Fri, Nov 16, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Paradigm shift needed on Taiwan

By Bruce Jacobs 家博

In scientific research, when basic assumptions are proven wrong, we must move to new understandings that can underpin our research. Thus, humans originally believed the Earth to be flat and to be the center of the universe. When we discovered that the Earth was a sphere and that it revolved around the sun, our basic assumptions had to undergo fundamental changes. In the philosophy of science, this is called a “paradigm shift.”

The fossil record and Charles Darwin’s important work on evolution challenged the idea that God created everything about 6,000 years ago, requiring another paradigm shift before science could reflect our new understandings.

Most scientific developments occur within a single paradigm. In a non-scientific area, like foreign and international relations, such developments tend to be small, slow and protracted.

On the basis of extensive research about Taiwan’s past, I am today proposing that we need a new paradigm shift to explain modern Taiwan and its future.

I argue that Taiwan has three major historical eras. The first is up to the arrival of the Dutch colonial state in 1624.

Taiwan’s Austronesian peoples were never unified, but they had extensive trading networks with Southeast Asia dating back more than 2,500 years and they continued to trade with Southeast Asia and then with East Asia as well.

Archeological sites in what are now the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam demonstrate that Taiwanese jade from Hualien reached all of these places.

Taiwan’s metallurgy also came from Southeast Asia as Taiwan’s indigenous peoples used a type of mold from Southeast Asia, which they constructed from Taiwanese sandstone.

Later, many important parts of a Japanese samurai warrior’s fighting outfit used deerskin from Taiwan. China was not relevant to Taiwanese trade until the very late Ming Dynasty and no Taiwanese jade has been discovered in sites in what is now China.

Furthermore, no evidence of Chinese metallurgy has been discovered in Taiwan. The Ming forbade foreign trade, and traders from China such as the Zheng (鄭) family were actually “pirate-merchants” who in no way represented the Ming state.

The second historical era, colonialism, spans 364 years from 1624 until 1988 with six separate colonial regimes: the Dutch (1624-1662); the Spanish, who ruled northern Taiwan simultaneously with the first part of Dutch rule in the south (1626-1642); the Zheng family (1662-1683); the Manchus (1683-1895); the Japanese (1895-1945); and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) under Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and his son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), (1945-1988).

The third historical era is democratization.

A colonial regime is rule by a minority of outsiders in the interests of the outsiders, so colonial regimes have some special universal characteristics such as being racist dictatorships.

Two key facts about Taiwan’s colonialism stand out.

First, there were no permanent Chinese communities in Taiwan until the Dutch imported Chinese as laborers.

Second, Chinese who came during and after the Dutch period did not think of themselves as “Chinese.” Rather, they adopted a more local identity: Quanzhou, Zhangzhou or Hakka.

These local identities remained until the mid-19th century when their perspectives became “Taiwanese” rather than “Chinese.”

Everyone agrees that the Japanese regime in Taiwan was colonial. There are at least six strong similarities between the Japanese regime and the regime of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo.

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