This talk introduces Imperial Gateway, which explores the political, social and economic significance of colonial Taiwan in the southern expansion of Japan’s empire from 1895 to the end of World War II. The book uncovers a half century of dynamic relations between Japan, Taiwan, China and Western regional powers. Japanese officials in Taiwan did not simply take orders from Tokyo; rather, they often pursued their own expansionist ambitions in South China and Southeast Asia. When outright conquest was not possible, they promoted alternative strategies, including naturalizing resident Chinese as overseas Taiwanese subjects, extending colonial police networks and deploying tens of thousands of Taiwanese to war. The Taiwanese – merchants, gangsters, policemen, interpreters, nurses and soldiers – seized new opportunities for socioeconomic advancement that did not always align with Japan’s imperial interests. Imperial Gateway shows how Japanese officials and Taiwanese subjects transformed Taiwan into a regional gateway for expansion in an ever-shifting international order.
Seiji Shirane is an Assistant Professor of Japanese History at The City College of New York (CUNY).