The South Sea Empire

First territory integrated into the Japanese empire which emerged at the end of the XIXe century, Tawan held a major place there until 1945. A real colonial springboard towards mainland China and the South Seasit illustrates the crucial role of regional relays in modern imperialism.

The Japanese conquest of Tawan, carried out in 1895 after a war which revealed the persistent flaws of Chinese power, was followed by a long series of revolts and campaigns of pacificationwhich affect both the Han population and indigenous groups, readily described as wild by the conquerors of the moment. The island of Formosa of the Portuguese has long been resistant to central powers and only came under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Qing dynasty in 1683, in an above all symbolic manner.

The tumultuous integration into the Japanese empire did not prevent the second governor general of the island, Katsura Tar, from considering a grand design for his colony in 1896, in which he saw a bridgehead for establishing himself on the continent, particularly in the neighboring province of Fujian. More generally, Tawan is seen as the first stage of a Japanese advance towards the South China Sea, a time when Western powers accelerated their expansion in the area. The assimilation of island one door to the South (nanmonin Japanese) reflects the strength of a geographical imagination which declined increasingly until the 1940s.

If the military and government authorities of Tokyo constitute the horizon of Seiji Shirane's work, the heart of his study is devoted to the local actors of this expansionism, bringing to the fore the recurring temptation of the general government of Taipei Taihokuin Japanese to develop its own strategy of influence and conquest in its regional environment, even if it means entering into conflict with other Japanese and foreign institutions.

Imperial Gateway is part of a historiography which strives to think of empires as multicentric and heterogeneous, particularly in their driving forces. Through the study of this embroiled imperialism, both the factors of Japanese power in Asia are analyzed, as well as the roots of an ambiguous relationship, since the end of the Second World War, between the island and its former supervisory power.

In the land of governors general

The imposing palace of the governors general, which the presidency of the Republic of China occupies to this day, in the heart of Taipei, is the direct heir of the political and economic power that the Japanese asserted during the conquest of the island. Its broad silhouette and style, typical of the syncretism adopted in the 1910s by the imperial elites, outline the urban project of a colony in full agricultural and industrial development. Combining baroque, neo-classicism and red brick, the building is intended to be an example of the access to European modernity offered by subaltern imperialism of the Japanese.

In the general historiography of the Japanese empire, Tawan occupies a somewhat secondary place, with regard to the attention paid to the northern slope of the empire, whose integration began later, from the conquest of Korea to the expansion in Manchuria. The work devoted to Taiwan, however, has experienced significant development for several years, adding to the Taiwanese and Japanese works, works in European languages ​​which reassess the importance of the Taiwanese laboratory in the training of actors, practices and imperial policies.

This laboratory focuses in particular on the modalities of conquest, but also on cultural and racial representations, both in relation to the 2.8 million Chinese and the 100,000 indigenous people who inhabit the confines of the island. The establishment of a general government on site aims to coordinate civil and military policies, in a spirit similar to that which saw the creation of general governments in the French colonies, from Indochina to French West Africa. If the name of the governors general of Tawan also borrows from the Sinicized tradition, its model is rather sought in these incarnations of Western imperialism, which associate political prestige and the consolidation of colonial power.

The subjects of the empire

The key role of governors general was observed, from the beginning of colonization, by their propensity to extend Japanese influence on the continent. One of their preferred vectors is the community of Taiwanese origin established in coastal cities, notably the port of Xiamen, where a Japanese consulate operates which widely distributes imperial passports, in collusion with the Taihoku authorities. There were only 280 ethnic Japanese in Xiamen in 1905, but there were already nearly 1,046 Taiwanese subjects listed there, a figure which exceeded 10,000 in the mid-1930s.

The claim, real or fictitious, of a Taiwanese origin, becomes for local populations the opportunity to benefit from the extraterritoriality privileges granted in 1895 in Japan, while the general government sees it as a way of strengthening its influence in the local economy, not without distinguishing between good And bad Tawanese. Courted, Taiwanese entrepreneurs from the continent founded numerous mixed companies and subsidized Japanese schools and works at a time when rivalry with the French and British raged in the area. In return, the general government awarded them titles of nobility and willingly turned a blind eye to opium trafficking, to the great dismay of the Tokyo Minister of Foreign Affairs, who joined the first conferences to fight against this drug.

The liaison between consuls in China and Southeast Asia and the Taiwanese general government is an essential link in Japanese power. Taihoku provided occasional police assistance, coordinated political intelligence on opponents and, from 1921, exercised appeal functions for cases judged by consuls in South China. From 1912, the governors general adopted a special budget supporting commercial expansion in the area. Four years later, the Exhibition to promote Taiwanese industry welcomes nearly 800,000 visitors and significantly devotes an entire pavilion to the Taiwanese area of ​​influence in Asia. Support for the Taiwanese community is observed in a wider area, which extends from Siam to the Dutch East Indies and outlines the boundaries of colonial power.

An island at war

The instrumentalization of the Taiwanese community, which extends to Siam and the Dutch East Indies, is however not exempt from concerns. The loyalty of the Han originating from the island is regularly questioned, particularly after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in September 1931. The Japanization policy launched at the end of the 1920s aimed to strengthen the percentage of Japanese speakers, which increased from 12% in 1929 37% in 1937. From 1936-1937, Governor General Kobayashi accelerated a policy aimed at making the Taiwanese imperial subjectsbanning publications in Chinese and suppressing this language in primary education.

When open military conflict resumed with China in the summer of 1937, the authorities decided to only recruit the Taiwanese as military auxiliaries, postponing until 1942 the establishment of a voluntary system allowing them to enlist as combatants. Even though Japaneseization is in full swing on the island, it is good for their skills Chinese that the Tawanese will be used as interpreters and relays for the occupation administration. The island of Hainan, occupied from 1939, saw a particular investment from the Tawan Development Corporation, which supported the doubling of rice production, spread the use of fertilizers and sent doctors trained at the Imperial University of Taihoku to fight against malaria.

The war is therefore an opportunity for the colonial authorities of the island to expand their territory. From 1933, Taiwanese fishermen were put at the service of claims on the Spratly archipelago, to counter the claims of French Indochina. In 1939, the general government obtained the administration of these islands, coveted for their resources in phosphates, guano and their fisheries. But Shirane also recalls Tawan's participation in the intense political struggles between Japanese institutions: after trying to regain control of Micronsia, the island comes up against opposition from the Minister of the Interior, worried about its growing influence, and from the Navy, which is decided make Southeast Asia its exclusive stronghold.

An ambiguous memory

As the end of the war approaches, the Tawanese are present on the different fronts of the war. Camp guards in Southeast Asia, they are also used in combat in tropical zones against American troops, in particular for indigenous soldiers to whom Japanese officers lend particular skills in combat in jungle and mountains. This participation explains an ambiguity in the treatment of the island when the end of the war was being prepared and the Cairo conference, in November 1943, recorded the return to the Chinese nationalist government.

Victims or collaborators of the Japanese, the Taiwanese view the arrival of an administration of Guomindang the fall of 1945. The desire to continue the traitors dissatisfied local notables and the clumsy policy of sinicization led by governor Chen Yi eventually led, in February 1947, to a revolt which shook the authorities. After being perceived as too Chinese by the Japanese authorities, it is now for its allegiance to the former masters that the population of the island is targeted.

Completing numerous works devoted to the social or economic history of colonial Tawan, Seiji Shirane shows, through the prism of a renewed international history, the way in which a colonized territory can both be the subject of brutal repression and participate in the dynamic of imperial expansion, through the benefits derived from it. certain social and political actors.