Category Archives: Taiwan

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Britain, economics, France, Germany, Hawai'i, Japan, Korea, labor, Micronesia, migration, nationalism, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Spain, Taiwan, U.S.

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Britain, China, Japan, military, nationalism, Taiwan, war

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under China, economics, energy, industry, Japan, Korea, nationalism, Southeast Asia, Taiwan

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.

1 Comment

Filed under labor, Philippines, Taiwan

Migrant Maids from Indonesia

From Global Cinderellas: Migrant Domestics and Newly Rich Employers in Taiwan, by Pei-Chia Lan (Duke U. Press, 2006), pp. 49-50 (footnote and reference citations omitted; reviewed here):

Religion has also played a significant part in migration links between Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Muslim Javanese work abroad to make money as well as to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Some work agreements even state that employers must fund their workers to go on the haj at the end of their work contracts. If Saudi Arabia can be seen as a destination for Muslim pilgrims, then newly rich Asian countries might be seen as a capitalist version of Mecca, hosting an increasing number of Indonesian migrants making a secular pilgrimage to modernity.

Taiwan has been a popular destination for Indonesian migrant workers except for the two-year period of government ban (from August 2002 to December 2004). The number of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan grew with amazing speed: in 1991 there were only 10,000 Indonesian workers, but the number reached over 90,000 in 2001. Most Indonesian migrants in Taiwan are women from East Java, and the majority of them are placed in private households. Parallel to the increase in Indonesian housemaids was a decline in Filipina migrant workers. A similar transition also occurred in Hong Kong and Singapore. The share of Filipinas among all foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong decreased from 85 percent in 1995 to 72 percent in 2000, while the number of Indonesian migrant domestic workers tripled. In Singapore, Indonesian migrants only amounted to 20 percent of foreign domestic workers in 1995, but one recruitment agency has estimated that about 70 percent of newly hired foreign domestic workers are now from Indonesia.

Indonesia has become a major source for housemaids across Asia. Women have dominated the official outflow of labor migrants in the last two decades. Domestic service accounted for 70 percent of overseas jobs between 1984 and 1989, and 60 percent between 1989 and 1994. Almost 95 percent of migrants engaged in domestic service were women. Surveys of Indonesian female migrants found that they tend to be in their twenties or early thirties and have relatively low levels of education. Migrant women tend to be single or divorced, with the exception that married women are predominant among housemaids in Saudi Arabia….

The fact that Indonesia is the only Islamic country in Asia that allows the recruitment of women as housemaids overseas has nevertheless made some Indonesians uncomfortable, particularly social elites. In 1997 the then Minister of Women’s Affairs urged the government to ban the export of housemaids because women, as the pillars of the nation, should be treated with respect. Twice, in 1980 and 1986, the government placed a ban on sending domestic servants to the Middle East in response to prevalent cases of rape and abuse, including one case in which an Indonesian household worker was sentenced to death for murdering her employer in Saudi Arabia. These bans were lifted only a few years or months after their imposition. Nana Oishi has pointed out that in Asia the emigration policies for female migrants are more value-laden—driven by social values and moral concerns—than policies for male migrants. Indonesia is no exception to this. Women must be at least twenty-two years old to work abroad, and they need to present letters of permission from their father or husband upon application. The state policy of emigration is torn between the moral discourse of “protecting” women and the economic interest of promoting them as better servants than migrant women from competing countries.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indonesia, labor, Taiwan

Taiwan Election and Its Aftermath

This is the most comprehensive coverage of Taiwan’s 2004 election and its aftermath.

via Andrés Gentry

Leave a comment

Filed under Taiwan