Taiwan, a dragon of traditions

Wednesday 16 May 2018: Taiwan, a dragon of traditions, lecture by Constance Barreault, specialist in Asian arts and civilizations, Musée Guimet, AFAO.

Taiwan or Republic of China is located within 160 kilometers southeast of the People's Republic of China (PRC). The country includes the islands of Taiwan, Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu (the Pescadores) and other small islands and islets. With an area of ​​36 008 km2 the island of Taiwan is mainly occupied by a non-urban landscape (87% of the territory). The Republic of China is populated by 23,1 million, of which 84% is Taiwanese, 14% is Chinese Mainland (PRC) and 2% is indigenous, not counting migrant workers mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam ( between 400 000 and 500 000). It includes Mandarin, Taiwanese (Minnan), Hakka dialects and indigenous languages.

One of the current characteristics of Taiwan is its attachment to democracy, even if it is relatively recent: the first authorized opposition party was born in 1986 and the first political alternation took place 18 years ago. But since then, this democracy has been working and freedom of expression and freedom of the press are complete. Political life is structured by the opposition of two large party blocs, the Kuomintang (KMT), on the one hand, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), on the other. The first, rather conservative, recruits among the officials, the army, the business circles related to Communist China. The second, center-left and ecologist, is well represented among the middle classes of the private and the intellectuals. New political figures emerge who reject the KMT / DPP cleavage and are "elsewhere"; the best known is Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je, a rising figure in Taiwanese politics. But democratic renewal also takes the form of citizen mobilizations. The best known was the Sunflower movement protesting a trade deal with China (negotiated in some darkness by the ruling Kuomintang) where several hundred students broke into the Parliament they occupied during 26 days in March and April 2014. The Sunflower Movement has spawned a new left-wing party, the New Power Party, which puts human rights and civil liberties at the forefront and is a genuine advocate for Taiwan's independence.
On a scale of 0 to 100 published by Freedom House (an international non-governmental organization), Taiwan obtains 89 points just behind Japan (96) for the Asia-Pacific region, with China earning only 16 points.
An example of openness is the Constitutional Court's decision to propose the legalization of same-sex marriage, making Taiwan the first Asian country to treat the case and the 25 in this way.st in the world. The Court considers that the legalization of gay marriage would contribute to greater social stability and the protection of "human dignity".

Map of Formosa in 1896.

Fields of tea trees.

The city in the countryside.

Taiwan has also become a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2002.

Despite its 23,1 million inhabitants, Taiwan is the 14st world trade power in 2012, with 301,11 billion US $ exports and 270,73 billion US dollars imports. It imports most of its energy needs. While the United States is Taiwan's third largest trading partner, the People's Republic of China is the largest trading partner and this trend is growing rapidly as the two economies become more interdependent than ever. The formal lack of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and its trading partners does not seem to have seriously slowed Taiwan's rapidly growing trade. Indeed, the Republic of China maintains cultural and trade offices in more than 60 countries with which it has no official relations
While agriculture has always been a sector of innovation and has been a major concern because of Taiwan's quest for self-sufficiency, the technology industry is what makes the island live.
Before the arrival of the first Chinese "visitors", the island of Formosa was populated by aborigines divided into two communities: one of them, located in the plains, was sedentary and mainly composed of cultivators, the other , located in the heart of the mountains, was not sedentary and drew its resources from hunting and gathering, their lives being punctuated by tribal wars.

Members of the Saisiyat tribe, by Japanese photographer Kutsuyama, to 1900.

Hakka House located in Houlong. Concert hall and exhibition spaces.

Portuguese unloading a caraque. Detail of a namban screen attributed to Kanō school. 16th s.

The first wave of immigration was made by the Hakkas, around the year one thousand, from Fujian and Guangdong, and their fishing and trade led them to occupy the South of Formosa, pushing the native populations back to the mountains. . They grow sugar cane, rice, tea and trade actively with the continent.
However, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), other Chinese communities than the Hakkas decide to emigrate to Formosa. These migrants come from the nearby mainland province of Fujian. Arrived on the island, they push back the Hakkas towards the middle of the lands and settle massively in the plains of the West. During 15st and 16st centuries, Formosa becomes the privileged haven of pirates and traders of mainland China and Japan. The island fully satisfied their needs: its industrious population produced foodstuffs and other goods in large quantities, and above all, it administered itself.e through clan and village lineages. As it was close to the trading centers and shipping lanes of China, Japan and Hong Kong, while escaping their political control, Taiwan became a haven for pirates who engaged in trading if the economy was favorable or lived of rapine in the opposite case.
At the beginning of the XVIIst century, Taiwan can be considered as a strategic place, an island at the crossroads of the China Sea. It is not surprising that at this time, the contenders for his domination multiply. Attempts to conquer Formosa are no longer the sole fact of mainland China. Proof of this is the attempted annexation by shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In 1603, an expedition is organized in order to hunt Japanese pirates settled on the island: the operation is a success, the Chinese manage to conquer Formosa. It is from 1612, that is to say a few years after the Chinese conquest that the term of Taiwan is officially used in the Chinese writings to designate the island. But the island excites the greed of the Europeans, indeed, the Portuguese, the Spanish and the Dutch claim to dominate. In the end, it is the Dutch who manage to dominate and occupy Formosa from 1624 to 1661. Having obtained an agreement from the Chinese government, the Dutch East India Company obtained the exclusive rights to the island's trade and began importing opium from the nearby island of Java (which was then a Dutch colony). In addition, the United Provinces encourage the arrival of Chinese peasants, which allows them to set up a real colonial policy, based on two fundamental concepts: on the one hand, make big profits from the sugar trade, indigo and dried fish, and, on the other hand, subject the Chinese people of Formosa to taxes and chores.
In 1661, a Chinese adventurer named Koxinga seizes the island of Taiwan and hunt the Dutch, becoming the undisputed master of the island and Taiwan becomes an independent principality. This man is now considered by the Taiwanese as a true national hero. Being loyal to the Ming, the island becomes a loyalist enclave to fight the Manchu empire. Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga) is working to develop all areas: it improves communication channels and agriculture, it makes Tainan a real economic and political center. He built reservoirs for irrigation. Rice being the main production at the time. He also imported from China 43 vegetables, such as leeks, garlic and Chinese cabbage. Koxinga is also concerned with Chinese culture: with the help of many scholars, masters and artists, he restores the laws, institutions and traditions that prevailed during the Ming Dynasty. But in 1683, the Chinese Empire decides to put an end to the loyalist actions of Zheng, organizing a military expedition that ends twenty-two years of Taiwanese independence. It is therefore in 1683 that the island is "recovered" by the Qing and is officially attached to the Celestial Empire. Formosa then becomes a prefecture ("Fu" in Chinese) of Fujian Province. The major European powers are increasingly interested in the fate of the Far East because they see trade opportunities and hope to support more effectively the activities of Western missionaries. In fact, it seems that Westerners had realized that the central Chinese power of Beijing had little concern for the fate of Formosa, and moreover, there was little authority. It is in this context that in 1869, the British bombard Anping and the United States lead a punitive expedition against an aboriginal tribe, following the assassination of sailors.

Portrait of Koxinga. Silk painting. Middle of the 17th century.

Japanese soldiers entering Taipei in 1895. Oil painting.

National Memorial Hall (former Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial). Taipei.

But alongside this climate of violence, foreign trade is growing on the island. Camphor, tea, rice, sugar and wood are exported more and more, while opium is the main import. In 1872, the Japanese, who are beginning to build an industry and a modern army, claiming the revenge of fishermen, decide on a raid on Formosa. But thanks to the Chinese resistance on the one hand and the European mediation on the other hand, in 1874, Japan must backtrack. Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan is confirmed. In 1884-1885, the French war fleet is blockading the island following the war between France and China. But in June 1885, China is finally forced to sign the Franco-Chinese Treaty of Tianjin, where it renounces all rights to Vietnam and accepts changes to the borders for the benefit of the latter. France then withdraws from Formosa and Taiwan becomes a Chinese province. In 1894, begins the Sino-Japanese war, which will continue until the beginning of the year 1895. The Japanese will receive full ownership of Taiwan and the Pescadores. Despite an effort of resistance, the Japanese army landed on the island in June 1895 and took control of Formosa for fifty years. Japan will promote a significant improvement in the production of rice, sugar and sweet potatoes by introducing a systematic modernization of agricultural techniques. The 25 October 1945, while the second world war ends and Japan comes out defeated, Taiwan is back to China. Chiang Kai-Shek and the Guomindang arrive in 1949, creating the Republic of China that will attract new waves of immigration that will triple the population in three years.

During the 1953-1959 period, the authorities adopted a policy giving priority to the development of agriculture, considered at the time as a key element of the national economy. Since 1979 decennial economic plans have succeeded to increase the share of industry in the economy, developing high-tech and high value-added sectors such as information and communication technologies, electronics , mechanical engineering and transportation.
The mechanization of agriculture was not encouraged until the 1970s, when industrial development was able to absorb displaced labor, and in ways compatible with peasant production. This agricultural policy was organized and financed directly by the US government through an astonishing institutional mechanism, the Chinese American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction (JCRR) founded in 1948. The success of this policy has been striking: between 1946 and 1976, agricultural production has increased fivefold with growing differentiation of products. The agricultural surplus played a major role in the constitution of industrial capital. Entry into the WTO has been damaging for Taiwanese agriculture; the government has therefore started to promote agricultural tourism and bio, organize festivals, museums.
In 2013, agritourism attracted around 20 million visitors and generated NT $ 10 billion (28 billion 411 million Euros).

Fields of Bundaberg farms. © teq-news.

Semiconductor factory. TSMC. © TSMC.

Advertising for paper made from stone.

The electronics and telecommunications sector is 1er Taiwan's industrial export sector and also benefits from massive US purchases and investments. Taiwan is the world's largest supplier of computer chips and is the leading manufacturer of LCD panels, DRAM computer memory, computer network equipment, and designer and manufacturer of consumer electronics.
Textile production, although falling, remains important.
Taiwan is at the forefront of research in many areas: Henry Liang invents a process of making stone paper in Tainan and Jason Chen, manufactures deodorants and clothing from coffee grounds!
However, Taiwan remains a conservative country of traditions. The installation of Chiang Kai-Shek has resulted in works of art, doctors, gastronomes, martial arts masters, etc. Although the memory of the Generalissimo is tarnished, his monument, renamed "National Memorial Hall" remains one of the notable buildings of Taipei as the National Palace Museum that houses 697 490 Chinese artwork. An annex was opened to the public in 2016, in a building designed by the Taiwanese architect Kris Yao. Museums are extremely numerous on the island and foreign architects have been used for some.
It is interesting to note that the Taiwanese have always been able to assimilate in a positive way the external contributions: in culinary matter, if the aborigines continue to make preparations with wild boar or wrapped in leaves, the contribution of the Chinese (tea, vegetables and recipes) and Japanese (seaweed, raw fish, tempura) has created a very varied diet.

The Palace Museum. Taipei.

Groom and two horses. Copy after Han Gan (middle of 8th century). Ink and color on silk. Album sheet.

Chinese cabbage in jadeite with insects. Dyn. Qing. 19th s.

In architecture, CY Lee designed the Taipei 101 tower which was the world's tallest skyscraper from 2004 to 2010. Rem Koolhaas, Dutch architect, directed the Taipei Performing Arts Center, planned for 2018. It passes in the eyes of some for an important artist knowing to express in his creations, more aesthetic than functional, the spirit of our hyper modernity. In the center, in Taichung, 3st Country town, Toyo Ito designed the National Taichung Theater, the largest stadium on the island (55 000 spectators).
In painting, Lo Ch'ing (born in 1948), poet, painter and calligrapher, settled in Taiwan since 1949, is one of the main innovators of the ink painting. If he deconstructs the landscapes, he tells us about the relation of man with nature, which is present since 1 000 years in Chinese painting and in his compositions, he takes again the tension between the water and the mountain in there introducing geometric shapes.

Taipei Tower 101.

Taipei Performing arts center.

The sun and moon of spring cherry blossoms s. Detail. Lo Ch'ing. Ink and color on paper.

Taiwan can be considered as the leading dragon draining China and other Asian countries, in the most varied fields, ranging from politics, agriculture, and literature. The Taiwanese offer us a new vision of the world, made of flexibility, acceptance, dynamism.


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