Colonization and Modernization Under Japanese Rule (1895-1945)
In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan following the Ching dynasty’s defeat in the Sino-Japanese War. Despite attempts to found a Republic of Taiwan 臺灣民主國 and mobilize volunteer militias to repel the Japanese, Taiwan’s own efforts at resistance ended in failure. For the next 50 years until Japan’s defeat by Allied forces in 1945 at the conclusion of the Second World War, Taiwan remained a Japanese colony.
Japan governed Taiwan in the same way that Western nations ruled their colonies, but with oriental features such as authoritarian despotism and enlightened Confucianism, which had a far-reaching impact on Taiwanese society. The colonial government was committed to developing Taiwan to meet Japan’s needs and achieved noticeable progress both materially and culturally, in spite of its authoritarian rule and subsequent anti-colonial movements among Taiwan’s people due to unfair treatment. Colonization and modernization became the dual historic traits of Taiwan’s colonial period under Japan, laying the foundation for post-war development but also creating difficulties in early rule of the ROC. The following section summarizes Taiwan’s resistance before cession to Japan, the establishment of an authoritarian system, evolution of Japan’s colonial policy, economic policy shift from an early emphasis on agriculture to the later focus on industry, inequality in modern education, discrimination, and non-military forms of resistance.
The Republic of Taiwan and Uprisings Against Taiwan’s Cession to Japan
In 1894, war broke out between Japan and China over disputes in the Korean Peninsula. Within one year, China had been defeated. On April 17, 1895, the Ching court signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki 馬關條約, under which Taiwan was ceded to Japan. Taiwan’s people, after struggling for more than 200 years to transform the island into a place they could call home, naturally rejected this turn of events and were highly perturbed when news arrived of Taiwan’s cession to Japan. When their protests to the Ching court fell on deaf ears, Taiwan gentry resolved to establish a Republic of Taiwan to resist Japanese rule. On May 23, the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Taiwan was proclaimed. Two days later, a ceremony celebrating the founding of the new republic was held in Taipei, and the Ching-appointed governor to Taiwan, Tang Jing-song 唐景崧, was named president. East Asia’s first republic, which was founded expediently to resist Japanese occupation, existed for only a very short period of time, however, collapsing as soon as Japanese troops equipped with modern weapons launched a large-scale invasion of Taiwan.
Local people’s refusal to peacefully cede Taiwan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki 馬關條約 forced Japan to dispatch a division of imperial guards under the leadership of Prince Kitashirakawanomiya Yoshihisa 北白川宮能久 to quell Taiwan. The Japanese troops given this onerous duty stayed away from the more dangerous Danshuei 淡水 and Keelung Port 基隆港 areas and, instead, on May 29, 1895, landed at the small fishing village of Yanliao鹽寮 in northeastern Taiwan (now in Yilan County) before marching northwest. On June 2, Governor-General Sukenori Kabayama 樺山資紀 completed the cession procedures with Ching delegate Li Jing-fang 李經方 off the Keelung coast, and then joined the invading troops. Japanese forces overcame all resistance, taking control of Keelung on June 3 and Shueifanjiao 水返腳 (modern day Sijhih 汐止) on June 6. As they pressed forward to Taipei City and the situation grew more perilous, soldiers from the Ching army offered little resistance. On June 6, Republic of Taiwan president Tang Jing-song and his family fled to China. Left behind without a leader, soldiers from the Ching army began to randomly kill, plunder, and burn, spreading terror throughout Taipei City. The gentry and foreign merchants agreed to send representatives to greet the Japanese troops at Shueifanjiao. Thus, on June 7, Japanese troops entered Taipei without any bloodshed and, on June 17, Governor-General Kabayama held an inauguration ceremony there to mark the beginning of Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan. This day came to be known as Commemoration Day of Opening Rule.
Despite the collapse of the Ching army, however, many members of Taiwan’s gentry volunteered to serve in the local militia, which continued to resist Japanese rule, in an effort to protect their homeland. General Liou Yong-fu 劉永福, who had fought against French imperialists in Vietnam, moved to Tainan, making it a new center for anti-Japanese efforts. He also issued official monetary notes and stocks to raise funds for military needs. On June 19, Japanese troops heading southward encountered a series of uprisings staged by these local militiamen at Sansia 三峽, Hsinchu, Changhua, and areas around the Zengwen River 曾文溪 and Pingtung 屏東. These Taiwanese troops, which were poorly organized, lacked training and funding, and equipped with outdated and inadequate weapons, posed little threat to Japan’s modern army and were quickly forced to retreat as Japanese forces swept from north to south. After the fall of Changhua, Japanese reinforcements arrived via three different routes from northern, southern, and central Taiwan to besiege Tainan. On October 21, 1895, through mediation by the gentry and missionaries, Japanese forces entered Tainan without resistance, thus ending the war against colonial rule by the Republic of Taiwan.
In addition to revolts against foreign rule in defense of the homeland during the early period of Japanese rule, small isolated uprisings continued to occur, triggered by conflicts of interest between traditional local power bases and the modern colonial government. Among the best-known uprisings, were those led by Jian Da-shih 簡大獅 and Chen Ciou-jyu 陳秋菊 in northern Taiwan, Ke Tie 柯鐵 in central Taiwan, and Lin Shao-mao 林少貓 in southern Taiwan. By 1902, however, Taiwanese people had gradually become appeased by the carrot-and-stick policies of the new Office of the Governor-General. While massive civilian revolts subsided, there were occasional armed uprisings, often caused by the forced acquisition of land required for construction projects, conflicts of interest in the camphor trade, or the 1911 Revolution in China. The more notable uprisings were the 1907 Beipu 北埔 Incident (led by Cai Ching-lin 蔡清琳), the 1912-1913 Luo Fu-sing 羅福星 Incident, and the 1915 Silai Temple Incident (led by Yu Ching-fang 余清芳). Nevertheless, the Japanese colonial government had largely gained control of Taiwan and was ruling most of the island.
Establishment of Authoritarian Rule and Evolution of Colonial Policy
In the early days of the Japanese colonial rule, Taiwan’s residents were allowed a period of two years in which to choose between Taiwanese and Chinese nationality but, by the deadline on May 8, 1897, only about 4,500 persons (0.16 percent of Taiwan’s 2.8 million people) had registered officially to leave Taiwan and go to China. Clearly, after two centuries of exploration and development, most descendents of Chinese immigrants now thought of Taiwan as their home. Moreover, when it became clear that resistance to the Ching court’s cession of Taiwan to Japan could not reverse the process, most people in Taiwan accepted Japanese rule as reality.
How Japan would govern Taiwan was not such a simple matter, however. Western nations of that time were both militarily strong and economically mature enough to export capital and technology to their colonies. During the initial period of its colonization of Taiwan, Japan was still an immature imperialist nation, lacking the advanced technologies and sufficient capital to be a true colonial power. Moreover, since Taiwan was its first colony, Japan was also short of experience.
Large-scale surveys and research were immediately undertaken to act as a basis for Japan’s governance of its colony. While taking into account Japan’s unique national environment and the colony’s circumstances, Japan also referred extensively to the colonial experiences of Western nations. Eventually, however, it lent towards a more direct form of administration than those generally adopted by Western colonialists, establishing bureaucracies that were dominated vertically by Japanese nationals and aimed at implementation of national policies by the colonial government. In other words, Japan’s central government ruled Taiwan as a special administrative region by means of a delegate form of government in which the governor-general was given wide administrative, judicial, and military powers. Combined with the legislative powers granted under Law No. 63, this effectively made the governor-general into a dictator.
The Office of the Governor-General (OGG) was the highest authority in Taiwan, followed by the Director of the Home Affairs Bureau (later called the Chief of Home Affairs). During the initial period of Japanese rule, military officials were appointed to the post of Taiwan governor-general to more effectively suppress local uprisings. By 1919, however, social transformations, the influence of a worldwide trend towards self-determination, and the change of Japan’s central government from a cabinet government composed of feudal lords and officials into a political party-based cabinet, led Japan to replace these military officers with civilians. Kenjiro Den 田健治郎 was the first civilian governor-general; meanwhile, the military was given power over the newly established position of Taiwan Commander. In 1921, Law No. 63 was replaced by Law No. 3, which further restricted the Taiwan governor-general’s power. In the 1930s, as Japan undertook a more aggressive foreign policy and prepared for war, this trend was reversed and the military governor-generalship was re-installed in 1936 until Japanese surrender in 1945. Whether led by a military officer or civilian official, however, the true nature of the governor-generalship of Taiwan under Japanese rule was one of dictatorship, with the relationship designed to meet Japan’s needs without any regard for its colonial subjects.
In addition to this dictatorship, in order to rule Taiwan effectively, the OGG set up strict local administrative organizations. Following numerous revisions, by the 1920s this had divided Taiwan into five prefectures and three sub-prefectures 五州三廳制. Previous administrative divisions such as jhou 州, shih 市 (“town”), jie 街 (“street”), jhang（village） and were downgraded into local community-level groups. The clearly defined levels of the administrative system were run by a body of Japanese bureaucrats, with Taiwanese clerks at the lowest levels merely being responsible for carrying out orders. This allowed the OGG to implement political orders effectively. More importantly, police stations were established throughout the island, supplemented by traditional Chinese baojia （保甲social security units）, which served as the eyes, ears, and complementary units of the local government, and ensured that laws and decrees were properly enforced. In 1928, the Special High Police was established to control people’s thoughts and actions and, in 1937, the Economic Police was established to control wartime economic affairs. This widespread police network, operating under the OGG, continued to expand its power throughout Taiwan, eventually giving the island a reputation of being a “police state” governed by “police politics.” The strictness and effectiveness of Japan’s colonial rule made it unique among all colonialists worldwide.
One constant aim of this colonial governance was the naturalization of Taiwanese, although it can be subdivided into three stages as the policy evolved: i) appeasement and special governance, ii) assimilation of Taiwan as an extension of homeland Japan, and iii) Japanization.
During the first stage of appeasement and special governance (1895-1918), the colonial government recognized differences in language, history, culture, and customs between Taiwan and Japan, and did not apply the Meiji Constitution to Taiwan. Instead, Japan made Taiwan special governance with a different legal system from that of Japan, of which Law No. 63 is an important example. High-handed military rule was initially adopted to counter instability in the early period of colonization and then later revised by trial and error. In addition to military suppression, softer measures were also implemented to pacify the Taiwanese people. The most famous of these pioneering policies was the “principle of biology” adopted by Home Affairs Director Shimpei Goto 後藤新平 under Governor-General Gentaro Kodama 兒玉源太郎. Goto, a medical scholar trained in Germany, likened governing a country to treating an illness and believed that a proper diagnosis was needed before any medication could be prescribed. He promoted a series of large-scale investigations of traditional Taiwanese systems and customs to see what could be retained and what should be discarded. Customs that were still useful were absorbed into the new system before progressive modernization reforms were implemented. These included the establishment of a system of “one farm with one owner” 一田一主, which was carried out by buying up the permanent tenancies of large tenant farmers, a gradual ban on opium, and the incorporation of old customs into the modern legal system. During this stage, Taiwan’s legal system differed from that of the Japanese homeland.
The second stage of colonial rule was assimilation, which sought to make Taiwan an extension of the Japanese homeland (1919-1936). The end of World War I in 1918 ushered in a new respect for the concepts of democracy, freedom, and ethnic self-determination. At that time, education in Taiwan was also improving and becoming increasingly widespread. Consequently, there was a growing awareness of self-determination and equality among the Taiwanese people. At the same time, the first party-based cabinet government emerged in Japan, the military governor-general of Taiwan was replaced by a civilian, and Law No. 63 was abolished. To cope with this new situation, the Japanese turned to a policy of assimilation, claiming that Taiwan was an extension of the Japanese homeland（內地延長主義）, and professing to grant equal treatment to Taiwanese and Japanese, which would give Taiwanese rights under Japanese codes. Slogans such as “same education for the homeland and Taiwan” 內（日本）臺共學, “legitimization of Japanese and Taiwanese marriages” 內臺婚姻合法化, and “Japan and Taiwan are one entity” 日臺一體. These efforts to win the hearts of the Taiwanese people enjoyed only limited success, however, due to the two sides’ differing expectations and demands.
The third and final stage of colonial rule was that of Japanization皇民化 (1937-1945). When Admiral Seizo Kobayashi 小林躋造 was appointed to govern Taiwan in 1936, he proposed new administrative directions for Taiwan to be based on “Japanization, industrialization, and a base for southward expansion” 南進基地化. With the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, however, Japan entered a state of war in which it was suddenly in dire need of large quantities of supplies. In particular, following the eruption of the Pacific War in 1941, the powerful Allied forces proved too much for Japan’s national strength and it was forced to mobilize human and material resources from its colonies. At that time, Taiwan was not only the southern boundary of imperial Japan but also its base for southward expansion from which to feed Japanese needs in South Asia. To this end, Japan not only vigorously promoted the industrialization of Taiwan to increase the productivity of its war machine, but also initiated a Japanization movement to assimilate Taiwanese people into Japanese culture and make them loyal to Japan. Important measures included giving everybody Japanese names, making Japanese the only language used, and trying to convert everyone to Shinto. In 1941, to intensify the policy of Japanization, “Japanized Citizens’ Devotion Society” 皇民奉公會 were established at different levels of the central and local administrative units. These organizations were targeted at fostering people’s dedication to the war effort, reinforcing a work ethic, and strengthening civil security. The colonial government also used volunteer servicemen from 1942 to solve the growing problem of soldier shortages in the Japanese army. Although young Taiwanese men were recruited initially to work in the Pacific war zone largely as laborers rather than regular soldiers, the parliament of the Japanese Empire passed a bill for the drafting of soldiers from its Taiwan colony at the end of 1944.
In general, however, since most of these Japanization measures went against deeply rooted Chinese cultural traditions, they were met with passive resistance and, by Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II, little had been accomplished except an increased use of the Japanese language.
A Southern Treasure Island with Government-guided Capitalism: Industrial Japan and Agricultural Taiwan (1895-1930)
As its capitalist and imperialist development was still in its early stages, Japan needed to focus on its domestic industries and had scarce resources for the management of its colonies. To help achieve the political and economic goals of the empire, however, the Taiwan OGG devoted itself to improving the island’s infrastructure so as to generate a better investment environment. It also offered incentives to solicit investment by Japanese conglomerates. These included drafting industrial development policies, providing rewards and grants, and ensuring markets for their products. These low investment costs, low risks, and high profits attracted many Japanese companies, and Taiwan more or less attained its investment goals while undergoing significant modernization to boot.
These economic policies were in consideration of Japanese national interests rather than those of Taiwan, however, and were subsequently changed to accord with changes in Japan’s national policy and its domestic industrial development. From around 1930 onwards, the initial policy of “industry for Japan, agriculture for Taiwan” 工業日本，農業臺灣 shifted to one of “industry for Taiwan, agriculture for Southeast Asia” 工業臺灣，農業南洋. Before 1930, therefore, agriculture was the focus of Taiwan’s development, with the island treated as a place in which to produce tropical cash crops and grains, and as a market for Japanese industrial products. Moreover, as a base for Japan’s southward expansion, Taiwan’s industrialization was promoted after 1930 while Southeast Asia took over as the main source of raw materials and as the main destination for the export of capital and technology.
When Japan first acquired Taiwan, its domestic industries were still developing and it lacked the capacity for large-scale outward investment. At that time, the foremost task for the Taiwan OGG was to create a favorable investment environment.
The first step was to improve Taiwan’s infrastructure, especially transportation, which was done through deficit financing and the issuance of public bonds. Construction of the Keelung-Kaohsiung railway was started in 1898. Completion of this north-south artery ten years later after conquering geographic obstacles of mountains and rivers, made Taiwan a whole for the first time in history. Industrial railways, highways, postal services, and telecommunications were also developed rapidly, connecting the entire island into a unified economic entity, and allowing resources to flow freely from Taiwan’s various regions. In order to improve communication with Japan, ports at Keelung and Kaohsiung were expanded repeatedly from 1899 onwards, which also increased economic integration between Taiwan and Japan.
The Taiwan OGG also promoted institutional reforms, including unification of the currency and of weights and measures, establishment of modern banks, and census of the population. Land surveys and reform, in particular, contributed to the establishment of modern land ownership procedures. In addition, forested and inhospitable areas, which were surveyed and regulated, were sold off to encourage entrepreneurial development of mountainous areas. The OGG also increased revenues by updating land surveys, establishing government-owned monopolies, collecting local taxes, and issuing public bonds.
Completion of various infrastructure projects in the 1910s paved the way for Taiwan’s truly capitalist development. Further, the target of financial independence was achieved in 1905, and subsidies from Japan were no longer required.
A second important step was the effort to attract Japanese investment. To meet Japan’s urgent need for tropical agricultural products, especially cane sugar, great attention was paid to developing Taiwan’s agricultural sector. Using Inazo Nitobe’s 新渡戶稻造 improvement suggestions for the sugar industry as a blueprint, measures were taken to improve sugarcane varieties and promote fertilization and mechanization in the sugar industry. Modern factories gradually replaced the old-style sugar mills dating from the Ching dynasty. Established in 1900, the Taiwan Sugar Production Corporation台灣製糖株式會社 was the first of these, and it was quickly followed by other sugar corporations established under Japanese private investment but with full support of the Taiwan OGG. The latter’s pragmatic assistance included capital subsidization, designation of raw material harvesting areas, and market protection. Sugar production soared as a result, large quantities were exported to Japan, and Taiwan became one of the world’s largest sugar producers.
With Japan’s increasing prosperity and its concomitant increase in rice consumption, from the 1920s onwards the Taiwan OGG promoted the island’s rice industry to help meet this demand. Penglai 蓬萊 rice, which was favored by Japanese people, became the main crop. With water a major limiting factor in agricultural productivity, the OGG also dedicated itself to building irrigation canals. The completion of the Jianan Canal嘉南大圳 at great expense and over 10 years in 1930, the greatest water conservancy project in East Asia at that time, opened up the Jianan Plain嘉南平原for development of paddy fields no longer dependent on the natural elements. With this government assistance, Penglai rice was cultivated throughout Taiwan, production increased, and exports to Japan soared.
Now that there were two cash crops, sugar and rice, fierce competition for farmland ensued. Underlying this was the more contentious issue regarding the balance of economic benefit to the peoples of Japan and Taiwan. The sugar industry was controlled by Japanese capitalists; rice production by Taiwanese. Development of rice paddies and increases in rice prices were beneficial to Taiwanese landowners and farmers, therefore, but led to diminished profits for the Japanese.
The overall effects of economic developments in this period included a rise in Taiwan people’s standards of living. These were also greatly improved by advances in hygiene and medical services, progressive development of better facilities for water, power, and public transportation, installment of telephonic communications, and better city planning. The colonial government also introduced a seven-day week and stipulated Sunday as a day of rest, which allowed the general public some leisure from work. Western movies, music, art, sightseeing tours, and buses were also introduced.
A Base for Japan’s Southward Expansion: Industry for Taiwan, Agriculture for Southeast Asia (1930-1945)
From the 1930s onwards, fear of a global economic recession fueled regionalism. Japan’s increasingly militarist outlook also encouraged it to become expansionist, invading China to the west and advancing southward through Southeast Asia in an ambitious attempt to establish a hegemonic position in East Asia. Due to its location near to Southeast Asia, Taiwan was chosen as the production base for military necessities and logistics center for Japan’s southward advance, and increased industrialization of the island became necessary. Japan had gradually become self-sufficient in foodstuffs and could now acquire low-priced sugar from Indonesia, which diminished the importance of Taiwan’s agricultural industry. Moreover, following upgrading of Japan’s domestic industries, its secondary industries needed to move to a region in which labor was cheaper. With its excellent basic infrastructure and developing water and electric power facilities, Taiwan was an ideal site for this investment.
The Sun Moon Lake hydroelectric power plant, built at massive cost between 1931 and 1934, proved to be another important milestone in Japan’s industrialization plans for Taiwan. Ample, low-cost power provided by the plant led to the development of Taiwan’s fertilizer, aluminum, cement, shipbuilding, and other industries. Special emphasis was given to the chemical, metal, and machinery industries related to Japan’s military requirements. By the end of Japanese rule, Taiwan’s industrial infrastructure had been transformed, with agricultural product processing, heavy and light industries making up 65 percent, 20 percent, and 15 percent of the industrial sector respectively. The standards of Taiwan’s industries, although still not very high, were well positioned to take off. In terms of production value, by 1940, Taiwan’s industrial production was already 1.4 times that of its agricultural production, making Taiwan a fledgling industrialized society.
It is noteworthy that Japanese capital was responsible for more than three-fourths of this industrial capitalization, with only a small fraction provided by Taiwanese capital. In particular, major Japanese conglomerates like Mitsui and Mitsubishi dominated the sector. Most of Taiwan’s industry was either affiliates of Japanese corporations or extensions of Japanese industries, which were controlled from Japan and had the underlying objective of supplying the needs of the Japanese empire.
With implementation of Japan’s southward expansion policies, Kaohsiung Port in southern Taiwan rose markedly in importance, as it not only became the island’s largest military port but also developed the island’s first industrial park nearby. Most of Taiwan’s newly developing heavy industries were established in this park, which laid the foundation of Kaohsiung’s development as an industrial port. During the war period, the colonial government worked to develop Kaohsiung into an industrial city, thus establishing Kaohsiung as the island’s major southern economic center balancing that of Taipei in the north.
In coordination with the southward expansion policy, the OGG also promoted off-shore expansion including, at the end of 1936, establishment of a semi-official Taiwan Development Corporation (TDC) responsible for development of colonial business both on the island, and in southern China and Southeast Asia. The TDC provided development funding to implement economic colonization in conjunction with military occupation. Under the TDC, the colonial government’s agricultural experience was transplanted to southern China and Southeast Asia, which might be considered the first export of Taiwan experience. Financial institutions also fanned out overseas with the Bank of Taiwan setting up branches all over East Asia. It also established the Hua-Nan Bank to cater to the needs of southward expansion and to grasp economic opportunities in Southeast Asia.
Despite these developments to become a fledgling industrial society in the 1930s and afterwards, US air raids on Taiwan, which started in 1944, destroyed a large number of industrial production facilities, setting back post-war industrial development.
Colonial Unequal and Modern Education
Although the Taiwanese were discriminated against in educational opportunities under Japanese rule, some progress was made, and this had profound influence on Taiwan’s subsequent social development, and was an important aspect of the island’s modernization. The education system of that time consisted of primary secondary, vocational and normal schools, as well as limited higher education. For local Taiwanese, education was generally limited to primary, vocational , and normal education, with secondary and higher education mainly catering for Japanese students.
As part of its efforts to rule Taiwan, the OGG began to promote Japanese-language education immediately after the Japanese occupied Taiwan in 1895. Primary school education developed rapidly, with the number of primary schools increasing tenfold from 103 in 1899 to 1,099 in 1944, and enrollment rising 90-fold from 10,295 to 932,525 students. By 1943, primary school enrollment rates had reached 71.3 percent for Taiwanese children overall, including 86.4 percent for children in aboriginal communities, and as high as 99.6 percent for Japanese children in Taiwan, making Taiwan’s enrollment rate second only to Japan out of all Asian nations.
To promote this expansion of education, a large number of teachers was required, and so teachers’ education was developed rapidly, including establishment of the Taipei Normal School 台北師範學校 and Tainan Normal School台南師範學校. Teachers were given grants, and enjoyed high social status and stable employment. As a consequence, many Taiwanese opted to study in Normal Schools and competition was keen. Many graduates from these schools became key figures in Taiwan’s social movements.
To increase the people’s productivity, emphasis was also placed on vocational education, with the establishment of schools of agriculture, industry, commerce, and maritime studies, as well as continuing education schools of vocational and technical training. These included the Taipei School of Industry 台北州立台北工業學校 and Tainan School of Industry 台南州立台南工業學校; Taipei Commercial School 台北商業學校, Taichung Business School 台中商業學校, and Kaohsiung Commercial School 高雄商業學校; Keelung Fishery School 基隆水產學校; and Chiayi Agriculture and Forestry School 嘉義農林, Pingtung Agricultural School 屏東農業, and Taichung Agricultural School 台中農業學校. Continuing education schools were established as affiliates of primary or vocational schools in order to teach vocational and technical skills.
The policy of the OGG encouraged Taiwanese students to attend vocational schools to improve production skills, rather than at secondary schools or higher education establishments, thereby maintaining Japanese people’s educational advantages. Local people’s professional skills and standards were upgraded, however, which not only was conducive to economic growth at that time but also provided high-quality human resources for economic development in the early post-war period.
Taiwan’s secondary and tertiary educational systems developed rather slowly but made some progress. Major secondary education institutions included the prefecture-run Taipei Middle School 州立台北中學校and Tainan Middle School 州立台南中學校, where a majority of students were Japanese. After petitioning, a Taichung Middle School台中中學校 was established specifically for Taiwanese. Schools for women included the Taipei Girls’ High School 台北高等女學校 and Tainan Girls’ High School 台南高等女學校. Establishment of private high schools was also approved. Generally speaking, however, enrollment by Taiwanese students in secondary education was low, and most educational resources were devoted to Japanese. Similarly, the only higher educational institute, Taihoku Imperial University 台北帝國大學 established in 1928, was almost exclusively for Japanese students and accepted very few Taiwanese.
By 1944, therefore, there were one university, five colleges, five normal schools, 46 secondary schools, 117 vocational schools, and two schools for the aurally and orally impaired. This allocation of educational resources clearly indicates a disproportionate emphasis by the Japanese on providing widespread access to primary and vocational education while paying relatively little attention to secondary or higher education. Furthermore, many of these schools were for Japanese students living in Taiwan, and were not easily accessible to local Taiwanese. Japan sought to educate its colonial subjects for the purpose of improving productivity and not for cultivating a highly educated populace. This discrimination existed from the outset. In the 1920s, therefore, those Taiwanese wishing to pursue a higher education did so overseas, mainly in Japan, China, and even the United States and Europe. Almost all of Taiwan’s intellectuals at that time were educated abroad, and many became pioneers of political and cultural movements.
Although Taiwan’s colonial education system did not offer equality to Taiwanese, it had its merits. School enrollment was far higher than it had ever been under Ching rule, and schools followed a modern curriculum. Taiwanese people were able to learn about western cultures and technology, and were introduced to numerous new ideas, which contributed positively to the modernization of Taiwan’s society. Widespread primary and vocational education improved production skills and economic modernization, and acted as a catalyst for Taiwan’s post-war economic miracle. As knowledge of the rule of law was learnt through school and social education, and with a judicial system offering a reasonable degree of fairness and justice, Taiwan avoided the disorder that characterized the later years of the Ching dynasty in China. People were generally law-abiding, and there was a high level of social order.
In short, education under the Japanese rule, in spite of its discrimination, upgraded the cultural level of average Taiwanese, which had a profound influence on its historical development in the post-war years.
Discriminatory Policies and Uprisings Against Colonial Rule
As has been noted above, Japanese colonial rule helped to modernize Taiwan and contributed greatly to the island’s development. Nevertheless, colonial rule is contrary to human nature and, moreover, was felt to be unreasonable by Taiwan’s people. As a consequence, anti-Japanese activities were incessant and varied.
Although direct armed revolt against Japanese rule was not witnessed after the Yu Cing-fang (余清芳) incident at Silai Temple (西來庵) in 1915, this does not mean that anti-colonial sentiment had diminished. In addition to the ethnic identification of Taiwan’s Han people, intense dissatisfaction was stirred by the heavy-handed, discriminatory policies of the colonial government. The triggering of a series of organized, large-scale, unarmed, modern-style anti-Japanese movements was directly related to the international environment in the aftermath of the First World War. By that time, ideas of democracy and freedom had become mainstream, and United States President Woodrow Wilson’s advocacy of self-determination was widely welcomed by colonial subjects. Success of the 1917 communist revolution in Russia further stimulated the tides of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. Influenced by such trends, Japan entered the Taisho democracy period of constitutional government in the 1920s, which included adoption of more lenient and enlightened policies towards its colonies. The new generation of intellectuals kindled the flames of anti-colonialism, which led gradually to a modern resistance movement against the Japanese. Instigated by Taiwanese students studying in Japan, it spread throughout Taiwan, reaching a peak between 1920 and 1930. With the exception of the Wushe 霧社 Incident of 1930 in which aborigines revolted, most anti-Japanese activities were non-violent. Instead, they focused on political, cultural, and social movements. These shared the common goals of shedding colonial rule and attaining Taiwanese autonomy.
The Taiwanese students in Japan were the earliest and most deeply influenced by these new trends, and so became the vanguard and enlighteners in the anti-Japanese movements. Cai Huei-ru蔡惠如 and others studying in Japan in the 1920s and afterwards, joined with Lin Sian-tang林獻堂 to establish the New People Association 新民會, initiating the political reform movement. Their two publications, Taiwanese Youth 臺灣青年and the Taiwan People’s Newspaper台灣民報, inspired new thinking. In December 1920, Lin, Cai, and Lin Cheng-lu 林呈祿 sought Taiwan self-governance and autonomy by attempting to request the Japanese Imperial Assembly, through the right of petition provided for by the constitution, for the establishment of a Taiwan Assembly. They launched a petition movement of 15times to achieve this end without success between 1921 and 1934. Nevertheless, these activities awakened the political and national consciousness of the Taiwanese.
In addition to such political movements, intellectuals also launched social and cultural movements to raise the level of knowledge and thought. The Taiwanese Cultural Association 臺灣文化協會, founded in 1921, was the most important organization established for cultural enlightenment. It later developed into the base camp for a multifaceted nationalistic movement and gave birth to numerous other social activist organizations. Its branch organizations appeared in important cities and towns throughout Taiwan, and the principal activities included cultural lectures that toured the island, newspaper reading centers, academic and popular seminars, and summer schools. The association provided a new stage on which Taiwan’s upper classes and intellectuals could ignite the future hopes of Taiwan’s people.
From 1927 onwards, the colonial policies of intimidation and division, combined with divisions caused by disputes between moderate and radical intellectuals, consumed much of the Taiwanese Cultural Association’s energy and caused a split. The first political party in Taiwan’s history, the Taiwanese People’s Party 臺灣民眾黨, was formed in 1927 under the leadership of Jiang Wei-shuei 蔣渭水. Its main functions were organizing political resistance activities, correcting poor social practices, and coordinating labor activities with fringe organizations such as the Taiwan Laborers’ General Union. Achievements were limited, however, due to obstruction by the Japanese, and the party was disbanded in 1931. The Erlin Incident 二林事件 of 1925, which pitted sugarcane farmers against sugar refineries, led to the establishment of a farmers’ organization. This moved a step further the following year to organize an island-wide Taiwanese Peasant Association, which, with its Marxist approach, combined with laborers to carry out resistance. More radical Taiwanese even formed the Taiwan Communist Party in Shanghai in 1928, loudly proclaiming their slogans of Taiwanese nationalism, Taiwanese independence, and the creation of a Republic of Taiwan. They later joined in the activities of the Taiwanese Cultural Association and the farmers’ organizations, and played leading roles in the anti-imperialist struggle.
From 1930 onwards, with its rising militarism, Japan increasingly took the road towards invasion, occupying northeastern China in 1931, launching the war on China in 1937, and starting the Pacific War in 1941. To coordinate with national policy, the OGG went all out to clamp down on the people’s rights, restricting political and social activities which, with the above-mentioned splits and mutual distrust within the groups protesting against Japan, led to a gradual weakening of the anti-Japanese movement. The only significant achievement was the limited election local assemblies, with half the members of prefecture, city, town, and village assemblies being popularly elected and half appointed by the government. In this way, Taiwan’s people got their first taste of democracy.