The modernization of Taiwan
林呈蓉教授／April C. J. Lin, Professor,
(淡江大學歷史系／（Department of History Tamkang University）
Taiwanese sugar factory before modernization, photo courtesy of SMC Publishing Inc.
If you want to describe Taiwan’s distinguishingcharacteristics under the Japanese occupation,the word has to be “modernization.” The legacyof the Japanese occupation, even in thepost-war period of the 1950s and 1960s, wasindelible, and greatly helped Taiwan’s economy. There’s no hiding the fact that the foundationsof modernization that the Japanese Empire laidin Taiwan were fundamentally there to tie inwith Japan’s domestic capitalist developmentneeds, but if Taiwan had not had this historicexperience, there would be no differencebetween Taiwan society today and Hainan Island,which is under Chinese rule. This week, we haveinvited Professor April C. J. Lin from theDepartment of History at Tamkang University towrite a piece on the modernization andhistorical development of Taiwan under Japanesecolonial rule, and to talk about how GotoShimpei was able to establish the foundationsof Taiwan’s industrial development.
Each period has its own particular characteristics
In the short 400 years of Taiwanese history, therehave been five changes of rule. The moderngovernment structure first appeared at thebeginning of the seventeenth century, in theperiod of Dutch rule, then came the era of Koxingaand his son, then the Qing Dynasty, Japaneseimperial rule, and the Republic of China, whichbrings us up to the present day. Due to the constantchanges in power, each period in Taiwan’s 400years of history has developed its own uniqueperiod characteristics. To take the example of theJapanese imperial era, a simple word to explainthe characteristics of this period would have to be”modernization.”
Taiwanese sugar factory aftermodernization, photo courtesyof SMC Publishing Inc.
Not something that Japan wanted to touch
In June 1865, Japan took the territory ofTaiwan, including the Pescadores, in accordancewith the Treaty of Shimonoseki after theSino-Japanese War. However, at least betweenJune 1895 and March 1898, the uncivilized landsof Taiwan were not actually something that Japanwanted to touch.
All kinds of local sicknesses rampant
The majority of the population was still illiterate,because there was no modern education system, andthe cultural level was fairly low. The local peoplewere very different from the Japanese in theirculture and situation; in almost 212 years of QingDynasty rule, social and public authority had notspread, with the result that folk customs still heldsway and government was not easy. On top of this,the climate was hot and humid, sanitation wasprimitive, and local diseases were rampant. Open anewspaper from the first five years of Japanese rule,the “Taiwan Daily News,” and you will find recordsof the virulent local diseases everywhere.
“Taiwan Baikyaku Ron”
As for managing rule of Taiwan, since thecircumstances were not all that smooth, somebodyin the Japanese Imperial Diet came up with theidea of “Taiwan Baikyaku Ron,” which advocatedselling this territory to France, who had aparticular interest, for 100 million yen. However,this proposal was not accepted by the Diet.
Choosing a process of “gradual assimilation”
In March 1898, after Kodama Gentaro tookoffice as the fourth governor of Taiwan,everything began to change. Kodama appointedGoto Shimpei, who had a background of medicaltraining, as the chief civil administrator ofTaiwan. Goto based his work on “ColonialManagement based on Biological Principles,” andbegan to establish the foundations of modernconstruction in Taiwan. Goto’s “ColonialManagement based on Biological Principles” werebased on his belief that [trying to rule Taiwanalong Japanese lines] was like transplantingthe eyes of a bream onto a flatfish, completelyunnatural! If all the systems and institutionsin use at that time in Japan were to be directlytransplanted to unmodernized and uncivilizedTaiwan, they would certainly bring unwarrantedmisunderstandings and clashes. For governingTaiwan, Goto advocated a process of “gradualassimilation,” and also temporarily terminatedthe long-running debate between the twoapproaches of basic policy, “interior expansionism(assimilation policy),” and “special government(non-assimilation policy).”
Goto Shimpei, the TaiwanGovernor’s Chief CivilAdministrator, who took officein March 1898.
The appointment of Goto Shimpei
Goto Shimpei spent eight years as chief civiladministrator, from March 1898 to November1906. Starting from hygiene and health, headvanced all kinds of investigative work; hecreated a unified monetary system by whichpromoted financial and commercial exchange;he carried out construction and expansion ofall kinds of communications and transportationenterprises; he developed hydro- andthermoelectric power plants in order toestablish the power resource foundations forTaiwan’s development of industry; and startingwith the improvement of rice and sugar strains,he revitalized Taiwan’s rice and sugarindustries.
Taiwan’s modernization advanced almost in stepwith that of Japan
Something which must be mentioned is thatTaiwan’s experience of modernization went verynearly hand in hand with that of Japan as itdeveloped. Japan’s modernization experiencestarted in 1868 with the Meiji Restoration, andthe two major ideas were “colonization andindustry” and “rich country, strong army.”However, before 1877, the imperial governmentwas busy with quelling armed uprisings brewedby dissatisfied forces within Japan, and thereal modernization only began to be implementedgenuinely after these armed clashes had beenstopped completely. Not long after, in 1895,Japan took its new territory of Taiwan. We caninfer from this that Japan’s own modernizationsteps were not that much faster than those ofTaiwan. As for the modern-day civilization whichtakes Western culture as its subject, on manyoccasions, Japanese administrative authoritieswere still studying and groping around for it.Consequently, sometimes Taiwan also became animportant testing ground for Japan’s process ofmodernization and cultural development.
Implementing household registration andpopulation census
To take the investigative work as an example,apart from land and forestry surveys, andinvestigations into old customs in Taiwan, Japanimplemented a household registration system inTaiwan, and carried out a population census. Inorder to effectively grasp all sorts ofinformation and data about the territory whichthey ruled, the promotion of statistics andsurveying work was extremely important groundworkfor modern nations. The population census wasalso the base of all kinds of other statisticaland surveying work. However, Japan did not carryout a population census of itself until 1920,while Taiwan had finished the work for its firstpopulation census in 1905. Because those leadingdomestic politics in contemporary Japan lackedaccurate knowledge of the work involved in apopulation census, the census in Japan took offten years after that of Japan’s new territories.The major factor was that these political leaderswere unable to differentiate household registrationfrom a population census, and naturally they wereunwilling to put a budget aside for a populationcensus. Consequently, when the first populationcensus was carried out in Taiwan in 1905, it wasunder the name of “First Provisional TaiwanHousehold Registration Survey.” In 1915, populationcensus work was promoted under the name of “SecondProvisional Taiwan Household Registration Survey.”In fact, the population census was literallyentitled “survey of national strength,” and thestatisticians engaged in the survey used this titleto emphasize that the scope of a population censusgoes beyond mere population figures, includessurveys of industry, management and other levels,and as a matter of course gives the outside worldan impression of being a survey of “nationalwealth.” On top of this, the great powers of Europeand America were carrying out this kind of policytoo, and this was one of the important conditionsof Japan becoming a “civilized nation.” With theincessant propaganda of the statisticians and thehelp of pressure groups, in 1920 the politicalleaders of Japan were finally persuaded to carryout a population census, and Taiwan too, was ableto continue, with Japan, to promote all kinds ofsurvey work under the name of “survey of nationalstrength.”
Sewerage system construction
To take another example, this time of publicsanitation and the engineering work of thesewerage system, at the end of 1895, the Britishengineer W. K. Burton was commissioned withcarrying out a program of public sanitationengineering. By 1898, construction of the Taipeisewerage system had been completed. In 1905,Taiwan already had two public waterworks, andby 1934, this number had increased to 83. Infact, the construction of Taiwan’s seweragesystem predated that of many Japanese cities.
An undeniable help to Taiwan’s economy
At the beginning of its occupation of Taiwan,the imperial government provided the governorgeneral with subsidies of 7 million yen ayear, and originally calculated that after 30years, Taiwan’s public finances would be ableto be independent. However, in the wake ofthe smoothness of vigorous industrialdevelopment and increase in income fromgovernment monopolies and land tax, Taiwan’spublic finances became independent in 1905,and from 1907, a surplus could be returned tothe imperial government. In October 1935, thegovernor general of Taiwan held an “Expositionto Commemorate the 40th Anniversary of theBeginning of Administration in Taiwan,” anexposition which has remained unique andunrivaled to this day, and which served as areport on the achievements of Taiwan’smodernization process under Japanese rule. Itattracted attention from all over the world,including the Republic of China’s KMT regime,and was highly admired. In fact, the legacy”colonial modernization” under Japanese rulewas an undeniable help to the economy ofTaiwan until well into the 1950s and 1960s.
At the beginning of its occupation of Taiwan,There’s no hiding the fact that thefoundations of modernization establishedduring the Japanese imperial occupation ofTaiwan were basically meant to tie in withcapitalist development in Japan itself, butif Taiwan had not had this experience in itshistory, there would be precious littledifference today between Taiwan society andHainan Island, under Chinese rule.
Edited by Hsu, Shiou-Iuan/ translated by Elizabeth Hoile