Tai­wan – The Early Years

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Saint Lucia, whose beauty and as­sets Bri­tain and France dis­puted many times through the cen­turies, has more in com­mon with Tai­wan than you might think. For cen­turies, Tai­wan has been the Prized Jewel of the China Seas.

In 1544, Por­tuguese sailors on pass­ing the is­land recorded in the ship's log the name Ilha For­mosa, Beau­ti­ful Is­land. Some 38 years later, Por­tuguese sur­vivors from a ship­wreck bat­tled hard­ships such as malaria and at­tacks by abo­rig­ines for ten weeks be­fore con­struct­ing a raft and re­turn­ing to the rel­a­tive safety of Ma­cao.

In 1592, Ja­pan un­suc­cess­fully sought sovereignty over Tai­wan, which they called Takaya­makoku, the high moun­tain coun­try. A decade and a half later, the Dutch at­tempted to oc­cupy the Pescadores Is­lands off the south­west coast of Tai­wan in or­der to cre­ate a base for their trade with China. Just four years later, in 1609, Ja­pan sent an ex­ploratory mis­sion to Tai­wan that was soon fol­lowed by an un­suc­cess­ful in­va­sion of the is­land.

In 1622, the Dutch, as stub­born as ever, once again re­turned to oc­cupy the Pescadores in an at­tempt to ful­fill their dream of open­ing trade with China, but once again they were re­buffed by the Ming Court. But per­sis­tence, as we know, some­times pays off, and just two years later the Dutch es­tab­lished a trad­ing base for commerce with Ja­pan and coastal China at Tayun, which is the present­day An­ping Dis­trict of Tainan City, thus be­gin­ning the Dutch ad­min­is­tra­tion of Tai­wan and the open­ing of trade with Ming China.

It took 10 years for the Dutch to build Fort Zee­landia at Tayun on For­mosa. Dur­ing the sev­en­teenth cen­tury, many Euro­pean coun­tries sailed to Asia to de­velop trade, and Fort Zee­landia be­came one of East Asia's most im­por­tant tran­sit sites and in­ter­na­tional busi­ness cen­ters. As those who fought over Saint Lucia well knew, trade in those days de­pended on mil­i­tary force to con­trol the mar­kets, and For­mosa oc­cu­pied such a strate­gic po­si­tion in the seas off China. From For­mosa the Dutch could con­trol and at­tack Span­ish commerce be­tween Manila and China, and Por­tuguese commerce be­tween Ma­cao and Ja­pan, while their own deal­ings with China and Ja­pan were sub­ject to no in­ter­rup­tions.

In­evitably, Spain was forced to pro­tect its trade routes and in 1626 it be­gan the con­struc­tion of a fort at Keelung on the north­east­ern seaboard of For­mosa. To­day, this mod­est sized city of about 160,000 peo­ple is Tai­wan's sec­ond largest sea­port af­ter Kaoh­si­ung in the south and has at least three uni­ver­si­ties.

With the Dutch in the south and the Span­ish in the north, con­fronta­tion be­tween the two ad­ver­saries was in­evitable and even­tu­ally, in 1642, the Dutch drove the Span­ish out and be­came the sole rul­ing power on For­mosa. Within a decade, For­mosa, due to its ideal cen­tral lo­ca­tion be­tween Ja­pan, China and south­east Asia, be­came the sec­ond most prof­itable trad­ing port in Asia, but it couldn't last.

In 1662, Koxinga, a Chi­nese mil­i­tary leader who was born the son of a Chi­nese pi­rate and Ja­panese mother, drove the Dutch from For­mosa. Af­ter his death, his son be­came the ruler of an in­de­pen­dent King­dom of Tung­ing in the southern part of the is­land. This too did not last. In 1683, the king­dom was de­feated by the Qing Em­pire of Main­land China.

The abo­rig­i­nal in­hab­i­tants of For­mosa had been largely per­se­cuted or ig­nored through the years. In 1732 they re­belled but were quickly sup­pressed by Qing forces. To­wards the end of the cen­tury, in 1787, there was an­other re­bel­lion, the Lin Shuang­wen re­bel­lion, that was quickly sup­pressed de­spite en­joy­ing great sup­port. It is said that there were more than 100 re­bel­lions dur­ing the early Qing, which gave rise to the say­ing "ev­ery three years an up­ris­ing; ev­ery five years a re­bel­lion."

There has scarcely been a dull mo­ment in Tai­wan's history. Two later in­ci­dents, the Rover In­ci­dent of 1867 in which Amer­i­can sur­vivors of a ship­wreck were killed by abo­rig­ines, and the Mu­dan In­ci­dent of 1871 in which Ja­panese sur­vivors of a ship­wreck were like­wise killed, prompted Amer­ica and Ja­pan to send troops to Tai­wan.

In 1884, dur­ing the Chi­nese (Sino) French War , the French blocked the har­bours of Keelung and Tam­sui. In 1895, Qing China ceded Tai­wan and the Pescadores to Ja­pan. The Ja­panese Im­pe­rial gov­ern­ment elim­i­nated all anti-Ja­panese groups on the is­land. The Bank of Tai­wan, es­tab­lished to en­cour­age Ja­panese in­vest­ment into Tai­wan, is­sued the Tai­wan Yen with an ex­change ra­tio on a par with the Ja­panese Yen. By 1905, Tai­wan be­came fi­nan­cially self-suf­fi­cient and was weaned off sub­si­dies from Ja­pan's cen­tral gov­ern­ment. Ten years later, dur­ing the largest re­volt in Tai­wanese history, over 100 pro­test­ers were killed by Ja­panese au­thor­i­ties.

And if all this was not tur­bu­lence enough, there fol­lowed much more ex­cite­ment in the 100 years be­tween1915 and to­day but that, as they say, is for an­other day!

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