Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

A Path Not Taken

“If you achieve the renewal (isshin) of government in Taiwan and Korea, of course you will bring happiness to the Taiwanese and Korean people. But it would also establish the first step of the Japanese people’s (Nihon minzoku) grand one-hundred year plan, and perhaps would be the dawn of the new politics of the Shōwa era (Shōwa shinsei)! Gentlemen, what is your resolution? We are looking forward to working together with you!!” (188)

The virtuous citizens of the Japanese metropole did not press for self rule in Taiwan or Korea. In 1934, the Movement to Establish a Taiwan Parliament dissolved, after nearly fifteen years of unsuccessful petitioning. In Taiwan, the anticolonial movement split into moderate and left-wing factions. Left-wing activists advocated for class revolution, pushed moderates out of the Taiwan Culture Association, and joined farmers in a strike against the tea and sugar companies. The Government General dissolved the Taiwan Communist Party in 1931. The more moderate organization, the Federation for Local Autonomy, disbanded in 1937 after the outbreak of war with China. (Lamley 1998, 231-35).

What ultimately shifted the Government General’s opinion of representative government was war. Following limited reforms in 1935, in 1940 the Governor General allowed more expansive self-government at the local level. As the war progressed, the Japanese government granted Taiwanese Chinese officials the same treatment as Japanese officials when serving in Japanese-occupied Southeast Asia. In 1945, the Diet passed a law that granted five representatives from Taiwan and twenty-three representatives from Korea to be elected to the lower house of the Diet. Shortly thereafter, an imperial rescript declared that three Taiwanese people and seven Koreans would be appointed to the upper house. The trajectory of the war intervened, however. Elections were never held in Taiwan, and the upper house never met (Lamley 1998, 245-46).

Cai moved to Tokyo in 1937, where he operated a restaurant. In 1943, he went to Shanghai. Then, in 1945, he joined the KMT in Chongqing. In 1946, he returned to Taiwan, where he began what would become decades of prominent civil service as a member of the KMT. He remained a conservative, though within a new institutional context. He abandoned his efforts to promote a romanized Taiwanese writing system. Instead, he became a loyal proponent of the KMT’s Mandarin-only policy (Heylen 2007, 258).

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