Category Archives: Taiwan

Repatriating Okinawan People and Culture, 1946

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~3760:

In addition to supporting the remaining Okinawans and handling the day-to-day management of the refugee camps, APO [Association for People from Okinawa (Okinawa Dōkyōkai Rengō-kai)] leaders prepared for returning to and rebuilding the ravaged Ryukyu Islands. For instance, knowing that the public library had burned down and that Okinawa had lost most of its books and documents during the war, Kabira Chōshin and other APO members initiated a campaign to collect books to donate to the new government of Okinawa. Taihoku Imperial University held numerous books related to the history and traditions of the Ryukyu Islands, some of which were historical and extremely valuable. Kabira, who had audited classes at the university, was desperate to bring them back to Okinawa and establish the new public library. However, the university, which had already been ceded to the KMT government, did not allow him to do so.

Nevertheless, he did not give up on the most precious historical book held by the university, Previous Documents of Successive Generations (Rekidai hōan), an official compilation of diplomatic documents of the Ryukyu Kingdom Government. Even though this book is one of the most historically important records of the Ryukyu Kingdom, an original copy had been transferred to Tokyo when Okinawa Prefecture was established and was subsequently destroyed in the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923. Another copy kept in Okinawa had been destroyed by fire when the public library burned down during the war. The copy held by Taihoku Imperial University was based on the original copy that had been in the Okinawa Prefectural Library. Kabira asked a fellow Okinawan to transcribe it while he was waiting for a repatriation vessel and managed to bring it back to Okinawa. Furthermore, Kabira requested that Japanese professors donate their privately owned books upon their repatriation. Because each Japanese repatriate was not allowed to bring more than two bags on boarding the LSTs (landing ships, tank), many professors reacted positively to Kabira’s request and gave away numerous books on Okinawa-related subjects. In that way, Kabira and other APO members collected thousands of books. Kabira received special permission from the KMT government to bring these tens of thousands of books to Okinawa when he repatriated in December 1946. These books composed a major part of the Okinawa Central Library, which was reestablished in 1947. Although Kabira’s cultural activity … did not gain popular support from his fellow Okinawans, he made a great contribution to the reconstruction of Okinawa’s cultural life by transferring colonial Taiwan’s cultural assets to his home islands.

In June 1946, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers finally revealed a plan to repatriate some 150,000 Okinawans to the Ryukyu Islands from Japan, Taiwan, China, and the Mariana Islands. Accordingly, the US military government set up two camps for this great multitude of repatriates: Camp Kuba-saki and Camp Costello, commonly known as Camp Yin’numi. On August 17, Camp Kuba-saki officially received a total of 556 repatriates from Kumamoto, Kagoshima, and Miyazaki Prefectures on Kyushu. From that time onward, ships began to travel more frequently from Mainland Japan to Okinawa and Amami-Ōshima in the northern archipelago of the Ryukyus. Between August and December 1946, a total of 139,536 repatriates from Mainland Japan arrived in Okinawa, Amami-Ōshima, and the Miyako Islands.

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Taiwan Okinawans as Creole Japanese

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~3336:

Okinawan migrants in Taiwan came from diverse and mixed backgrounds; some were descendants of Chinese immigrants, and others were of Okinawan and Japanese ancestry. Furthermore, increasing numbers of second- and third-generation Okinawans grew up in the Japanese settler community in Taiwan as more and more Okinawan immigrants settled in the colony. They were creole Japanese who did not really possess a strong Okinawan ethnic identity. Some of these second- and third-generation immigrants had never visited their parents’ home islands, while others moved frequently between Taiwan and Okinawa. Nevertheless, they were collectively identified as “Okinawans” and had to endure negative racial stereotyping and prejudice in Taiwan. To survive discrimination, many Okinawan migrants sought to pass for Japanese by changing their names and transferring their registered addresses to other prefectures. The majority of Okinawan migrants considered assimilation mandatory for success in their imperial careers in Taiwan.

Yet there was also a conscious effort to recover Okinawan pride in Taipei. In the 1940s, the journal Nantō was published through the collaborative efforts of Japanese and Okinawan residents in both Okinawa and Taiwan. The Taihoku Broadcasting Station broadcast a roundtable in which prominent scholars and Okinawan migrants discussed Okinawan history and culture. Kabira Chōshin, a proud Okinawan and one of the editors of Nantō, conceived the idea for this radio program after his Okinawan classical music program met with disapprobation from fellow Okinawan migrants. The Okinawan cultural movement in Taipei, which was supported by some Japanese, did not find many adherents among Okinawan migrants, but it did provide the impetus for another movement that developed after World War II.

The link for Kabira goes to Japanese Wikipedia, whose name Google Translate automatically butchers into ‘Kabira morning monkey’. (His name has no entry in English Wikipedia.) The name 川平 ‘river plain/flat’ is read Kawahira in several Japanese placenames, but in Okinawa it is more commonly reduced to Kabira, where it is also the name of a bay on Ishigaki Island. Kabira’s given name 朝申 shares its first syllable Chō with his younger brother’s given name 朝清. It’s the same character found in the old name for unified Korea, 朝鮮, often translated ‘Morning Calm’. The second syllable 申 Shin does not literally mean ‘monkey’, but it marks one of the Earthly Branches in Chinese numerology that often coincides with the position of the monkey in the zodiac. So 申 can be read Saru ‘monkey’ in the female name 申代 Saruyo (far more commonly read Nobuyo or Shinyo) or in the literary term 申楽 Sarugaku to describe a style of ridiculous impersonation in Noh.

The Kabira brothers in Taiwan assembled a large set of Okinawan cultural artifacts that later helped replace some of the key cultural legacies destroyed in the horrendous Battle of Okinawa.

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Okinawan Médecins Avec Frontières

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~2765:

The imperial schooling of Okinawan youths in Taiwan reflects Okinawa’s liminal position in the Japanese colonial empire. Taiwan had benefited from heavy Japanese investment in colonial development, whereas Okinawa was left behind and marginalized within the Japanese Inner Territory. The Medical Training School was the first and most eminent medical school in Okinawa before World War II, but it was poorly equipped and had insufficient human resources. In contrast, the support the colonial government of Taiwan provided for medical education enabled Taiwan Medical College to quickly become the top educational institution for the Taiwanese. Nevertheless, Okinawan youths were able to take advantage of their “Japanese” status in obtaining imperial schooling. Taiwan Medical College opened its doors to Japanese students in 1919 and allowed Taiwanese students to enroll alongside them in 1922. Bringing the Taiwanese into tertiary institutions with Japanese students reinforced the fact that they were in direct competition with the Japanese and at a disadvantage because they were not native speakers of Japanese. Instead, Okinawan youths gained the most from the policy allowing Taiwanese students to attend medical school alongside their Japanese peers. Taiwan Medical College and the Specialized Division for Medicine paved the way for Okinawans to become medical doctors without incurring great debt. Indeed, Okinawa’s medical development cannot be understood without understanding the circulation of people and knowledge beyond the metropole-colonies divide. Modern medicine in Okinawa was, on the one hand, marginalized within the scientific network of the Japanese Empire; on the other, Okinawans’ liminality allowed them to gain the greatest benefit from the imperial school network.

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Upwardly Mobile Maids in Prewar Japan

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~1980:

Of the total number of Japanese domestics in Taiwan, 27 percent came from Okinawa Prefecture. The October 1924 edition of Yaeyama News also reported that the Yaeyama Islands were known as a “supplier of maids” to Japanese settler communities in Taiwan: “It seems that the number of Yaeyama girls migrating to Taiwan has increased rapidly of late. Each ship carries more than ten migrants to Taiwan; many of them live as apprentice maids (jochū bōkō [女中奉公]). As people associate maids (gejo [下女]) with Yaeyama girls, Yaeyama is now known as a supplier of maids.”

Domestic service has a long history in Japan. It remained one of the most popular occupations for Japanese women until the 1940s. Before the word jochū became common in the early twentieth century, a domestic was usually called gejo in Japanese, which literally means “under woman.” Until the nineteenth century, a young Japanese woman did not necessarily become a domestic in order to make money. Rather, she worked for an upper-class family as an apprentice servant so that she could learn proper manners and etiquette. By practicing good manners and having a solid grounding in traditional Japanese etiquette, a young Japanese woman from a less prosperous background could prepare herself for marriage. This folk educational custom continued to be practiced even after the state introduced universal education.

The nature of the female apprenticeship was transformed during the interwar period. Instead of becoming an apprentice servant, a young woman could go to technical school or advanced girls’ school (kōtō jogakkō [高等女学校]) and learn cooking and sewing before marriage. Domestic service was no longer the only way for a woman to earn a respectable living. She could take better-paying jobs in an office or factory. As women came to have more educational and professional options in the interwar period, domestic service lost its appeal both as an apprenticeship and as an occupation.

However, the demand for domestics increased in the early twentieth century. Until the nineteenth century, domestics were employed mostly by upper-class households. With the rapid economic development and growth of the interwar period, a new middle class emerged, and its members became the employers of domestics. Of the 10,589,403 working women in Japan in 1930, 697,116 were domestics. A majority of these domestic workers are supposed to have been maids (jochū). Domestics were also in great demand in colonial Taiwan, where government officials, freelance workers, and merchants composed a large majority of the Japanese migrant population. The Taiwan Daily News reported in 1923 that domestics were in high demand and that the Taihoku [Taipei] Employment Agency was listing their average wages at fifteen to twenty-five yen.

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How Okinawans Emigrated to Taiwan

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~1800:

Okinawans usually did not go to colonial Taiwan through an intermediary. Instead, they relied on their network of family or friends. It was not unusual for Okinawan youths without work experience to arrive in Taiwan not knowing what they were going to do. Moreover, the immigrants frequently changed workplaces. It would indeed be difficult to track each immigrant’s career in Taiwan because it was common to see an unskilled immigrant start out as a shop boy or factory laborer and eventually secure work as a government employee or a policeman after living in Taiwan for several years. Employers might deplore the tendency to change jobs frequently, but this shows the Okinawan immigrants’ agency and willingness to advance socially in the colony.

Enrolling in evening school was a common means of achieving social mobility for young Okinawan male migrants who could not afford a secondary education at home.

Nevertheless, for Okinawan migrants in Taiwan, becoming an apprentice was the most common method of acquiring a professional skill and advancing their careers. Japan’s decchi [丁稚] system, which developed in the shogunal period, was similar to the Western apprenticeship and played an important role in the Japanese commercial world until the nineteenth century. It originally assumed a feudalistic relationship between a master and an apprentice, rather than a contractual relationship. The apprentice owed his master long-term loyalty because his master treated him like a family member. This custom persisted well into the early twentieth century. Although it became less feudalistic in the twentieth century, and an apprentice was less likely to serve a master for a long time, the practice still maintained an element of folkloric education.

Through apprenticeships, Okinawan youth migrants who could not afford higher education at home acquired the knowledge and skills they needed to raise their social positions.

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Defining Japan’s Southern Periphery

From Liminality of the Japanese Empire: Border Crossings from Okinawa to Colonial Taiwan, by Hiroko Matsuda (U. Hawaii Press, 2018), Kindle loc. ~415:

Before proceeding, I should clarify the usages of the key terms in this volume, including “Ryukyu,” “Okinawa,” “Mainland Japan,” “Inner Territory,” and “Outer Territories.” The geographical name “Ryukyu” appears in Chinese historical documents such as the Book of Sui, which was written in the seventh century. In the fifteenth century, “Ryukyu” became the official name of the kingdom unifying the archipelagos of Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama, known today as the Ryukyu Islands or Southwest Islands. Under the Ryukyu Kingdom’s rule, the name “Okinawa” indicated the main island of Okinawa and surrounding small islands. In 1872, Japan’s Meiji government changed the kingdom’s status to that of a domain (han) by fiat; the government then declared the abolishment of the kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture in 1879. However, as Wendy Matsumura explains, the word “Okinawa” is not a neutral geographical title referring to a Japanese prefecture but a term that implies a cultural community distinct from the Japanese nation-state. This volume loosely defines “Okinawans” as people whose families and relatives originated in Okinawa Prefecture or the Ryukyu Islands. The term “Okinawans” therefore encompasses people of diverse backgrounds, including those born in Okinawa Prefecture and those born and raised in Taiwan whose parents were born in Okinawa Prefecture. In fact, people from the Yaeyama and Miyako Islands often distinguish themselves from “Okinawans” even though they are part of Okinawa Prefecture, identifying themselves as people of Yaeyama and Miyako rather than as Okinawans. Nonetheless, in this volume, the term “Okinawans” includes people with Yaeyama and Miyako backgrounds unless otherwise indicated.

Likewise, in this volume, the term “Mainland Japan” loosely indicates the islands of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. As the following chapters reveal, the word “Japanese” occasionally includes and excludes “Okinawan.” In other words, the social and cultural categories of “Japanese/the others” and “Okinawan/the others” have been persistent, although the categories are malleable and changeable. Mainland Japan is geographically ambiguous, but the notion of such a place suggests that Okinawans are “the others,” as Mainland Japan was considered dominant over the local islanders. In Okinawa Prefecture, Mainland Japan has customarily been called the “Inner Territory” (Naichi). However, to avoid confusion, this volume defines the Inner Territory as the territory under the rule of the Meiji Constitution (Constitution of the Great Japanese Empire). The notion complements the idea of the “Outer Territories” (Gaichi), which refers to the territories excluded from the Meiji Constitution.

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Early Japanese Interest in South Seas

From Nanshin: Japanese settlers in Papua and New Guinea, 1890–1949, by Hiromitsu Iwamoto (Journal of Pacific History, 1999), pp. 15-16:

Until the late 19th century the Japanese government had no policies for the South Seas. The government was preoccupied with domestic affairs, while Germany, the United States, Australia, France, Spain, Netherlands, and Britain were involved in the acquisition and exchange of tropical islands. The Japanese government’s primary concern was to centralise governance in order to build a strong empire which could not be colonised. External affairs were secondary concerns in which the government was mainly preoccupied with the removal of unequal treaties imposed by Western nations and the promotion of national prestige. Although Japan’s expansionism was shown in the 1870s in Saigō Takamori‘s claim to invade Korea, Ōkubo Toshimichi‘s decision to send a military expedition to Taiwan and the government’s declaration that the Ryūkyū Islands and Sakhalin were parts of Japan, the expansion was limited to the adjacent region. The government’s involvement in South Seas affairs was marginal and largely confined to matters of national prestige and the rights of citizens abroad.

Japan’s first involvement in the South Seas was an embarrassing episode involving emigrants to Guam. In 1868 about 40 Japanese emigrated as contract labourers to work on a plantation where a Spanish employer treated them harshly. The Japanese were treated no differently from locals and the employer did not pay their promised wages in full. Their complaint to a Spanish administrator was ignored. In 1871, after some had died due to harsh work conditions, three managed to return to Japan to report their plight. The government was astonished and the matter was discussed, but it is unknown whether it took any action to save these migrants or protested to the Spanish administration. In 1868, 153 contract labourers in Hawaii suffered a similar fate. These incidents embarrassed the Japanese government which was acutely sensitive about its national dignity but probably the government, which was just managing to survive by pacifying rebels, chose not to protest in order to avoid conflicts that it could not handle confidently. The government could only ban emigration by enforcing tight regulations to avoid further national disgrace.

However, the issue of sovereignty over the Ogasawara (also known as Bonin) Islands provided an opportunity to stimulate Japanese interest in the South Seas. Although the Tokugawa government hardly resisted when Commodore Perry demanded the opening of Japan and proclaimed US possession of the Ogasawara Islands in 1853, some vocal Meiji officials in 1875 ’emphasised the urgency of return of the islands that could connect Japanese interests to the South Seas’. The report of the Foreign Ministry to the Prime Minister explained that ‘the islands were a strategic point in the Pacific sea route, which was extremely important in Japan’s advancement in the South Sea’. Then negotiations began and the US compromised. The issue signalled the beginning of the government’s awareness of its interests in the South Seas. It was also significant in that the government promoted national dignity by recovering territory.

As the incidents in Guam and Hawaii showed, the government was aware of its weak internal position and tried not to provoke other Western nations in the South Seas until the 1880s.

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Why Japan Invaded Taiwan in 1874

From Samurai Revolution: The Dawn of Modern Japan Seen Through the Eyes of the Shogun’s Last Samurai, by Romulus Hillsborough (Tuttle, 2014), Kindle pp. 551-554:

Kaishū’s rather uneventful career at the center of the Meiji government ended just ten months after his dual appointments as navy minister and cabinet member. His resignation, it seems, had to do with problems with China, which were directly related to Japan’s invasion of Taiwan in April 1874. Ostensibly, the purpose of the invasion was to punish aborigines in southeastern Taiwan who had murdered shipwrecked Ryūkyūan sailors around the end of Meiji 4 (1871). The Ryūkyū Islands were formerly the suzerainty of Satsuma; and after the Meiji Restoration, Japan, which considered the Ryūkyūs part of its empire, claimed the right to protect Ryūkyūans and to punish the Taiwan aborigines because China, which also claimed Taiwan, had refused to accept that responsibility by punishing the savages or compensating the victims’ families. But Japan’s real objective in the invasion was to affirm its sovereignty over the Ryūkyūs, which had been under the nominal suzerainty of China since 1372.

Japan had yet other motives for invading Taiwan, which overlapped those for the proposed invasion of Korea. We have seen that Shimazu Nariakira, probably no less revered by Ōkubo Toshimichi and other Satsuma men in the central government than by Saigō Takamori himself, had called for the conquest of Taiwan and Fuzhou to defend against foreign encroachment. We also know that since the closing years of the Tokugawa period samurai of Mito and Chōshū had advocated Japanese expansion to demonstrate their country’s strength, with the aim of fending off Western encroachment in East Asia. And, according to certain historians, through Taiwan, Japan perceived an opportunity to dispel the widely held belief in the West that it was still the weakened nation it had been during the final years of the Bakufu. A Taiwan expedition also promised to provide dispossessed former samurai with a livelihood—and, Parkes observed in a letter dated April 14, 1874, it would “quiet the hot bloods [who still called for a Korea invasion, and], who think Japan should enter on a career of conquest.”

The cabinet in Tōkyō approved a punitive expedition to Taiwan on February 6, 1874, ten days before the outbreak of the Saga Rebellion. Kaishū attended that meeting; but it is unknown whether he opposed or supported the expedition. His words and actions over the coming months suggest that he opposed it, as does his prior vision of a Triple Alliance between Japan, China, and Korea. The only clear dissenter in the cabinet was Kido Takayoshi, who did not attend the February 6 meeting. Kido, as we know, had supported Kaishū’s scheme for a Triple Alliance; and he had opposed a Korea invasion. His opposition to foreign intervention had not changed. Some two months later, on April 2, Kido was the only cabinet member not to affix his seal to the resolution on the Taiwan expedition. Kaishū, who attended the April 2 meeting, signed the resolution (although this seems to contradict his true intent).

Saigō Tsugumichi’s forces easily achieved their purported objective of chastising the aborigines on Taiwan. But the real trouble began soon after that, when the Chinese government demanded the immediate withdrawal of Japanese troops from Taiwan, while Japan challenged China’s jurisdiction over the southern part of the island because it had failed to accept responsibility for the actions of the aborigines. Neither side showed any sign of backing down, and war seemed imminent. The government in Tōkyō, meanwhile, was divided over the issue of withdrawal. One side argued that since the primary objective of punishing the aborigines had been accomplished, it was time to bring the troops home. Theirs was a practical viewpoint. We have already noted Parkes’ assessment of the meager state of Japan’s navy. A war with China, they feared, would be too dangerous. Supporting their argument was the minister of war himself. On August 4, Yamagata Aritomo reported on the feeble state of the Japanese military, and warned that the instability at home redoubled the danger of a foreign war.

The other side, represented by Home Minister Ōkubo, Finance Minister Ōkuma, and Justice Minister Ōki, insisted that before withdrawing the troops, Japan must obtain an indemnity from China as a matter of honor. To that end they needed a diplomatic settlement. If a settlement could not be reached, they insisted, there must be war. The hard-liners, led by the powerful home minister, prevailed—but even so Ōkubo, advised by Yamagata, was mindful of the grave danger of a war with China. Ōkubo was dispatched to China to negotiate a settlement, with the powers to decide on war or peace. On August 6, Kaishū was among a party who saw Ōkubo off on his journey at Shimbashi Station in Tōkyō, where the latter boarded a train for Yokohama. Kaishū wished Ōkubo a quick return to Japan upon accomplishing his mission “without difficulties”—implying, it seems, his hope for a peaceful settlement with China. Ōkubo arrived in Peking on September 10. In the midst of his negotiations with the Chinese, during which neither side showed any sign of backing down, Ōkubo determined that Japan would not start a war.

The British, of course, had a vested interest in seeing a peaceful settlement—i.e., safeguarding their considerable China trade, which amounted to some US$250 million at the time. On June 23, Parkes had written that the Chinese “have no pluck” for not demanding the immediate evacuation of the Japanese troops from Taiwan. On September 15, he wrote that he could not imagine the Chinese “sinking so low as to give in.” But the Chinese did give in, and on October 31 the two sides signed an accord, through the mediation of the British minister, Sir Thomas Wade. China agreed to indemnify the families of the murdered Ryūkyūans and to compensate the Japanese government for expenses incurred in the construction of roads and buildings for the expedition, which the Chinese would be allowed to retain after the withdrawal of the Japanese troops. China’s acceptance of Japan’s legitimacy in undertaking the Taiwan expedition implied that it recognized Japan’s sovereignty over the Ryūkyūs, which had been Tōkyō’s main objective from the start. The Meiji government’s first foreign adventure was a success, though it might have ended in disaster.

This is my last excerpt from this book, which I was motivated to read because I have been watching the NHK Taiga Drama Segodon, about Saigo Takamori.

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Geostrategic South China Sea

From Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific, by Robert D. Kaplan (Random House, 2014), Kindle Loc. 222-253:

The South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans—the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce. Here is the heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland, punctuated by the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar straits. More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide. The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and 80 percent of China’s crude oil imports come through the South China Sea. Whereas in the Persian Gulf only energy is transported, in the South China Sea you have energy, finished goods, and unfinished goods.

In addition to centrality of location, the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of seven billion barrels, and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If Chinese calculations are correct that the South China Sea will ultimately yield 130 billion barrels of oil (and there is some serious doubt about these estimates), then the South China Sea contains more oil than any area of the globe except Saudi Arabia. Some Chinese observers have called the South China Sea “the second Persian Gulf.” If there really is so much oil in the South China Sea, then China will have partially alleviated its “Malacca dilemma”—its reliance on the narrow and vulnerable Strait of Malacca for so much of its energy needs coming from the Middle East. And the China National Offshore Oil Corporation has invested $20 billion in the belief that such amounts of oil really do exist in the South China Sea. China is desperate for new energy. Chinese oil reserves account for only 1.1 percent of the world total, while it consumes over 10 percent of world oil production and over 20 percent of all the energy consumed on the planet.

It is not only location and energy reserves that promise to give the South China Sea critical geostrategic importance, it is the territorial disputes surrounding these waters, home to more than two hundred small islands, rocks, and coral reefs, only about three dozen of which are permanently above water. Yet these specks of land, buffeted by typhoons, are valuable mainly because of the oil and natural gas that might lie nearby in the intricate, folded layers of rock beneath the sea. Brunei claims a southern reef of the Spratly Islands. Malaysia claims three islands in the Spratlys. The Philippines claims eight islands in the Spratlys and significant portions of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Taiwan, and China each claims much of the South China Sea, as well as all of the Spratly and Paracel island groups. In the middle of 2010 there was quite a stir when China was said to have called the South China Sea a “core interest.” It turns out that Chinese officials never quite said that: no matter. Chinese maps have been consistent. Beijing claims to own what it calls its “historic line”: that is, the heart of the entire South China Sea in a grand loop—the “cow’s tongue” as the loop is called—surrounding these island groups from China’s Hainan Island south 1,200 miles to near Singapore and Malaysia. The result is that all of these littoral states are more or less arrayed against China, and dependent upon the United States for diplomatic and military backing. For example, Vietnam and Malaysia are seeking to divide all of the seabed and subsoil resources of the southern part of the South China Sea between mainland Southeast Asia and the Malaysian part of the island of Borneo: this has elicited a furious diplomatic response from China. These conflicting claims are likely to become more acute as energy consumption in developing Asian countries is expected to double by 2030, with China accounting for half of that growth.

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Migrant Heroes from the Philippines

From Global Cinderellas: Migrant Domestics and Newly Rich Employers in Taiwan, by Pei-Chia Lan (Duke U. Press, 2006), pp. 44-47 (footnote and reference citations omitted; reviewed here):

Today the Philippines is the biggest labor-exporting country in Asia and is ranked second in the world after Mexico. As of December 2003, the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) was estimated to be 7.7 million; the population of the Philippines is some eighty million. Forty-three percent of these emigrants were on temporary contracts, 68 percent of which were placed in Asia. The remittances sent by OFWs are the Philippines’ largest source of foreign exchange, contributing US$7 billion to the national economy in 2003….

The primary destinations of labor emigration in the Philippines have gradually switched from North America and Europe to West, East, and Southeast Asia. Among the land-based OFWs deployed from 2001 to 2004, 46 percent of them were located in the Middle East, 41 percent departed for East and Southeast Asia, and only a small number went to North America (1.7 percent) and Europe (6.7 percent). Taiwan has become a major host country for Filipino migrants since the mid-1990s. In 1998 it was the second-most-popular destination for newly hired migrants from the Philippines, next to Saudi Arabia, and in 2004 it was the fifth major destination, after Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Filipino workers have occupied a dominant position in the global labor market because of their proficiency in English and level of education. Both male and female OFWs are well-educated: over half have completed college or have at least taken some college subjects, and one-third complete secondary education. But the large outflow of experienced, skilled, and professional human resources constitutes a brain drain that poses a threat to development in the Philippines.

Annual changes in the numbers of overseas Filipino workers have pointed to a growing trend toward feminization. Women constituted only 18 percent in the 1980 outflow of OFWs, but that percentage rose to 36 in 1987 and 69 in 2002. Most women are employed in service occupations such as housemaid, caregiver, and entertainer. Domestic work accounted for one-third of overseas female deployment in 2002, despite the fact that most Filipina migrants were educated and skilled workers.

Some demographic characteristics of Filipina migrant workers deviate from the profiles of male migrants. The majority of migrant women are in their late twenties and early thirties, younger than their male counterparts, who are mostly in their thirties and forties. Official statistics provide no details about the marital status of OFWs. One survey showed that the majority of Filipina migrants were single (56 percent) while 37 percent were married. In contrast, a much larger proportion of male migrants were married (71 percent), and only 27 percent were single. The differences suggest that the decisions to migrate are embedded in the gender roles and ideologies in the Philippine family. Also, migrant women tend to face greater difficulties than their male counterparts in building or maintaining a family during their overseas journey.

Labor migration in the Philippines fluctuated in reaction to several crises in the 1990s. The Gulf War in 1991 resulted in the repatriation of 30,000 workers, mainly from Kuwait. Overseas deployment declined by 13 percent in 1995 after the hanging of Flor Contemplacion, a Filipina domestic worker found guilty of murdering a Filipina coworker in Singapore. To mitigate the public outcry over this case, the Ramos government banned deployment to Singapore for a short period. The Congress passed the Migrant Worker and Overseas Filipino Act (RA8042) in 1995 to announce its intention to ensure the welfare of migrants. But legal protection has proved to be nothing but a symbolic measure, and the halo of “national hero” only glows when politicking takes place.

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