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Taiwan’s Transportation System under the Japanese Rule Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020


The post Second World War period has seen spurred economic growth of some nations that were previously colonized and undeveloped but have risen to have a global influence. Taiwan is one such country which, despite its historical colonization under different rulers, has experienced spurred growth after the Second World War to be described as a high income economy due to its advanced. The economic growth and development of Taiwan is largely linked to its change from an agricultural economy to an industrialized nation with focus on new technologies for the improvement of production and sectors in the economy (Gill, 2007).

This shift has been associated with the help it received from the United States government as well as the influence of the Japanese rule in the nation. This paper focuses on the evaluation and analysis of the Japanese rule in Taiwan and specifically on their impact on the transportation system. The discussion focuses on how the modern day economic development and modernization of Taiwan into an advanced economy is linked to the transportation system developed under the Japanese rule.

Description of Taiwan

Taiwan is an island which is located in the South eastern coast of China as the mainland in the East Asia of the West Pacific ocean. The name of the island is normally used in reference to the entire territory of the republic of China. This is because of the fact that the treaty entered into during the 1950s, allowed China to control the island (Ka, 1995).

Taiwan as an island has a topography of mainly mountains. The borders of the island to the south are the Philippines’s batanes islands, to the east the Ryukyu Islands and to the north the East China Sea and the islands of Japan. It also has other minor islands and is mainly covered by tropical vegetation. Politically and legally, Taiwan Island faces the controversies over its control. These are usually between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China following the fact that no actual authority was given over the island when the Japanese ended their rule after the Second World War.

It is still believed that it assumed sovereignty following the renouncement of the Japanese possession of Taiwan. The island has experienced rapid growth and advancement especially after the Second World War to become an influential economy not only in the Asian region but also globally. Taiwan has a great transportation system with the integration of its regions and increased technology to increase the speed and reliability of its transport system which has spurred production (Ching, 2001).

Historical Analysis of Taiwan

Taiwan is believed to have been settled first by the Austronesian people and existed as a kingdom monarchy (Morris, 2002). In the 17th century, the Dutch colonized and controlled Taiwan and defeated the Spanish who had tried to colonize Taiwan in 1642. The Dutch controlled Taiwan to the year 1662 and they were defeated by the Ming dynasty with the establishment of the Kingdom of Tungning. This Ming dynasty was defeated by the Qing dynasty which ruled from 1683 (Takekoshi, 1970).

However, this was also defeated and surrendered the island to the Japanese who controlled it from 1895. The Japanese rule in Taiwan was a strategic advantage for Japan which had industries back in its homeland and thus could obtain agricultural inputs for its industries from Taiwan. Due to the strategic location of the Island, the Japanese assumed full control of the island since it even had earlier attempts of claiming the sovereignty over the island in 1592 (Naito, 1983).

In 1895, it received sovereignty through the treaty of Shimonoseki. The period of rulership of the Japanese over Taiwan was characterized by oppression in order to suppress the rebellion and resistance of the Taiwanese. This was followed by a period of equal treatment of all people after the end of the First World War and the eventual desire to turn over the island as part of the Japanese nation during the initial Second World War initial period.

The initial years of the rulership of the Japanese on Taiwan Island were faced with armed resistance to which there were questions over the ability of Japan to govern a colony. The main view taken during the colonization of Taiwan was that the Taiwanese people were not eligible to be completely assimilated to the Japanese nation while the governance was to take a different approach from the one used on the homeland colonies to make it a model colony (Liao & Wang, 2006). During these earlier years, the colonial government imposed its own systems and the people had to either accept the rulership of the Japanese or would be shifted to the mainland.

This lasted till 1915. The period after the First World War was characterized by equal treatment of all people. This was marked by improvements in the infrastructure for effective governance of the colony and this period had massive economic improvements. The last period was spurred by war and as such the Japanese rulership sought to increase the use of the resources of Taiwan in the war through the assimilation of the Taiwanese to the Japanese culture (Rubinstein, 1999).

Taiwan’s Transportation System under the Japanese Rule

Historical analysis of the transportation system

The Japanese made significant impact on the nation from the year 1895 to the end of their rule in 1945. They were innovative technocrats who were willing to make maximum use of the resources of Taiwan to benefit their nation and also had intentions of turning Taiwan into a model colony while increasing the influence of the Japanese rulership to the southern regions of Asia (Manthorpe, 2008). There was focus on developments of infrastructure and other major sectors of the economy of Taiwan in order to satisfy Japan.

This thus influenced the agricultural growth of the industries especially the sugar and rice which were transported to Japan. The Japanese emphasized on improving the transportation system through the Governor General to provide linkage of the regions due to the topography of the region and to allow the easier flow of products with effective transit from one region to another. The main sector of transportation that received emphasis was the railway transport. It was able to connect the regions of the south, north and all through the island making the delivery of products easier and in order to support the growing population.

Railway transport was under the railway ministry and was initiated in 1899 to which massive expansion was done to cover the entire region. This network was reliable based on the technology that was applied in the main country Japan. The main lines constructed to this regard were “the western line, the Toko line, Tansui line which is the modern day Danshui line based in the transit system in Taipei, Heito line, Giran line, industrial lines and the Taiwan sugar railways” (Rubinstein, 2006, p. 67).

The railway stations for the lines were established in major towns. In the course of the development of its urban centres, the Japanese rulers in Taiwan also focused on the improvement of the road network especially for the major towns. These towns and urban areas formed the foundation of the bus services and were centred on the local railway stations.

Further, the Japanese developed road networks which have still remained relevant to modern day Taiwan. The Japanese also played an influential role in the development and modernization of the ports and harbours to facilitate the transportation of agricultural products and people to the main land of Japan. These ports included Takao which is the modern Kaohsiung and Kirun which is the modern Keelung (Gold, 1986).

Factors that facilitated the development

The development of infrastructure in Taiwan was influenced by a combination of factors. Taiwan being an island required the development of the sea transport to connect it to Japan for the easier transportation of the agricultural products to be used in the industries in Japan (Manthorpe, 2008). Further, the Japanese had the intention of making Taiwan a model colony hence the motivation to develop the colony. The topography of the island made movement especially of goods quite difficult. Hence, the rail transport was handy for the easy movement of products from the farms. The infrastructure was also necessary to cater for the increasing population of people in Taiwan.

Impact on economic growth for modern day Taiwan

The Japanese rule created a stable transport network especially of the railway which was based on high technology from the technocrats of the Japanese rule. Taiwan faced high development from the period after the Second World War (Ching, 2001). This advancement has been associated highly with globalization and high technology with the focus on industrialization (Ching, 2001).

The economic development can be attributed to the development of the transport network during the Japanese rule. It is worth noting that Taiwan being a mountainous island required huge investments for the development of its transport system. Since the Japanese rule focused on development of such networks, the island did not have to spend much of its investment on the development of the transport system. This is evident from the fact that most of the networks used during the Japanese rule are still in use in modern day Taiwan.

This has saved it from investment which channelled to other sectors such as industrialization has provided opportunities for the growth and development of the island (Rubinstein, 2006). The economic development of a nation focuses on the reduction of the costs of production while maximizing on the returns from production. The increase in industrialization in Taiwan was made possible by the conducive network of transport to allow the linking of towns and regions for the faster transportation of raw materials and the high speed for delivery of products (Hsiau, 2000). The industries and agricultural sectors have thus experienced growth from this development of transport networks during the Japanese rule with the exports playing a major role in the growth of the island.

The economic development of Taiwan has also been possible due to the ability to reduce the wastage and spoilage especially of the perishable products. This has thus allowed the easier movement of products both from the industries and agricultural sector at a speedy rate thus boosting the exports. The economic growth of Taiwan has also been evident from the growth of the tourism sector. This sector receives much support from the already created links of transport between regions to allow the movement of tourists as well as the features developed during the Japanese rule such as the harbours acting as centres of historical and tourist attraction sites.

The economic growth of Taiwan can also be associated with the development of the transport network during the Japanese rule since this created the opportunities for the development of other major industries (Chan, 1997). For example, it boosted trade and as such led to the creation of other services such as banking and insurance in the towns, increased migration of people to Taiwan thus boosting income and investment, ship building industries and other manufacturing learnt during the colonial period. These financial institutions have been very crucial in the modern growth of Taiwan Island (Liang, 2004).

Impact on modernization process in Taiwan

Taiwan has grown to experience modernization of its sectors. The growth of the island is associated with technology growth and is linked to its ability to integrate with the Japanese and embrace technology from them. This has been made possible through the already existing lines of transport. The transport network put in place during the Japanese rule did not just focus on the urban areas but also in the rural areas in order to ensure easier transportation of the products from the farms such as sugar and rice. As such, the inland transport system has allowed for the modernization of the rural and urban areas (Rubinstein, 2007).

The Japanese relied on high technology levels of the times in the development of the transport system in Taiwan. In the recent years, Taiwan has had the desires of improving such systems of transport to cater for the high population. The fact that the transport systems used were of high quality has allowed it to embrace modern technology in the advancement of its systems. For instance, since the railway lines were already developed during the Japanese rule, Taiwan has just had to improve them with modern technology that allows for faster speed and higher capacity (Gill, 2007). This is also the case for the harbours and ports which have remained relevant in recent years.

The Japanese created water transport means to link Taiwan which is an island to the other countries. This has enabled the country to be able to have visitors from all over the world. The high migration to Taiwan has increased the exchange of ideas thus causing it to embrace modern developments. The modernization of Taiwan can largely be associated with the focus on technology which has been linked to education and the learning of new skills which stems from the experiences with the Japanese. This is evident from the transport system in place and from the interactions with Japan and also because the majority of the Taiwanese were able to be engaged in the industries and the technological developments that the Japanese focused on during the war. As such, the knowledge has been transmitted for the modernization of the sectors of Taiwan.


Taiwan has experienced economic growth and modernization at an advanced rate during the post-war period to capture the attention of the world and international bodies. This development and growth can be associated with the boost it received from the U.S. and the influence of the Japanese rule in mainly the development of the transport system. This paper has focused on the impact the transportation system developed during the Japanese rule has applied in the development, growth and modernization of Taiwan today.

Reference List

Chan, S., 1997. Taiwan as an Emerging Foreign Aid Donor: Developments, Problems, and Prospects. Pacific Affairs, 70 (1), 37–56.

Ching, T., 2001. Becoming “Japanese” Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gill, B., 2007. Rising Star: China’s New Security Diplomacy. London: Brookings Institution Press.

Gold, T., 1986. State and society in the Taiwan miracle. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe.

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Ka, C., 1995. Japanese Colonialism in Taiwan: Land Tenure, Development and Dependency, 1895-1945. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Liang, P., 2004. The Role of the Financial Sector in Industrial Upgrading in Taiwan. Journal of Asian Economics, 9 (1), 95-102.

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Manthorpe, J., 2008. Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan. Beijing: Palgrave Macmillan.

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Rubinstein, M., 2006. Taiwan: A New History. M.E. Sharpe Inc.

Rubinstein, M., 2007. Taiwan: A New History. New York: M.E. Sharpe Inc.

Takekoshi, Y., 1970. Japanese Rule in Formosa. London: Longmans and Green Company.

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