Introduction: Blazing the Trail to the Taiwanese Culture
Asia is a peculiar and mysterious place. Existing in its own world, it practically is a thing in itself. Each of its states is unique, yet there is something in common about all of them.
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However, by far the least explored one is Taiwan, with all its exotics and original way of living. Although Taiwan has been proclaimed an independent state, after years of occupation and dominance of other states, it faces considerable difficulties in finding its own economical and political trail.
Themes Summary: The Key Landmarks in Taiwanese Development
Considering the events that took place in Taiwan before the seventeenth century from a single perspective is impossible; concerning the economical, political and social changes within the state, and depending on a number of factors, both internal and external, the changes within the state should be viewed as a range of themes.
Into the primitive: the Taiwan of the Neolithic Age
Before going any further and discovering the ways of life of the pre-XVII-century Taiwanese people, it is essential to consider the time when the Taiwanese culture only started shaping.
It would be wrong to suppose that the Taiwanese culture started together with the establishment of the Taiwanese state; going back to the Neolithic Age, the Taiwanese history is just as rich and ancient as the history of any other state (Rubinstein).
Concerning the administrative geography: splitting the land
As the history of Taiwan unfolded, it became clear that its location, or, to be more exact, the fact that its landscape combined the mountains and plains, as well as the isolation from the rest of the world, predetermined the specifics of its administrative geography. As the records show, the lands of Taiwan used to make a whole before the era of the Chinese invasion (Rubinstein).
Getting Acquainted with the XVII-Century Taiwanese Aboriginal Population
Being a reclusive state, Taiwan did not have much diversity. However, there were two major types of citizen.
Mountain dwellers vs. plains people
Weirdly enough, the village dwellers, who actually brought the highest returns to the state treasury, were not appreciated enough by the government (Rubinstein). According to the existing records, even the pictures created on the given time slot show the distinction between the respected highlanders and the less dignified plain dwellers, among whom, the Chinese invaders will appear later on:
“Chinese dwellings are set directly on the ground, while those of the indigenous people are raised on pilings” (Rubinstein 21). The given relationships between the plains people and the head of the state must have led to the idea that expanding the economics of the country beyond the borders of agriculture would be a good idea.
Qing and Ming Dynasties and the Related Policies: The Wall of Sand
Lasting for three centuries, the Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) shaped the further politics of non-interaction with the rest of the world greatly. Actually, the laws issued by the Ming dynasty restricted the Taiwanese trading relationships to the minimum, which further on resulted in the state’s inability to build trading relationships with other countries (Rubinstein 69).
Though one might have thought that the change of the state emperor would lead the country towards more open relationships with the rest of the world and change, the course of the strict foreign policy that the Ming dynasty set, the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912) did not actually revolutionize the international relationships.
Quite on the contrary, the Qing policy of returning to the roots of the Taiwanese culture seemed to have taken the state several centuries back in development.
Taiwan Occupation Period
As one might have expected, as the gateway to Taiwan opened, the foreign intruders started taking over the state.
When the policy of non-violence fails
It is rather remarkable that the Taiwanese policy was not aimed at destroying the intruders immediately; on the contrary, the Qing and Ming dynasties preferred to use policy of non-violence to address the given problem. Therefore, the intruders did succeed in conquering the state.
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The results of occupation
Though it might be considered that occupation could have resulted in devastation and ruining of Taiwan, it actually had an interesting effect on the state economy. Considered a reclusive among the rest of the Asian states in the past, Taiwan became open not only to Asia, but also to Europe, which meant more economical interactions and, therefore, more income for the state treasury.
Under the Military Leadership of Zheng Zhilong: Taiwan Raises the Head
It must be admitted that the Chinese occupation of the state also had several positive effects. One of these effects was the expansion of the Taiwanese trade. The state finally experienced international trading relationships.
Promoting trade and business in Taiwan
Even though the Taiwanese people avoided contacting with the rest of the world up to the point at which the foreign invasion into the country started, there are records of the Taiwanese people building trading relationships with the Japanese. As Rubinstein explains, though, the evidence on these interactions is ridiculously scanty.
Pirating their way to victory: a controversial triumph
Of all the roots of the Taiwanese economical and political issues, the lack of experience in interacting with the rest of the world must have been the greatest. The above-mentioned fact did not escape the attention of the states that wanted to get a quick cash-in on the new member of the trading system. As a result, a number of Japanese engaged into pirating, aiming at the Taiwanese ships.
Iquan’s Party: where fantasy borders reality
One of the Japanese invaders who actually had the greatest impact on the Taiwanese history and economy, Zheng Zhilong controlled the Taiwanese trade. Even nowadays, when Taiwan is relatively free to make economical and political decisions, it still lacks experience because of the intense control that Japan used to have over Taiwan.
Discussion: The Introvert Policy vs. the New Links with Other States
Rethinking the Taiwanese history, one must give credit to the power that the state had despite the lack of relationships with the rest of the countries. Taiwan used to be a powerful thing in itself, while the XVII-century invasions and the dominance of China that came afterwards made the state ready for the future interactions with the rest of the world.
On the one hand, the invasions did make Taiwan weaker from a political point of view. As Edmonds, explains, the foreign invasion turned Taiwan from a strong state practically into a province: “In 1886, Taiwan island with its 85 neighbouring islets was separated by the Qing government from Fujian and became a province.
This decision was catalysed by the French sealing off Taiwan in 1884 during the Sino-French War” (Edmonds 2). It was clear that the foreign states did not restrict their actions to mere economical dominance; the political affairs of Taiwanese government were also under a tough control.
On the other hand, economically, the state developed greatly, entering the trading domain of the European countries. Therefore, the epoch before the seventeenth century was the pivoting point in the history of Taiwan.
One must admit that the effects of the foreign invasion still echo in the Taiwanese economical state, triggering negative effects even for the XXI-century state, mostly due to the conflicts within the state administration, which de-jure is controlled by China and de-facto creates the premises for considering the state as the Republic of Taiwan (Edmonds 5).
Even though the conflict has been brewing for quite long and that nowadays, Taiwan remains practically independent from China, with its own regulations and state policy, it must be still kept in mind that divorcing the Chinese government is highly likely to trigger drastic consequences.
Taiwan has to be ready to face protests from the Chinese government, which is likely to be unwilling to lose its control over Taiwan. While the XVII-century tendencies to separate from the dominance of Chinese government are still strong in Taiwan and define its political course to a considerable extent, it is still necessary to bear in mind that the Taiwanese foreign policy has been defined by the Chinese state.
Hence, when left with no assistance for making foreign policy decisions, the Taiwanese government might make mistakes. Then again, making mistakes is crucial in the process of gaining experience in political affairs.
Conclusion: The Premises for the Future Development and the Further Challenges
Even though the Taiwanese government used the policy of no interaction between the rest of the states and used its political ties to China only for the trading purposes, by the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was clear that the state needed drastic changes.
Nowadays, the policy of the Taiwanese government is restricted to the boundaries that the state has set for itself in the XVII century by developing specific relationships with the foreign invaders.
Edmonds, Richard Louis. “Aspects of the Taiwanese Landscape in the 20th Century.” The China Quarterly 165 (2001): 1–18. Print.
Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: A New History. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007. Print.