wealthy merchant and banker families of that great city. Those contacts helped him to forge a political power base that would ultimately carry Chiang throught two decades of warfare and provide the backbone for Nationalist successes on Taiwan. Chiang loved Shanghai and Taipei was largely built in its image. The second influential episode occurred in 1923 when Sun Yat-sen sent Chiang to Moscow as his personal emissary. Chiang returned with a deep distrust of the Russians and a profound hatred of communism.

Chiang Kai-shek could be labeled a “conservative revolutionary.” His concept of changing China was to foster nationalism, overthrow the hated Manchu regime in Peking and end China’s humiliation at the hands of foreign powers. But this vision of a modern China remained grounded in traditional Confucian social values. He believed that the rebirth rather than the destruction of traditional culture was the answer to China’s woes. A born and bred Confucian, he cherished values like loyalty and obedience.

After the successful “Northern Expedition” (北伐) against the warlords who had partitioned China into personal fiefdoms, Chiang triumphantly rode into Shanghai preparing to consolidate his power. In 1927, Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡) became his second wife. She was the daughter of Shanghai’s most powerful banking family and younger sister of Sun Yat-sen’s widow. Dr. Sun had died in Peking at the age of 59.

 “Madame Chiang,” (蔣夫人) as she became known in the West, was an American-educated Christian. Prior to their marriage, Chiang Kai-shek converted to Christianity. His new wife and his conversion were important influences on the rest of his life.

The story of Chiang’s campaigns against the Chinese Communists, and his war against the invading Japanese, is well documented. The Japanese occupied Manchuria in 1932. In 1937, they took Tientsin and Peking, captured Chiang’s beloved Shanghai and overran the Nationalists’ capital city of Nanking. Their advance was bolstered by bombing raids conducted from Japanese airfields in Taiwan.

 In 1943, the Generalissimo, as Chiang came to be called, met with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Cairo Conference. (開羅會議) The trio pledged the return of Manchuria, Taiwan and the Pescadores to China after the war.

With the help of Allied armies, Japan surrendered in 1945. But Chiang’s problems continued. The Communists seized the opportunity and abandoned Japanese arms to turn against his Nationalist army. Civil war raged across the vast Chinese landscape for four long years.

Chiang was personally honest and as incorruptible as the severest Confucian scholar. But his administration was plagued by corrupt and incompetent subordinates. Their greatest disservice to China was not graft, however, but their failure to report the truth to their leader. Chiang was not insensitive to the sufferings of his people, but was rarely exposed to it. While taking his habitual stroll one summer afternoon in 1944, he stumbled upon an officer leading a row of fresh recruits through the woods roped together like animals. Infuriated, Chiang beat the officer. Only the intervention of an aide prevented Chiang from killing the man outright. The following spring, after continued reports of roping practice, Chiang had the general in charge of conscription summarily shot.

Chiang Kai-shek was elected president of the Republic of China in 1948. But by then the war had swung in favor of the Communists. Hsuchow, Tientsin and Peking fell to the enemies. On Jan. 21, 1949, facing imminent defeat, Chiang Kai-shek resigned the presidency.


Tokyo’s triumph

In 1872, a Japanese ship foundered and sank off the coast of Taiwan. Three of its crew drowned. But only 12 of its 69 men survived. The other 54 were slaughtered by Botan (牡丹社) aborigines. When the news of the killings reached Tokyo, Japanese military circles immediately prepared to launch a punitive expedition against the Botan tribe. Only Foreign Minister Soyeshima Taneomi held back the impending attack. He decided to first try to work out a diplomatic resolution in Peking.

Soyeshima was accompanied by Charles Le Gendre, who resigned as U.S. Consul to Amoy in 1872 in order to enter the service of Japan’s Meiji Emperor as an advisor to the planned military expedition to Taiwan. Le Gendre had extensive experience in the island. He had negotiated settlements involving several American sihps wrecked there, in some cases dealing directly with Formosan aboriginal tribes. But Washington always ignored Le Gendre’s calls for greater American vigilance in Taiwan. Now he advised Tokyo it should prepare for war if its foreign minister’s mission to Peking failed.

Soyeshima managed to obtain a formal audience with the Chinese Emperor, in itself a significant accomplishment. The Emperor tacitly admitted that the aboriginal tribes inhabiting parts of eastern Taiwan were beyond his political control. All Japan hailed that disclosure as a diplomatic victory, but Soyeshima’s return to Tokyo was marred by factional infighting over the military’s long postponement of plans to intervene in neighboring Korea, another Chinese protectorate. The disgusted foreign minister wiped his hands of the Formosa affair and Le Gendre stepped in.l A violent revolt of samurai protesting Meiji reforms in February 1874 impressed upon the Japanese government the urgent need for a “foreign adventure” that would vent the pent-up energies of dissatified samurai. So on April 27 that year, 2,500 troops, 1,000 coolies and several foreign advisor led by Le Gendre boarded warships bound for Taiwan.

The military expedition landed at two points in southern Taiwan, one clearly within Chinese jurisdiciton. Japanese troops made a few forays into the mountains to punish the offending aborigines. But their continued presence in the south prompted strong Chinese protests and a willingness to negotiate. After protacted talks in Peking, the Chinese government agreed to pay Japan 100,000 taels of silver to compensate the families of the dead crewmen and 400,000 taels for the expenses incurred by the military expedition. In return, Japanese forces withdrew from Taiwan and returned to Tokyo in triumph.

China continued to run Taiwan as a prefecture of Fukien province for more than a decade after the departure of the Japanese. It was declared a province of China in 1886. The population had surpassed 2.5 million.

But the repercussions of the Japanese occupation continued to resound throught Taiwan. For one thing, Japan’s bold military move for the first time in history had created a semblance of law and order on the island. In fact, some foreign traders even seemed to welcome the Japanese occupation of 1874 because it forced Chinese authorities to take greater interest in the island’s affairs and virtually eliminated attacks on its foreign settlements. Meanwhile, militarists back in Tokyo soon began rattling their swords and demanded outright annexation of Taiwan, Korea and the Ryukyu Islands (琉球群島).

Full scale war between the two oriental superpowers again broke out in 1895 when the Japanese invaded Korea, long a loyal ally of China. China sent armed and manned ships to Korea’s aid, but the Japanese sunk them in a blatant effort to fuel hostilities. China had managed to buy off Japan before to avert war but this time the Japanese were not for sale. Nothing short of territorial gains would satisfy Japan’s buring desire for an overseas empire that would surprass the colonial conquests of Britain.

China suffered total and ignoble defeat at the hands of a nation it had considered in ferior and barbaric. Vast sums that had been earmarked for modernizing China’s navy had been diverted by the Empress Dowager Tze-His (慈禧太后) to restore and redecorate her elaborate Summer Palace north of Peking. Thus, the decimated Chinese navy was no match for Japan’s.

Japan literally dictated the terms of the notorious Treaty of Shimonoseki (馬關條約) which ceded outright possession of bothe the Ryukyu Islands and Taiwan, the start of half a century of Japanese rule over the Beautiful Island. It also gave Japan a decisvie role in Korea that would culminate in annexation 15 years later in the wake of the Russo-Japanese War (日俄戰爭).

Taiwan moved rapidly into the modern age under the tutelage of Japan. A domestic network of railways and roads was constructed, connecting important points of the island for the first time. The Japanese also built modern schools, hospitals and industries and updated agricultural methods. Most importantly, strict Japanese rule ended the factional bickering and futile debates that had always marked island politics.

Still, occupation proved oppressive and ultimately unpopular. The Japanese required everyone to adopt Japanese names and speak the Japanese language. They exploited Taiwan’s rich natural resources exclusively for the benefit of Japan. And resident japanese officers and magistrates enjoyed elite privileges denied to local citizens. In effect, Japan tried to remold Taiwan in its own image by forcing the island to sever her connections with her ancient Chines cultural roots. Taiwan toiled under Japanes rule until Allied forces won World War II. After Japan surrendered, Taiwan was restored to Chinese rule on Oct. 25, 1945, an event still celebrated annually on the island as “Restoration Day.”

During the following years, Taiwan suffered the same kind of “carpetbagger” treatment accorded the American South after the Civil War. Hordes of adventurers from mainland China stormed across the Taiwan Strait and systematically dismantled the extensive industrial infrastructure left by Japan, shipping everything of value back to Shanghai for sale.

Meanwhile, civil war had broken out in earnest on the mainland. The struggle for control of the vast country matched a communist party called the Kungchandang (共產黨) against the Nationalist Kuomintang (KMT;國民黨). At the head of the KMT was a fiery leader name Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).

The First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)

The Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)

War with the West

One of the first foreigners to recognize Taiwan’s economic potential and to advocate its outright annexation was Dr. William Jardine, co-founder of the powerful British trading firm Jardine, Matheson, and Co. Jardine became alarmed when China took up arms in 1839 to suppress the British opium trade in Canton. He informed British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston: “We, must proceed to take possession of three or four islands, say Formosa (臺灣), Quemoy (金門) and Amoy (廈門), in order to secure new markets and new footholds in China.”

When the first Anglo-Chinese conflict, or “Opium War,” broke out, it further antagonized the strained relations between China and the West. Crews of British vessels subsequently shipwrecked off the coast of Taiwan met with even harsher treatment. The ships were plundered, then broken to pieces and burned. The crews were stripped naked and forced to walk painful distances to capitivity.

The British were not the only foreign power that showed interested in Taiwan during the 19th century. Several American traders and diplomats also advocated annexation of the island. They included Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who realized Taiwan’s strategic importance in the Far East. Gideon Nye, a wealthy American merchant and a leading member of his country’s expatriate community in Canton, proposed in 1857 that “Formosa’s eastern shores and southern point…in the direct route of commerce between China and California and Japan, and between Shanghai and Canton, should be protected by the United States of America.” Nye also had personal reasons for his proposal: he suspected that his brother Thomas, who mysteriously disappeared on the opium clipper Kelpie in 1849, had been captured and killed in Taiwan.

The Treaty of Tientsin (天津條約), which ended the first Opium War in 1860, opened four Taiwanese ports to foreign trade: Keelung and Suao in the north; Taiwanfoo (Tainan) and Takao (Kaohsiung) in the south. During the ensuing decade, foreign trade in Formosa grew by leaps and bounds. Most of the activity involved British and American firms. Primary export products included camphor, tea, rice, sugar, lumber, and coal. The sole import, which sometimes exceeded exports in value, remained opium.

By 1867, 25 foreign traders lived in northern Taiwan at Tanshui and Keelung, and another dozen lived in the south at Taiwanfoo (台灣府). Trade boomed, doubling in volume in 1869 and doubling again in 1870. Colorful expatriate communities flourished around the ports. They maintained close ties with their counterparts in Hong Kong, Canton and Amoy. Unfortunately, the perennial problems of legal responsibility and political authority continued to plague Taiwan’s foreign relations much as they do today.

A negative aspect of the trade boom was the increased frequency of violent incidents, corresponding to the greater number of foreign trading vessels that called at the island’s ports. Brawls between drunken European and American merchant marines and the lcoal Chinese usually ignited the violence. The inevitable vendettas followed. Local magistrates refused to take action in such cases, insisting that the foreigners petition authorities in Peking. But because of Peking’s lack of influence and interest in the island’s affairs, nothing ever got done through such “legal channels.”

The situation was further aggravated by the arrival of foreign missionaries in the early 1870s. Zealous missionaries from the various sects of Christianity fanned out over the island and staked out exclusive “territorial domain.” That created more confusion than the tenets of their conflicting religious doctrines. The missionaries, backed by their native countries, competed for exclusive domains in much the way traders competed for monopolies of major exports. The periodic attacks on foreign missionaries and their Chinese converts led to the same futile wrangling between local magistrates and foreign officials as did the incidents in the commmerical sector. Only displays of force produced settlements.

Yet one thing was clear to all the squabbling parties. Taiwan was indeed an alluring beauty. It was rich in resources and strategically located. But it was also untamed. There was a need for law and order that Peking could not provide. Expatriates clamored for the home governments to step in. The Japanese did just that.

Opium War (6:33)

Opium War lecture (23:31)

Opium War BBC documentary (57:32)

The history of Taiwan–4. Koxinga

Posted: 2013 年 10 月 12 日 in The history of Taiwan
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Birth of a hero

China’s Ming Dynasty reigned for 276 years under 16 emperors. The creative arts and sciences flourished. But its glory faded under an administration that became increasingly corrupt. At the same time, Manchu leaders built a strong base of support and a huge army in the northeastern provinces. They swept south, easily advancing against the crumbling Ming armies.

Before the Manchus reached Peking, the last Ming emperor, Sze Tsung (崇禎), named a Taiwan-based pirate, Cheng Chi-lung (鄭芝龍), to command the remnants of the Ming forces. Nevertheless, large bands of marauding badits eventually stormed Peking and opened the flood-gates for the Manchu armies to move in and seize control of the govenrment. Emperor Sze Tsung hung humself, a humiliating final act in the saga of a glorious era.

Cheng, meanwhile, managed to keep the Ming army together. He also took a Japanese wife who bore him a son that he named Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭成功). The son inferited the Ming banner from his faterh. With it went a new name, Kuo Hsing-yeh, “Lord of the Imperial Surname.” He is bettern known to the West as Koxinga (國姓爺).

With an army of more than 100,000 men and an armada of 3,000 war junks, Koxinga carried on the fight against the Manchus from 1646 until 1658. At one point, he almost recaptured the southern capital of Nanking. But the overwhelming Manchu manpower finally forced Koxinga to retreat to the island bastion of Taiwan, an event that eerily foreshadowed the manner in which Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) would lead his Nationalist patriots across the Taiwan Strait 300 years later.

Koxinga’s Island

In Taiwan, Koxinga encountered the Dutch, who discounted him as a mere pirate incapable of mounting a serious threat. But Koxinga’s spies, aided by Dutch deserters, provided valuable intelligence. In 1661, Koxinga sailed down the coast with 30,000 armed men in a large fleet of war junks and forced 600 Dutch settlers and 2,200 Dutch soldiers to take up arms at the three coastal forts. The seige lasted nearly two years. Koxinga captured Fort Zeelandia and graciously permitted the Dutch governor and his surviving men to leave the island with their remaining possessions. Dutch rule in Taiwan ended a mere 38 years after it began, a trifle by the Chinese calendar.

With the Japanese, Spanish and Dutch all having withdrawn, Taiwan became the personal domain of Koxinga. He gave the island its first formal Chinese government and turned it into a Ming enclave that defied Peking long after the Manchus had established firm control over the entire mainland.

Koxinga’s reign was brief but influential. He set up his court and government at Fort Zeelandia near Tainan and developed transportation and educational systems.Great strides were made in agriculture. Tainan became the political and commercial center and Anping grew into a prosperous harbor.

Perhaps Koxinga’s greatest and most lasting contribution to Taiwan was his love for things Chinese. He ushered in a renaissance of many ancient Chinese laws, institutions, traditional customs and lifestyles. His entourage included more than 1,000 carefully chosen scholars, artists, monks and masters of every branch of Chinese culture.

Koxinga died at the age of 38 only a year after his conquest of Taiwan. He was later named a national hero and is venerated in Taiwan as a chun tzu (君子), “perfect man.”

The Manchus take over

Koxinga’s son and grandson maintained rule over Taiwan until 1684 when the Manchus finally succeeded in imposing sovereignty over the island, snuffing out the last pocket of Ming patriotism. Taiwan officially became an integral part of the Chinese empire as the Ching court of the Manchus conferred the status of fu (府;prefecture) on the island. But Ching rule remained nominal at best. The Manchu magistrates sent to govern Taiwan usually succumbed to intrigues and self-indulgent decadence.

Despite strict prohibitions against further emigration to Taiwan, colonists continued to pour across the Strait from the mainland. During the first 150 years of Manchu rule, Karl Gutzlaff, a Prussian missionary who visited Taiwan in 1831, observed: “The island has flourished greatly since it has been in the possession of the Chinese… The rapidity with which this island has been colonized, and the advantages it affords for the colonists to throw off their allegiance, have induced the Chinese to adopt strict measures… The colonists are wealthy and unruly…”

One early bone of contention between China and the West concerned the fate of shipwrecked sailors washed ashore on Taiwan. These hopelessly involuntary visitors were routinely beaten, imprisoned and often beheaded, either by the Chinese authorities or by aboriginal savages. Whenever the Western powers sued the court of Peking to intervene in such incidents, they discovered that Peking had little real authority over island affairs, and even less interest. So Western nations resorted to “gunboat diplomacy” to rescue their crews from Taiwan, and dealt with the islanders rather than with the Manchus in Peking.

History of Tainan (Koxinga’s base)

Pirates, traders, and foreign invaders

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Taiwan became a haven for marauding pirates and freewheeling traders form both China and Japan who preyed on the East China coast. The distinction between pirates and traders was largely gratuitous in those days because both groups operated illegally in Taiwan. The island suited their needs. Its industrious inhabitants produced an abundance of food and other vital supplies. Better yet, the populace governed itself along clan and village lines without interference fomr Peking or elsewhere.

Because it was close the the trading centers and shipping lanes of China, Japan, and Hong Kong, yet free from their political control, Taiwan turned into a pirates’ paradise. When times were good, they traded. When times were bad, they raided. Now ersatz Rolex and Cartier watches and “pirated” editions of Western best-sellers go for a fraction of their original prices in Taiwan, bolstering the island’s reputation as a haven for modern “pirate” manufacturers and publishers. Old habits are hard to break.

The Japanese first attempted to annex Taiwan in 1593 after the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豐臣秀吉) unsuccessfullly tried to conquer China by way of Korea. Hideyoshi’s designs on Taiwan fared no better. The island proved too unruly to control from afar.

Nevertheless, Europeans next tried to take the island. The Dutch turned to Taiwan after they failed to wrest Macao from their bitter rivals, the Portuguese. In 1624, they established a settlement on the southern coast and built three forts. Fort Zeelandia (熱蘭遮城), near Tainan, is a tourist attraction.

Fort Zeelandia, now Fort An-ping


Under the Dutch

In classic colonial fashion, the Dutch imposed heavy taxes and labor requirements on the Chinese residents of Taiwan and imported zealous missionaries to convert them to Christianity. The Dutch East India Company gained the exclusive commercial rights to the island and imported opium from Java in the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch taught the Chinese to mix tobacco with opium and smoke it. The habit rapidly took root in Taiwan, then spread to Amoy (廈門) and the mainland. Two centuries later, opium would play a notorious role in the terminal decline of the Ching Dynasty, and would become the catalyst for war between China and Britain.

For a while, the Dutch lived in relative harmony with the local residents of Taiwan. Their missionaries’ religious intolerance ignited a revolt in 1640, but that was easily suppressed. Meanwhile, the Spanish had built two garrisons (Fort San Domingo, 淡水紅毛城) on the northern end of Taiwan. The jealous Dutch, wishing maintain complete control over the island’s foreign trade, drove the Spanish out of Taiwan in 1642. That same year also marked the beginning of the Manchu conquest of the mainland, an eventuality that exerted lasting impact on Taiwan.

Fort San Domingo in Danshui