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Edited by Anis Chowdhury and Iyanatul Islam
Chapter 3: Taiwan
Wan-wen Chu A short political history Pre-Japanese colonial era Taiwan was inhabited mainly by aborigines when the Western merchants began to explore this area in the seventeenth century. The Dutch occupied it from 1624–62, for conducting entrepot trade, and were driven out by the Ming loyalist Cheng Ch’eng-kung. Cheng’s rule ended in 1683 when his grandson surrendered to the Manchu (Ch’ing) ruler. Though the Ch’ing tried to discourage migration to Taiwan, many Chinese, mainly from Fukien province, migrated to Taiwan and reproduced the traditional mode of agricultural production. By the early nineteeth century, the Chinese population on the island exceeded two million. However, the land-to-population ratio was higher than that of the mainland, and output per capita was hence greater. The economy was quite commercialized from the early days, exporting sugar and rice to the mainland in exchange for textiles, ceramics and sundries. Before the Opium War, the trade was in Chinese hands. Afterward, several treaty ports were opened up in Taiwan, and foreign merchants came in and took over most of the trade. Trade volume increased, especially tea exports to the West. Agricultural commercialization led to the decline of the absentee landlordism and the strengthening of the tenant–landlord system. Thus the land tenure system came close to the semi-modern sharecropping system. In the late nineteeth century, not long before Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, the Ch’ing dynasty, in response to the pressing external threat, belatedly began to take a more active role in developing the...
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