November 18, 2020
Article number: 000010151520190033
With the abolition of martial law in 1987 and the following democratization process, Taiwan’s four mayor ethnic groups ( si da zuqun ) began to develop an ethnic identity as well as a collective sense of identity. These emerging identities were though not just a mere product of the post-war era, but had been constituted by the crucible of Japanese colonial rule (1895–1945). Many Han-Chinese in Taiwan conceived the Qing-Dynasty’s cession of Taiwan to Japan in 1895 as a betrayal. As they didn’t receive equal treatment with Japanese during the ensuing fifty years of Japanese rule, many Han Taiwanese felt neither belonging to China nor to Japan. Caught in this field of tension between China and Japan, Taiwanese intellectuals started to draw attention to their “special situation” and engaged in a “national movement” ( minzoku undô ). In respect to the struggle for identity of these intellectuals, a discussion of Yanaihara Tadao’s work is very instructive. As professor for colonial studies at Tokyo Imperial University (1920–1937), he compiled the detailed study Taiwan under Japanese Imperialism . The critical and comprehensive approach adopted made it a fundamental source for postcolonial research on Japanese rule in Taiwan, as well as the “national movement”. Based on Yanaihara’s study on Taiwan, this article shows the impact Japanese colonial policy had on Taiwanese livelihood, thus explaining the reasons for the formation of the Taiwanese “national movement”. By comparing Yanaihara’s colonial criticism and alternative with the claims of the proponents of the “national movement”, and the affirmation of Taiwan’s current multicultural identity, this article illuminates parallels between Yanaihara and Taiwanese identity in both past and present day Taiwan.