Apr. 19: Reframing Taiwan’s History

Apr. 19: Reframing Taiwan’s History

Event Description

Please join the Global Taiwan Institute for a talk by distinguished East Asia scholar Bruce Jacobs on “Reframing Taiwan’s History: Implications for the Present.” Longtime Taiwan expert and former Dutch diplomat Gerrit van der Wees will serve as discussant.

Doors will open at 1:45 and the event will begin at 2:00. Kindly RSVP by April 17. Please direct questions or concerns to abell@globaltaiwan.org.

**Media: Please contact Anna Scott Bell at abell@globaltaiwan.org if you would like to bring additional crew members or equipment, so that we can be sure to accommodate you.

Event Overview

Both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong insisted that Taiwan had been part of “China” since time immemorial. Yet, historical research demonstrates that no permanent Han Chinese communities existed in Taiwan until after 1624, when the Dutch arrived on Formosa and brought Han Chinese to the island as labor. While public understanding of Taiwan’s history is typically limited to the post-1945 period, the island’s history may, in fact, be framed into three larger and longer periods. The first period dates from about 6,000 years ago to the arrival of the Dutch in 1624. During this period, aboriginal groups lived in Taiwan and conducted considerable trade with Southeast Asia. The second period comprises six colonial regimes with rule by outsiders in the interests of the outsiders: the Dutch (1624-1662), the Spanish in north Taiwan at the same time as the early Dutch period (1626-1642), the Zheng family (1662-1683), the Manchus (1683-1895), the Japanese (1895-1945) and the Chinese Nationalist regime under Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo (1945-1988). The third period is democratization, following the death of Chiang Ching-kuo in January 1988. In light of the island’s neglected history, there is a need to reconsider and reframe Taiwan. A historical analysis may enable us to better explain current political phenomena in Taiwan, such as a rapidly increasing sense of Taiwan identity.


J. Bruce Jacobs is Emeritus Professor of Asian Languages and Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, where he began teaching in 1991. His research has focused on Taiwan, China, comparisons between Taiwan and Korea as well as such issues as Australian relations with Asia and human rights. In the early 1990s, Professor Jacobs served as a member of the Australia-China Council. His recent books on Taiwan include: Local Politics in Rural Taiwan under Dictatorship and Democracy (Norwalk, CT: EastBridge, 2008), Democratizing Taiwan (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012), and The Kaohsiung Incident in Taiwan and Memoirs of a Foreign Big Beard (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016). He has also edited the four-volume Critical Readings on China-Taiwan Relations (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2014). Professor Jacobs has also co-edited and contributed to Changing Taiwanese Identities (London and New York: Routledge, 2017, in press.) His current project is A History of Taiwan.


Gerrit van der Wees is a long-time observer of developments in Taiwan. In 1980—while doing graduate work at the University of Washington in Seattle—he and his Taiwan-born wife started the Taiwan Communiqué, a publication chronicling Taiwan’s transition to democracy. From 1982 through 2005 he served in various positions in the Dutch government (including a 7-year stint as diplomat in Washington DC), while doing the Taiwan publication on evenings and weekends. In 2005, he retired from the Dutch government, and became full-time liaison for the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) for relations with the US Senate and State Department. In 2016, he retired from that position. Since 2011 he has taught History of Taiwan at George Mason University.

Gerrit received a degree in aerospace engineering from Delft University in the Netherlands, and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Eventbrite - Reframing Taiwan's History: Implications for the Present