(audio recording: “Reframing Taiwan’s History”)
“Reframing Taiwan’s History: Implications for the Present” was a talk given by distinguished East Asia scholar Bruce Jacobs at the Global Taiwan Institute on April 19, 2017. Longtime Taiwan expert and former Dutch diplomat Gerrit van der Wees served as discussant. and a lively conversation followed. Please see slides below.
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.